The fact that skydiving companies work hand in hand with the aviation industry shows that the aviation industry plays a major role in the skydiving industry. This is why the skydiving business can only be restricted to a certain geographical area, hence before starting this type of business, you must ensure that you are in a location where there is a functional airport.

Establishing a skydiving business can be expensive for a small scale business owner because the start-up kits and the private planes are truly expensive, and also maintenance cost and even fueling can also be expensive as well. Securing airport licensing and permits can equally be very expensive. Having said that, here are some of the responsibilities of the airport to skydiving companies;

What are the Responsibilities of the Airport for Skydiving Companies?

1. Provide Hangar for Planes Used for Skydiving

Airports are responsible for providing hangars for plans used for skydiving by skydiving companies. Airplanes are a major part of skydiving and airplanes require hangars. Hangars are buildings in which airplanes are repaired or serviced. Most airlines have their own hangars, in which they can park many jets at the same time. Most hangars are far away from terminals and runways so that they do not interfere with airport traffic.

2. Provide Runway for Planes Used for Skydiving

Another key responsibility of airport for skydiving companies is to provide runway for planes used for skydiving. According to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a runway is a “defined rectangular area on a land aerodrome prepared for the landing and takeoff of aircraft”.

Runways, as well as taxiways and ramps, are sometimes referred to as “tarmac”, though very few runways are built using tarmac. Larger airports usually have several runways in different directions, so that one can be selected that is most nearly aligned with the wind.

3. Provide Air Traffic Control (ATC)

Airport authority also provide air traffic control for skydiving companies. Air traffic control (ATC) is the task of managing aircraft movements and making sure they are safe, orderly and expeditious. At the largest airports, air traffic control is a series of highly complex operations that requires managing frequent traffic that moves in all three dimensions.

A “towered” or “controlled” airport has a control tower where the air traffic controllers are based. Pilots are required to maintain two-way radio communication with the controllers, and to acknowledge and comply with their instructions.

A “non-towered” airport has no operating control tower and therefore two-way radio communications are not required, though it is good operating practice for pilots to transmit their intentions on the airport’s common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF) for the benefit of other aircraft in the area. The CTAF may be a Universal Integrated Community (UNICOM), MULTICOM, Flight Service Station (FSS), or tower frequency.

Air traffic control responsibilities at airports are usually divided into at least two main areas: ground and tower, though a single controller may work both stations. The busiest airports may subdivide responsibilities further, with clearance delivery, apron control, and/or other specialized ATC stations.

4. Provide Ground Control

The airport is also responsible for providing ground control for airplanes used for skydiving. Ground control is responsible for directing all ground traffic in designated “movement areas”, except the traffic on runways. This includes planes, baggage trains, snow – plows, grass cutters, fuel trucks, stair trucks, airline food trucks, conveyor belt vehicles and other vehicles.

Ground Control will instruct these vehicles on which taxiways to use, which runway they will use (in the case of planes), where they will park, and when it is safe to cross runways. When a plane is ready to take – off it will be turned over to tower control. Conversely, after a plane has landed it will depart the runway and be “handed over” from Tower to Ground Control.

5. Provide Tower Control

Tower control is responsible for skydiving aircraft on the runway and in the controlled airspace immediately surrounding the airport. Tower controllers may use radar to locate an aircraft’s position in 3D space, or they may rely on pilot position reports and visual observation.

They coordinate the sequencing of aircraft in the traffic pattern and direct aircraft on how to safely join and leave the circuit. Aircraft which are only passing through the airspace must also contact tower control to be sure they remain clear of other traffic.

6. Provide Navigational Aids

The airport is also responsible for providing navigational aids for skydiving companies. There are a number of aids, both visual and electronic, though not at all airports. A visual approach slope indicator (VASI) helps pilots fly the approach for landing.

Some airports are equipped with a VHF omnidirectional range (VOR) to help pilots find the direction to the airport. VORs are often accompanied by a distance measuring equipment (DME) to determine the distance to the VOR. VORs are also located off airports, where they serve to provide airways for aircraft to navigate upon.

