A Short History Of Sport Parachuting and the Australian Parachute Federation

See also Early History Of Parachuting

See also "A Draft History Of Parachuting In Australia Up To The Foundation Of Sport Parachuting In 1958" by Frank Mines, D-2034

Development

Prior to 1958 either barnstorming display jumpers or military paratroops carried out all parachuting in Australia.

In 1958, two safety equipment workers at Williamtown Air Force Base decided to make parachute jumps outside of their working environment, just for the fun of it. Those few weekend jumps made by Jack Stevens and Allan McDonald were the birth of a sporting activity that now sees more than 150,000 first parachute jumps per year.

The first meeting of the Australian Parachute Federation was held on Sunday 23rd of October 1960 at the Camden Inn Hotel in New South Wales. The Department of Civil Aviation forbid parachuting except with the written permission of the Director General of Civil Aviation and so initially, the Federation was needed to negotiate a more equitable right of access to the air.

Within a few years it became obvious that the Federation would have to involve itself in the safety aspects of parachuting or face being regulated out of the air. Early fatal accidents were at an unacceptable level and so the Federation embarked on a program to improve safety regulation, implement safety education and instruction standards. These programs were so successful that the number of fatal accidents has decreased considerably while the number of parachute jumps made has increased 100 fold.

Skydiving (controlling one’s body in free fall) was embraced by Australian parachutists during the sixties and soon after the first baton pass was made, Australia led the world until the end of that phase. The Australian 6-Way baton pass from 12,500 feet was only ever equalled by the US Army Parachute Team from 31,000 feet. As relative work developed through 4-Way Stars to 8-Way and 10-Way Stars, Australian skydivers remained at the leading edge and at the first World Championships of Relative Work (Formation Skydiving) they won the silver medal in the 10-Way Speed Star event.

Since then Australian skydiving has continually remained at a very high standard. The introduction of the glamour skydiving events of the nineties, freestyle skydiving and skysurfing, saw Australian skydivers embrace it and immediately start winning international medals. As skydiving moves into new disciplines they will no doubt be there at the cutting edge of the sport. In addition to 150,000+ first jumps being completed by Tandem last year, about 3,000 recreational skydivers did approximately 200,000 jumps across the country.

The Australian Parachute Federation today

"The Australian Parachute Federation is the peak body for the administration and representation of Australian Sport Parachuting. We achieve this by promoting and maintaining a high level of safety and by improving the standard of Sport Parachuting to encourage participation and excellence in performance."

The APF is the organisation which controls skydiving and parachuting at nearly all the civilian operations in Australia. With the approval of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) it sets the standards of operation, conducts competitions, issues licenses, certifications and instructor ratings, conducts exams and publishes a magazine (ASM) and newsletter to keep its members informed of current events and safety standards.

The APF was located in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory for many years and in January 2010 relocated its national office to Brisbane in Queensland. In May 2015, members voted overwhelmingly at the AGM to move from an Incorporated Association to a Company Limited by Guarantee and on 21 July 2015, ASIC approved the move. The APF Office has 10full-time employees and an army of volunteers at State and local drop zone level.

It is affiliated with the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) through the Air Sport Australia Confederation and has close links to the FAI International Parachuting Commission (IPC), the Parachute Industry Association (PIA), and is contracted to carry out safety and surveillance duties for the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and assist Airservices Australia with airspace management.

See the APF Constitution for a list of its Objects. Duties include

  • Promulgation of safety regulation in relation to sport parachuting;
  • Promulgation of parachute instruction regulation and the implementation of the parachute instructor rating examination and rating system;
  • Promulgation and implementation of a parachute rigger/packer examination and rating system;
  • Administration of parachuting competitions at all levels;
  • Administration of parachuting competition coaching at all levels;
  • Promulgation and implementation of a parachute competition judges examination and rating system;
  • Production of educational material for all areas of sport parachuting;
  • Promotion of excellence in all sport parachuting endeavours;
  • Promotion of sport parachuting and the correction of erroneous public impressions about sport parachuting;
  • Supply insurance to members as directed by the APF Board.
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