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NTSB urges increased regulations of planes used for parachuting services

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Video by Jamm Aquino / jaquino@staradvertiser.com
The National Transportation Safety Board held a press conference today to provide an update on Friday's crash that killed 11 people in Mokuleia.
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NTSB board member Jennifer Homendy talks during a news conference today at the Ala Moana Hotel.

The National Transportation Safety Board is urging the Federal Aviation Authority to increase regulations for aircraft that operate parachuting services in the wake of Friday’s fatal skydiving plane crash in Mokuleia.

The NTSB held its second briefing following Friday’s Dillingham Airfield crash that killed all 11 people on board, and it asked that the FAA categorize parachuting service operators in a way that requires their planes to undergo more extensive maintenance and inspections.

They are currently exempt from safety regulations that operators of other paid aircraft-based services must follow.

“Many times manufacturers will issue special bulletins advising operators to make certain repairs or changes to their aircraft — they aren’t required to comply to those,” said Jennifer Homendy, board member for the NTSB, at today’s briefing.

NTSB spokesman Eric Weiss said that, in addition to the bulletins, operators of parachuting services have different regulations for “pilot requirements, the requirements for oversight, oversight to training, weight and balance — there are many differences.”

Aircraft operators are categorized depending on the type of service they are providing, and they fall into three parts: Part 91, Part 135 and Part 121.

Part 91 operators are under the most lax requirements and don’t have to comply with manufacturer bulletins and other regulations. Part 121 is the strictest category, but Part 135 and 121 are both stricter than Part 91 operators and apply to paid services.

“If you take money for a flight, that’s the Part 135 flight,” Weiss said. “However, if those people paying for those are parachutists, it goes down to Part 91.”

The NTSB has recommended that the FAA place parachuting operators into a category that’s more strict than the regulations found in Part 91, something it has suggested since 2008.

The FAA has declined to make those changes, and when asked why, Homendy said, “I think that’s a great question for the FAA. We would like them to follow through with those, but they have not.”

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