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Jump Pilots: Use Caution with Off-DZ Jumps

Occasionally, a jump pilot will be asked to drop jumpers at locations off the usual on-airport drop zone. If so, steps must be taken to determine whether an FAA Certificate of Authorization (COA) is required. If the jumps are to take place in a large, uncongested area—think of a large field or a deserted beach—then the standard ATC notification or authorization (depending on the airspace; see FAR 105.25) still needs to happen, as with any jump. Meaning, the usual ATC notification if the jump occurs in Class E or G airspace, or a request for an ATC authorization if the jump occurs in Class A, B, C or D airspace. {See FAA Advisory Circular 105-2E, Appendix 1.) Naturally, permission for the landowner is advised as well.


However, if the jump is to be “over or into” either a congested area or an open-air assembly of people—think of a high school football stadium, a fairground, or a downtown parade—then FAR 105.21 requires that an FAA certificate of authorization also needs to be issued by the local FAA Flight Standards District Office (FSDO). Gaining a COA is no small feat, requiring completion and submittal of FAA Form 7711-2, (available on the FAA /USPA website here: Form FAA 7711-2 - Certificate of Waiver or Authorization Application – Document Information) at least 10 business days in advance of the jump.

The FSDO will want information about the location of the jump, alternate parachute landing areas, the pilot, the aircraft, and the names of the jumpers and their USPA credentials (membership number, USPA license number, and PRO rating, if applicable). The FAA will also want an aerial photo or printed Google Maps screenshot showing the intended landing area, identified alternate parachute landing areas, and the locations of obstacles such as powerlines, flagpoles, and antenna towers.


When approved, the FSDO will provide FAA Form 7711-1, which is the actual certificate of authorization for the jump, or series of jumps. The certificate will authorize the jump(s) for specific date(s) and time(s). It will also contain a list of special provisions which should be read carefully as they must be adhered to.


While an open-air assembly is usually recognizable, it may be fair to ask how to identify a congested area. Not as easy as it sounds. For starters, the FAA doesn’t include congested area among its lists of definitions. Note, however that the actual phrase used in the FAR is “congested area of a city, town, or settlement.” Think in terms of a neighborhood, business park, industrial area and places where people congregate, like a city park or a public beach. If in doubt, it’s best to go ahead and file for a certificate of authorization and err on the side of compliance. The opposite approach, facilitating a jump without FAA involvement, can lead to a post-jump investigation by the FAA (especially if there are media reports of jumper or spectator injuries) and FAA enforcement action against the pilot and the jumpers.


For more information, consult Section 7-1: Exhibition Jumping in the USPA Skydiver’s Information Manual here: United States Parachute Association > Safety and Training > SIM > Section 7 (uspa.org), and Sections 10, 11, and 12 and Appendix 1 of FAA Advisory Circular 105-2E—Sport Parachuting here: AC 105-2E - Sport Parachuting – Document Information (faa.gov).


{Photo used by permission of Eric Teabo)



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