I remember my first tandem skydiving experience and the exhilaration that leaping from a moving airplane brought to my life. I had just turned 18 and was finally old enough to jump. I recall waiting five long years for the moment to come. In the meantime, I called every skydiving facility I could find.
I’d dial the numbers carefully, hoping each time would bring a new response. I’d ask, “How old do I have to be to go skydiving?” I got the same answer every time: “Sorry, but you’ll have to wait until you’re 18 to skydive with us.”
At the time, I couldn’t understand how the gate could be so hard shut against a minor jumping out of an airplane. I was being bombarded on a daily basis with media coverage of up and coming extreme sports. I wanted in! But I’d have to wait…
Now that I’m ten healthy years into my professional tandem skydiving career, I have a better understanding of the industry’s barrier against minors being allowed to risk life and limb for the reward of the skydiving experience. And quite frankly the fault lies in all of us.
Skydiving is known as a self-governing sport, meaning facilities can set many of their own regulations. There are specific rules set forth by the FAA in regards to aircraft, aircraft maintenance, pilot training and regulations, and parachute equipment certification.
However, the FAA and the federal government have placed no limitations on the age of tandem skydiving participants. Instead, the age restrictions are borne of an evolutionary process that’s become more restrictive over time due to litigation surrounding incidents where minors have been injured while skydiving.
The United States Parachute Association (USPA) has been entrusted by the FAA to self-regulate the sport of skydiving. The FAA defers to USPA regulations as the go-to source for skydiver training, instructor training, and licensing regulations and requirements.
Tandem Skydiving Rules and Regulations
The USPA mainly issues recommendations on how skydiving training and activities should be conducted, but they do have a few guidelines that are set in stone. These are referred to as BSRs, or Basic Safety Requirements. The Basic Safety Requirements are voted on by a membership-elected Board of Directors. The Board of Directors is typically comprised of highly experienced skydivers, drop zone owners, and industry experts.
Over the years, the USPA Board of Directors has been faced with the problematic task of determining when a prospective skydiver is old enough to understand the risks inherent to our sport and accept responsibility for those risks. For many years the USPA had deemed 16 to be an acceptable age of consent for skydiving training, and for many years that age worked just fine.
However, as the years progressed and litigation became more prevalent, allowing minors to skydive became not only a safety issue, but also a legal burden to drop zone owners. Though extremely rare, tandem skydiving accidents do happen and the only safeguard against unreasonable lawsuits is the waiver of liability that every participant must sign. This has the unfortunate side effect of precluding minors from participating in our sport, as their signature on the waiver does not constitute a legally binding contract.
Just as I had to wait those long years before my jump, so will you or your child. Ultimately, waiting until the age of majority ensures the survival of our sport over the long term. We still plan on being around when you’re old enough to sign that waiver.
We’ll see you on your 18th birthday.
Over 18 and Ready to Go Tandem Skydiving In NJ?
Don’t wait then; you’re not getting any younger! Call us today at 866-669-3020 or fill out a contact form to begin the experience of a lifetime!