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Skydiving is safe

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Posted: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 10:50 pm | Updated: 11:39 am, Mon Jan 21, 2013.

Oct. 15, 2012

To the editor:

I recently read the article, “Fairbanks police ordered to make quota of traffic stops,” in the Oct. 2 issue. I’d like to address a statement Chief Zager included in his department’s internal memo: “Our profession has only recently come to appreciate the irrefutable correlation between collisions and crime, a relationship that is explained easily: Risk-taking behaviors of any sort — gambling, skydiving, careless driving or committing crimes — need a place and opportunity to happen.”

As a professional skydiver and the president of the U.S. Parachute Association, I find it greatly concerning to see a police chief put skydiving in the same category as criminal activities. Skydiving is a legitimate aeronautical activity, a hobby and a life-changing positive experience for hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S.

Skydivers are one of the most diverse groups of people you’ll ever meet. USPA’s 34,000-plus members include doctors, lawyers, engineers, construction workers, members of the armed forces and just about every other profession you can imagine. They participate in a sport they love in a responsible manner according to the safety guidelines of USPA and the Federal Aviation Administration.

In addition, each year more than a half million people across the country jump out of an airplane for the first time. Nearly all of them find it an empowering, thrilling, life-changing and safe experience.

To assume that skydivers are a bunch of risk-taking daredevils with a death wish and an inherent inclination toward dangerous and illegal activities is not only completely ill-informed, it’s also a disservice to the tens of thousands of Americans who are upstanding, contributing members of society — and some of the most generous, caring people you’ll ever meet. And they just happen to enjoy jumping out of airplanes for a hobby.

I hope that Chief Zager has an opportunity to change his image of our sport and correct any negative statements he’s made and impressed on others in his department. And if Chief Zager ever wants to take the leap himself, I’d be happy to take him for his first skydive. It’s an experience he’ll never forget.

Jay Stokes

Fredericksburg, Va.

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