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Reflecting on the association’s past year is like digging through your gear bag after a long, hectic skydiving season. The things you expect to see are there, interspersed with surprising items that somehow got thrown in. For USPA, 2016 was just that mixed bag. Let me inventory those items for you.
As I begin to bow out as USPA Executive Director, I want to share some skydiving truths that I have come to know. Some I’ve learned from others, some I had to learn myself, and many came to light in the course of working out problems and issues over 24 years at USPA.
This month's "Gearing Up" is written for just 22 of you. If 2017 is an average year in the U.S. accident-wise, some 22 of you won't be around to read this column in next February's Parachutist due to a skydiving accident. Let that sink in: 22 of you reading this will die making your last skydive. Odds are you're licensed (most likely a C or D license), have been skydiving for at least 10 years and have just at or over 1,000 jumps. (Don't think you're off the hook if you're not nearly that experienced, since these are averages; less-experienced skydivers will be among them.) Statistics also tell us that the circumstances of your demise will likely involve a hard landing, a mishandled main-parachute malfunction or a collision.
Here's a jump story. Or rather, a story about a jump that didn't happen. But first, do you believe that things happen for a reason? Or alternatively, do you believe that a bad outcome can later be viewed as a good outcome?
We all owe deep appreciation and grateful thanks to our current ranks of instructors and coaches for their diligence and professionalism.
In future years we will all look back proudly on this time as one where we joined together and successfully preserved the future of this sport we love.
The Federal Aviation Administration operates the largest and safest aviation system in the world. How large? Of the 32.9 million air carrier departures worldwide in 2015, the U.S. had the most with 8.7 million. China was a distant second. Of an estimated 370,000 general-aviation aircraft worldwide flying an estimated 35 million flight hours, more than half those aircraft and hours are flown in the U.S.
From the first jump, all skydivers know the value of being prepared. We train, retrain, review the Skydiver’s Information Manual, practice in a hanging harness, perform gear checks before every jump, read incident reports to educate ourselves, seek out experts and take myriad other steps to be as prepared as possible for any skydiving eventuality. Doesn’t it make sense that we should also prepare for other eventualities, even bad skydiving outcomes?
This is an election year for USPA, meaning that each of the 22 seats on USPA’s board of directors is up for grabs by any USPA member who is qualified to run.
Recent and long-time members alike will know the name of Clint Vincent, one of the association's longest-serving employees. He's actually served two 10-year stints at USPA; the first from 1985 to 1995 and the second between 2007 and 2017. Sadly but deservedly, Clint is retiring from USPA at the end of this year.
With this year’s skydiving season now at the mid-point, we’ve got some great news to report on our initiative to solicit more incident reports: Many of you have responded to our plea and have begun submitting them.
There are three opportunities for USPA members to participate in important skydiving gatherings in the coming months.
It’s safe to say that nothing about 2020 has proceeded according to anyone’s plans. Whatever was planned in January was tossed out the window by March.
This is my 144th and final Gearing Up column since becoming USPA’s Executive Director in December 2007.
Actions have consequences. So do accidents, especially fatal accidents.
Over the past 10 years, in her quiet and unassuming way, Director of Sport Promotion Nancy Koreen has done more for USPA and the sport than most will ever know.
If your words could save a skydiver from injury or worse, would you speak up? Of course you would. In fact, such conversations probably happen every day at DZs everywhere. Whether such discussions occur after a gear check, when reviewing a dive plan or while discussing jump run or winds or a landing pattern, sharing knowledge and correcting misconceptions are a vital part of safe skydiving.
In no wild nightmare could I have conceived that a virus would ground skydiving and, indeed, shut down the world.
This year will mark the 53rd anniversary of the start of one of the most popular and enduring skydiving performance awards—the Bob Buquor Memorial Star Crest Recipient (SCR) award.
In "Five Minute Call," you'll read of the Oklahoma DZ owner whom a court ordered to pay a substantial sum to a 16-year-old injured in 2014 during a static-line first jump. Coincidentally, during that period, USPA's board of directors was once again debating what the Basic Safety Requirements should state as the minimum age to skydive.
For eight years, five months and counting, USPA members have enjoyed the longest run ever without a dues increase. That streak will end on January 1, when USPA dues and rating and license fees go up an average of 20 percent. No one on the staff or the board takes such action lightly, and both should be commended for making the 2009 dues change last as long as possible.
