Public Statement

February 10, 2016

My name is Bryan Burke. I've been a United States Parachute Association Safety and Training Advisor for thirty years - twenty five of those at Skydive Arizona. In that time, I've never experienced anything quite like the three fatal accidents here between December 31st and February 9th, and I understand why people both within the skydiving community and without are concerned. Comments on social media clearly indicate there is a misunderstanding among the non-skydiving public about the nature of skydiving in general, and these incidents in particular. 

First of all, these incidents did not involve tandem or student jumpers. Since Skydive Arizona was founded in 1978, we have always affiliated ourselves with a very high quality training operations such as our current affiliate, Adventures in Skydiving. In over 35 years and nearly half a million tandem and student jumps, we have never had a tandem or student fatality. When it comes to training student skydivers, Adventures in Skydiving and Skydive Arizona have a record as good as any in the world. 

Second, the three skydivers killed in these recent accidents shared some common characteristics, with each other and with many other skydivers around the world who have died in similar accidents in the past fifteen years. 

*  All were highly experienced, with jump numbers ranging from 600 to over 1,000
* All were men in their mid-thirties
* All were trained at other skydiving centers and made most of their jumps elsewhere
* All were jumping their own equipment, which they selected and had full responsibility for. The equipment was in compliance with all regulations. 
* All were jumping very high performance parachutes designed for and marketed to expert skydivers. All three found themselves in situations that might have been far less serious had they been using more conservative parachute designs

Finally, in each case investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration placed no blame on Skydive Arizona or any of our staff. 

A cultural phenomenon of the 21st century is the trend towards extreme sports, which are glorified in the media. Whether skydiving, whitewater kayaking, back-country skiing and snowmobiling, motorcycling, BASE jumping, mountain climbing, advances in equipment increased numbers of participants, and the extreme sport culture has lead to an increase in accidents among expert participants. Skydiving at the beginner level is safer now than it has ever been, but at the expert level it remains dangerous and accidents can be expected as expert skydivers continue to push the limits of the sport. 

-Bryan Burke

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