In poor weather, pilots will use an instrument landing system (ILS) to find the runway and fly the correct approach, even if they cannot see the ground. The number of instrument approaches based on the use of the Global Positioning System (GPS) is rapidly increasing and may eventually become the primary means for instrument landings.

Please note that larger airports sometimes offer precision approach radar (PAR), but these systems are more common at military air bases than civilian airports. The aircraft’s horizontal and vertical movement is tracked via radar, and the controller tells the pilot his position relative to the approach slope. Once the pilots can see the runway lights, they may continue with a visual landing.

7. Responsible for Weather Observations

Skydiving companies rely on airport authority to provide accurate information on the state of the weather before embarking on any skydiving expedition. Weather observations at the airport are crucial to safe take – offs and landings.

In the US and Canada, the vast majority of airports, large and small, will either have some form of automated airport weather station, whether an AWOS, ASOS, or AWSS, a human observer or a combination of the two. These weather observations, predominantly in the METAR format, are available over the radio, through automatic terminal information service (ATIS), via the ATC or the flight service station.

Planes take-off and land into the wind to achieve maximum performance. Because pilots need instantaneous information during landing, a windsock can also be kept in view of the runway. Aviation windsocks are made with lightweight material, withstand strong winds and some are lit up after dark or in foggy weather. Because visibility of windsocks is limited, often multiple glow-orange windsocks are placed on both sides of the runway.

Please note that skydiving in poor weather, especially with thunderstorms, high winds, and dust devils can be a more dangerous activity. Reputable drop zones will suspend normal operations during inclement weather. In the United States, the USPA’s Basic Safety Requirements prohibit solo student skydivers from jumping in winds exceeding 14 mph while using ram-air equipment. However, maximum ground winds are unlimited for licensed skydivers.

8. Assist in Enforcing the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs)

The Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) are rules prescribed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) governing all aviation activities in the United States. The FARs are part of Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations(CFR).

A wide variety of activities are regulated, such as aircraft design and maintenance, typical airline flights, pilot training activities, hot-air ballooning, lighter-than-air aircraft, man-made structure heights, obstruction lighting and marking, model rocket launches, model aircraft operations, Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) and kite flying.

The rules are designed to promote safe aviation, protecting pilots, flight attendants, passengers and the general public from unnecessary risk. For example, Title 14 CFR – Aeronautics and Space is one of fifty titles comprising the United States Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).

Title 14 is the principle set of rules and regulations (sometimes called administrative law) issued by the Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Administration, federal agencies of the United States regarding Aeronautics and Space. This title is available in digital and printed form, and can be referenced online using the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations (e-CFR).

9. Assist in Regulating Drop Zones

In skydiving, a drop zone or DZ is most technically the area above and around a location where a parachutist freefalls and expects to land. In common use it often refers to the totality of a skydiving operation (a business). And the area wherein parachutists land will be referred to as the “landing area.”

The drop zone is usually situated beside a small airport, often sharing the facility with other general aviation activities. Drop zone staff may include the DZO (drop zone operator or owner), manifest, pilots, instructors, coaches, cameramen, packers, riggers and other general staff.

10. Perform Oversight on Skydiving and Accidents

The airport authority work hand in hand with the FAA to perform oversight functions on accidents that happens during skydiving. When a skydiver is involved in an accident, the first step by the FAA is to determine if any regulations were violated.

An investigator will examine the circumstances and route of the flight; the certification of the pilot; the airworthiness of the aircraft; and will ensure that the parachutes were packed in accordance with the regulations. If the FAA does not find any evidence of regulatory violation, it will defer any further investigation of the accident to local law enforcement. The accident then becomes a law enforcement investigation, and the FAA has no further involvement.

If the FAA determines one or more of the regulations were violated, it will launch a separate investigation into the areas under its regulatory control, which concern the aircraft, its pilot, mechanic, the location or timing of the jump, and the parachute rigging.

Joy Nwokoro