Every drop zone I’ve been to requires each and every person who boards an aircraft to sign an Assumption of Risk Agreement. We do this because experience has taught us that these “Waivers” are often the only protection we have in case of a lawsuit. Simply put, they are the only reason we can still skydive in the USA.
However, there is a growing group of DZ operators who have determined that they are no longer going to make everyone who jumps sign a valid waiver. I am of course talking about those operators who are planning to take up “under-age” students on tandem jumps on a commercial basis. (Having the under-age student, both parents, and grandparents, and all other living relatives sign a “waiver” will NOT make it valid.)
Some of these operators have told me that it is a risk they are willing to take. Good for them! The problem is that the risk they take is not theirs alone. If anything goes wrong, many other people and organizations will also be sued… and I don’t feel anyone has a right to risk my business, or PD’s or USPA’s for that matter.
For instance, a single lawsuit involving a USPA Tandem Master, jumping a Cypres equipped Vector tandem, with a PD reserve, and a Strong main, with no valid waiver, would most likely result in the end of Relative Workshop, PD, Strong Enterprises, Airtec, and USPA. Plus, of course, the foolish Drop Zone that was willing to “take the risk.” If you haven’t yet been sued for $10,000,000, then you don’t have the right to say this is unrealistic. It is not only realistic, it is a near certainty. Think about what would happen to our sport with all those companies gone.
And then there’s the problem of the cute, giggling, 16-year-old girl, who after her jump reports to mommy, “that big ugly man touched my boobies.” Behavior that might be overlooked as simply “flirting” with an adult student now becomes felony child abuse. Add children to the close physical contact necessary to make a tandem jump, and there is little doubt that this type of situation will result.
But won’t I pass up a lot of money by not taking kids up on a tandem? In the long run, the answer is NO. Face it. Most people make only one jump in their lifetime. Whether they make it at 16 or 18 doesn’t make you any more money. Besides, unless daddy owns the DZ, very few children can afford to keep jumping anyway. And one single lawsuit will cost you more than the profit gained from a lifetime of taking up children on tandem jumps.
The risk is simply much greater than the reward. Fight the temptation, and please make the right decision for all of us.