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Who or what determines the minimum area required for a sky diving dropzone at an airport?

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Depends on the dropzone.

If the dropzone is a member of the United States Parachute Association, it must meet the following Basic Safety Requirements (2024 SIM page 7) for the landing area:

Areas used for skydiving should be unobstructed, with the following minimum radial distances to the nearest hazard: [S]

  • solo students and A-license holders—330 feet
  • B- and C-license holders and all tandem skydives—165 feet
  • D-license holders—40 feet

Hazards are defined as telephone and power lines, towers, buildings, bodies of water, highways, vehicles, and trees covering more than 32,292 square feet. However, clusters of trees must not be greater than 10% of the designated landing area.

It is up to the dropzone what the minimum license required is to jump there. So, if the dropzone requires a D license to jump there, then the minimum landing area size is a 40 foot radius circle.

Besides that, the minimum area depends on the number of staff and jumpers and their comfort/ business requirements, and the type and number of airplanes.

Technically speaking, the airplane tie downs, the runway, and the parking lot could be part of the general airport and not dedicated to the dropzone.

And to really push it, you could handle paperwork, payment, and packing parachutes right in the landing area between loads.

So the strict minimum is just a big enough landing area to safely land a parachute.

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