LOVELAND, Colo. — On April 18, 1981, a plane carrying 13 people — including a pilot from the old Stapleton Airport — collided with a skydiving plane with six people on board.
Four of the skydivers were able to parachute out, but two were killed and everyone on the commuter plane headed to Wyoming died.
“It was a tragic day for us and for our family and it will with us for the rest of our lives,” said Kim Love, whose mom Christine was killed that day.
The crash that killed her was one of 32 crashes the National Transportation Safety Board looked at for an investigative report in 2008 on the safety of parachute jump operations.
The NTSB concluded pilots were undertrained, pre-flight inspections were inadequate, and the Federal Aviation Administration had a lack of oversight.
According to NTSB member Jennifer Homendy regulations for skydiving planes are weaker than regulations for commercial or tour group operations.
“The NTSB has called on the FAA to improve the safety of parachute jump operations,” said Homendy in a press conference on Monday afternoon.
It’s been almost 40 years since the planes collided in Loveland,11 years since the report, and just a few days after the skydiving plane crashed in Hawaii and killed 11 people.
“Some of those recommendations, specifically with request to training, maintenance of aircraft, and FAA oversight have not been acted on by the FAA,” said Homendy, referring recommendations made back in 2008.
In response, an FAA spokesperson said in an emailed statement “the FAA required its safety inspectors to conduct increased surveillance of parachute operations, revised the safety guidance we issued to parachute operators, and increased our safety outreach to the parachuting community. Parachute operators must follow existing regulations concerning pilot training and 100-flight-hour aircraft inspections.”
“The big question is going to be how often are they doing it, do they have the resources and the manpower?” 9NEWS Aviation Expert Greg Feith said.
Feith investigated the 1981 Loveland collision and said the pilot on the skydiving plane was inexperienced and didn’t maintain communication with air traffic control.
“Then of course we looked at FAA oversight,” Feith said. “How structured was this organization that was doing the skydiving operation and how plugged in was FAA in doing surveillance to ensure the highest levels of safety?”
Since the 2008 investigation that included the Loveland crash, there have been 80 accidents involving skydiving operations. The NTSB says they all should have been avoided.
Homendy said issues they have called on the FAA to improve might not be factors in the Hawaii crash, but they are looking at them as part of the investigation.
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