Published date: 5 May 2023

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has released its report into the cause of a fatal parachute accident at Tauranga Aerodrome on 20 March 2021.

At approximately 1030 hours on 20 March 2021, a recreational solo skydiver exited the aircraft at 15,188ft above Tauranga aerodrome. Witnesses on the ground observed the skydiver opened his chute, then complete a series of turns. A final left turn was initiated at low altitude, with insufficient height available for the canopy to return to level flight. This resulted in the skydiver striking the ground and sustaining fatal injuries.

The skydiver was experienced, having recently completed the NZ Diploma in Commercial Skydiving, a New Zealand Qualifications Authority accredited tertiary course of study. The course is designed to give graduates a minimum of 150 skydives and a New Zealand Parachute Industry Association (NZPIA) certificate with a ‘B’ endorsement within a 32-week period. The skydiver’s logbook had recorded 194 jumps and he had also recently completed at 12-week internship with a commercial skydiver operator based at Tauranga Aerodrome.

Although the skydiver was jumping with a canopy smaller than the recommended guidelines, he had completed 100 jumps with it without incident. He had demonstrated competence and was familiar with its handling and performance characteristics.

Our safety investigation determined that the most likely cause of the accident was judgement error by the skydiver when close to the ground. The skydiver attempted to manoeuvre for landing with insufficient height to return to level flight before striking the ground.

There are some ‘system’ learnings the industry can take from this accident. This includes instructors and coaches reviewing their current training materials, review procedures for assessing and authorising skydivers for specific canopies and manoeuvres and promote safety through sharing knowledge and experiences without judgement or blame.

While not considered a contributory factor in this accident, premature downsizing to a smaller canopy is a recognised safety risk. This accident serves as a reminder to the skydiving community of the potential safety benefits of larger canopies and lower wing loading.

* Comments can be attributed to:

David Harrison, Deputy Chief Executive, Aviation Safety,
Civil Aviation Authority

Safety Investigation Report: Fatal parachute accident Tauranga, 20 March 2021 [PDF 766 KB]

Please contact the CAA media team for further information:

027 763 0000 |


A CAA safety investigation seeks to provide the Director of Civil Aviation with the information required to assess which, if any, risk-based intervention tools may be required to attain CAA safety objectives.

The purpose of a CAA safety investigation is to determine the circumstances and identify contributory factors to an accident or incident with the purpose of minimising or reducing the risk to an acceptable level of a similar occurrence arising in the future.

The safety investigation does not seek to ascribe responsibility to any person but to establish the contributory factors to the accident or incident based on the balance of probability.