From the 1st of May 2012 Tandem skydiving will be administered directly by the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority rather than sporting bodies.
This sets a world wide precedent and goes some way in eliminating some of the problems of administering a commercial activity with sporting rules.
The New Rule part is called Civil Aviation Rule Part 115.
Before, all skydiving was administered by part 149 organisations, part 149 is a rule part designed for sporting activities.
Part 115 will administer commercial adventure aviation and covers other aviation activities also such as paragliding, hot air balloons, hang gliding, microlights and other General Aviation activities done for commercial purposes that are not considered Part 135 air transport.
The rules have been in the pipeline for about 20 years, as adventure tourism and therefore adventure aviation has grown significantly in NZ and the CAA have had pressure from the public and the Parliament to make commercial aviation operators more accountable.
The CAA understands that this precedent will likely be followed by other countries in the future. So it will be an interesting exercise for everyone to observe.
For skydiving it only covers Tandems and only tandems that re not a training jump.
So the argument that tandems are not a joy ride is no longer applicable, tandems under part 115 are a joyride and those under part 149 are a training jump.
My DZ has been working on our manual for about 2 years, fortunately my business partners are pilots that understand civil aviation rules very well and have managed to submit a manual that was accepted straight away.
I understand some drop zones in NZ failed to produce and adequate manual and were denied (and have to re submit) and some have not submitted a manual at all.
Those without accepted manuals ans I understand will have to refrain from taking tandem passengers from the 1st of May which is in 2 days time.
Aside from having to develop a complicated operations manual, the only real difference for the skydivers I can see is the way the instructors log their hours/flight and duty time. Which is quite simple. There are other subtle differences also but nothing too substantial.
The best thing in my mind is that the skydiving company (or club) that performs commercial tandem skydiving/holds a part 115 cert. is answerable directly to to CAA and not a part 149 organisation.
We are fortunate to be affiliated to a great part 149 that is owned by a non profit organisation and is very helpful and fair when it comes to rating and license approvals and compliance. In the past we were not so fortunate and were grounded because the CEO of the part 149 we belonged to, decided they would not comply with the CAA's requests.
A tandem parachute is now considered and aircraft and a tandem pilot is a pilot in command.
We are not allowed to work 7 consecutive days or more than 14 hours in one day.
It will be a very interesting exercise to say the least.
The CAA themselves are struggling to make the deadline. It was thought that the deadline would be extended but as the new law is a bill passed by Parliament that is impossible so it seems a few DZ's will not be able to operate as of Tuesday...
For those interested you will find further information in the following link.