Skydivers grounded as business put out of action

NO LONGER: Doug Telfer, president of the Taranaki Skydiving Club, has had to close his skydiving business.
NO LONGER: Doug Telfer, president of the Taranaki Skydiving Club, has had to close his skydiving business.

Jumping out of a perfectly good airplane has never been so difficult for the high fliers of the Taranaki Skydiving Club.

The club, which used to operate out of the New Plymouth airport, has closed because of new regulations imposed by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in November 2011.

Skydivers in Taranaki now must wait for the few weekends each year when a commercial operation based in Whangarei, Ballistic Blondes, flies their plane down.

"We were already struggling to break even and when the CAA took over it really finished us off'," Doug Telfer, president of the club, said.

The club has been jumping since 1977, and had always operated under the safety standards of the New Zealand Parachute Industry Association and the New Zealand Parachute Organisation.

The new requirements meant they had to redo all their manuals - operational manuals, health and safety manuals, and everything else.

Kelly Cullen, manager of Ballistic Blondes, said his operation had to spend about 300 hours redoing manuals, and had spent $16,000 on CAA fees.

Mr Telfer said there was no way the club could afford a figure like that "when you've got about 10 members and only about four regulars".

"We're slowly whittling things down, post office boxes won't be renewed, the telephone's gone, anything we can do without we're cutting. Without Ballistic Blondes we're pretty much out of action."

Frank Conway, a skydiver who has done more than 1100 jumps, now has to look further afield for his thrills.

"I have to travel a lot now," he said. "But I quite like that I can just go and have fun now. I used to have to train people, organise the plane, the pilot, tandem master and the weather."

Mr Telfer agreed.

"It's not on my shoulders if someone does something stupid now, whereas once upon a time I had to worry about everybody," he said.

However, they do miss the business, and said it was a shame the CAA's want of money could close down a competent business.

"We had a good record before CAA took over. Statistically, skydiving is safer than a lot of other sports - horse riding, cycling and fishing. Fishing is the most dangerous sport in New Zealand."

Bethany Pearson is a Whitireia journalism school student

Taranaki Daily News