Jumpers "In A Holding Pattern"
treatment and unsafe practices are just two of the reasons the FAA
has refused to sign off on a plan by officials in DeLand,
FL and skydivers to retain a famous sky diving drop zone open
with the construction of a new airport control tower.
Issues included unfairly giving preferential treatment to pilots
at local skydiving center Skydive DeLand, and that some practices
-- such as absolving those pilots from notifying the tower of each
take off and landing -- were unsafe.
"The federal obligations require access for all aeronautical
users, not just sky divers," said FAA Program Manager Rebecca
Henry, to the city last month.
The plan, which requires FAA approval, was aimed at ensuring
enough jumps at the drop zone to stay competitive. It developed
over the course of more than four months last year.
Skydiving is big business in DeLand, with a devoted Central
Florida fan base and a facility that attract jumpers from around
the world. DeLand’s parachute industry employs about 500, and
is considered one of the city’s main employers, according to
the Orlando Sentinel.
Skydive DeLand leaders repeatedly warned city officials that an
airport control tower will slow their pilots, making it impossible
to squeeze in enough jumps to lure professional skydivers.
Skydiving industry members said they expected to make some
changes, but rejected the FAA's assertion the agreement would give
them special treatment.
"Skydivers and sky-diving aircraft would get a little more
flexibility and that doesn't harm any other airport user," said
Mike Truffer, publisher of Skydiving magazine and a member of the
committee that drafted the agreement.
City officials, meanwhile, have no plans to meet with skydivers
to discuss redrafting the agreement until after an airport traffic
study is completed by the city this spring. The study, which is
required by the FAA, will detail activity at the airport, including
the number of takeoffs, landings and accidents, as well projected
"Right now we're in a holding pattern," said Nick Landgraff,
DeLand's airport manager. "We're just going to have to wait and