Commercial skydiving operations are again underway at Tandem Skydive Tauranga, after being forced to close for a month while CAA certification was obtained.
For company chief executive John Martin it is a welcome end to a process involving lots of paper work and several days in Wellington.
John Martin, back in business.
A change in CAA rules shut down every skydiving company in the country on April 30, and they were unable to resume operating until they had obtained their CAA Part 115 certification.
Tauranga Tandem Skydive’s manual was submitted before April 30 but it was rejected, placing them back in the queue, meaning the business had to wait its turn to be processed.
“On the whole CAA was pretty helpful once our turn came up,” says John. “It was just a matter of sitting down and working it through, really.
“They tell you what’s not good enough, but they don’t tell you what is good enough. But once the big guys were certificated they had a standard, and we could use that as a target.”
The government bureaucracy’s entry into the adventure aviation market still has some unique aspects, says John.
Their rigs, the actual parachutes themselves, are regarded by the CAA as aircraft for part of the certification process, which raises more questions. Are they going to have to have parachute pilot licences, will they have to carry transponders?
“There was lots of clarification needed on lots of issues.”
Under Part 115 of the civil aviation regulations, hot air balloon, hang glider, paraglider, tandem parachute, and parachute drop aircraft operators must be certificated.
In November 2011, civil aviation gave the 23 adventure aviation operators six months to write a 400 page manual with no models and no information.
The manuals had to be submitted and processed at a cost to the operators of $135 an hour, plus a site visit.
CAA communications officer Emma Peel says the change is intended to give safety and security to customers of New Zealand’s growing adventure aviation sector, so overseas tourists who buy adventure aviation flights can be assured the operations are safe.
“When you are a passenger you don’t expect there to be any risk when you buy a ticket,” says Emma. “It is a perceived risk, like a roller coaster feels scary but you know that it’s safe. That’s the kind of premise on which this rule is written.
“This is a very high safety standard. You are formerly becoming part of the aviation system, and the aviation system is quite unique in that it is very risk focused.
“So we look at not just what has gone wrong, but what could go wrong. Organisations are required to look at the safety of their own organisation, look at what could go wrong and what they will do to mitigate that risk.
“So it’s a whole different intellectual exercise to a club where everyone there is accepting an element of risk and they understand that as members of the club.”