Of course, it’s been the best weather ever…
With the recent good news of the significant yet cautious easing of government lockdown regulations – albeit to different timetables in each of our four home nations and in the Channel Islands – I expect that your family and friends, like mine, may have caught us gazing up wistfully at those blue summer skies.
Here at British Skydiving, we’re working hard to help us all to get back in the air as soon as it’s safe enough to do so.
This is what we’ve been doing:
Working with PTOs
‘Safety Jeff’ Montgomery, Safety and Technical Officer and STC Chair, returned from furlough to coordinate the Return to Skydiving Working Group (RSWG) . The Working Group has been formed to assist Affiliated Parachute Training Organisations (PTOs) with guidance on risk assessment and control measures for Covid-19 to enable a gradual return to skydiving operations in the wake of the pandemic. The working group includes representatives of several PTOs along with members with specialist expertise in the fields of aviation, medicine and sanitation, including three medical doctors who are all extremely experienced skydivers.
The guidance to be published by British Skydiving will build on that of the government’s for industry and commerce, and from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for General Aviation by providing skydiving-specific recommendations on the assessment and control of the risk of Covid-19 transmission on entry to a DZ, during ground operations, and in the air.
PTOs have been busy with their site-specific risk assessments and associated control measures and sharing emerging best practice, which will be reflected in the British Skydiving guidance. Each PTO will use them come to their own decision about when it’s sufficiently safe to resume their operations and how they plan to phase their return.
I would like to thank our volunteer members and staff, and our Affiliated PTOs, for their determined work in helping us get back to the skies, as our sport, like everything else, emerges into what seems likely to be a new normal for at least the next few months and possibly longer.
The in-air pinch point
Social distancing on skydiving lifts, which as you know usually take around 10-15 minutes, is practically difficult and there is a significant economic impact operating aircraft at reduced capacity. Considerations must also include the pilot, whose exposure to the risk of virus transmission in the confines of an aircraft, especially when flying multiple lifts, will be greater than that of the jumpers on board.
We’ll be recommending mitigating measures set out in our guidance on return to skydiving to apply for Department for Transport derogations (exemptions), through the CAA, for skydiving flights. Please keep an eye on the British Skydiving website for updates, and keep your fingers crossed!
A phased return of the sport
As in all aspects of life, our sport is likely to emerge from its grounding by Covid-19 restrictions in cautious stages, as the risk of infection in the wider community decreases. If hotspots emerge, easements, will of course have to be rolled back. It’s a dynamic situation in which we all need to stay alert.
Control measures to mitigate the risk of transmission of Covid-19 need to include different types of skydiving. The risks of transmission of Covid-19 for tandems are not yet well understood and we shall be writing separately to instructors with more about this.
Emphasising our social responsibility as a society is at the heart of the government’s easement strategy, as it is in our skydiving community. We trust our members to act responsibly and with common sense, as we do our Affiliated PTOs, to make our phased return to the skies as safe as possible.
I urge all members to heed our guidance when published and help other members and your PTOs to do everything we can to support each other in making our sport safe. It would not be in any of our interests for a drop zone to be identified by track and trace as a virus transmission hotspot. Our social responsibility does not end with a good landing, we also need to stay mindful of it when socialising afterwards.
As individual members, we each have our own perception of, and attitude to, risk. Covid-19 is quite different in nature to the physical risks usually associated with our sport, which as qualified skydivers we have all been trained to manage. Please stay alert to this new risk to yourself and others, on the resumption of operations where you jump. Feel free to suggest additional or improved mitigation measures and call out any unsafe behaviour.
Please also remember, for all the risk assessments and control measures in place, you should also carry out your own personal skydiving risk assessment which needs to be mindful of others in your household, family and social circles. Carriers of Covid-19 can be pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic.
Further information on the RSWG can be found on our website.
Please also be minded that if you intend to jump abroad before skydiving resumes at home, we kindly ask that you let us know, so that we can ensure that the pro-rata discount for current members for next year’s membership can be applied fairly.
We’re all in this together, and we’ll come out of it together. We here at British Skydiving are doing our bit, the PTOs are doing theirs, and we know you’ll do yours.
Stay well and stay safe.
Craig Poxon, Chair of Council