Since 2009, USPA has participated in eight successful Part 16 complaints. Seven were outright wins. A Part 16 win strengthens the concept that skydiving must be given airport access unless there are strong, verifiable safety reasons for denial.
Today, USPA membership stands at 40,512 and continues growing with over a half-million people in the U.S. making their first jumps every year. General aviation, however, is still in a downward arc despite the best efforts of general aviation groups to attract and keep more pilots.
It’s hard to even imagine, but years ago USPA required jumpers to provide copies of their logbooks when they mailed in their applications for licenses and ratings.
Parachutes are beginning to disappear … or, more accurately, the word “parachute” is beginning to fade from use to describe our sport, replaced by the word “skydiving”.
Can jump-plane safety be improved? Yes, absolutely. The goal should always be zero accidents. USPA has already shown the NTSB that we are ready to implement sensible actions that improve safety.
How safe is skydiving? Very safe? Somewhat safe? Not safe at all? Safety experts will say that the question really is, “What is skydiving’s level of safety?” or in other words, “What is the level of risk?” Even then, we must focus the question more to ask, “Risk of what? Death? Injury?”
More than once in past “Gearing Up” columns, you’ve read me urging jumpers to take a canopy course. Of course, since 2012, USPA requires those who want a B license to take one. But it’s generally conceded that it’s a good idea for all skydivers who haven’t done so yet to go through a canopy course, no matter how many jumps they have. It’s also a good idea to go through a refresher course if your last one was a while ago. After all, the average number of jumps made by those who died last year in landing accidents was 1,840.
Last weekend, I finally took my own advice.
USPA’s Airport Access and Defense Fund started in 1991 with the primary purpose of helping DZs fight governmental decisions that unfairly or illegally interfere with or negate skydiving operations on airports. As it has been from the start, one condition of using the fund is that winning the battle would set national precedent so that other DZs and skydiving in general derive future benefit. The AAD Fund is entirely dependent on donations from skydivers, who give about $20,000 annually. The fund has now grown to just over $344,000.
Melinda Ray was a 35-year-old wife and mother of three who was suffering from a disease that was quickly destroying her liver. She didn’t score high on the transplant list to qualify for a liver from a deceased donor; she had to find a living donor. She was desperate.
This is the month for you and other USPA members to select those 22 members who will serve on USPA’s board of directors and determine the association’s direction for the next three years. In this issue of Parachutist, you’ll find the election instructions and a ballot.
With proposed air-traffic-control privatization, skydiving—and indeed all of general aviation—is facing the gravest threat to its longevity and future than ever before. If the 21st Century AIRR Act, otherwise known as H.R. 2997, goes through the U.S. Congress and the president signs it into law, it would carve the ATC function out of the Federal Aviation Administration and hand it to a new private corporation funded by new aviation user fees.
If you’re a skydiver, there is no better job than to work for the U.S. Parachute Association. It’s the ultimate way of giving back to a sport that has enhanced and shaped your life.
USPA achieved a milestone—40,000 current members!
On October 31, Director of Safety and Training Jim Crouch spent his last day as an employee of USPA and moved on to other challenges in the aviation industry.
At its July meeting, USPA’s board of directors approved a resolution that, eff ective November 1, USPA “will not use association resources to support the sport of ‘indoor skydiving,’ except to nominate international judges to such IPC [International Parachuting Commission] events as appropriate. USPA will seek to encourage, foster and cooperate with any emerging national governing body for tunnel flying.” As a result, effective next month, USPA is officially out of the wind-tunnel business.
Imagine a place that captures all of our sport’s exciting and dynamic history, where jumpers and non-jumpers alike can see the evolution of skydiving and the many facets of its rich and storied past. That’s the dream of the International Skydiving Museum and Hall of Fame, which the late USPA Executive Director Emeritus William H. Ottley conceived decades ago.
Skydiving has its risks, but the flight to jump altitude should be the safest part of any jump. That depends almost entirely on the professionalism of the pilot.
Over the years, USPA has amassed a stunning record of helping to establish DZs on airports of all sizes and activity levels, from sleepy one-runway airports to airports with control towers and airline service.
Recently, USPA began to make changes to its data policies, due in large part to a law—the General Data Protection Rule—passed by the European Union in 2017. Effective last May, the law required organizations worldwide to take steps to safeguard the personal data of the citizens and residents of the 28 EU countries. Moreover, the law mandates that individuals have control over how, when and if organizations share their personal data. Violations can result in large fines. Personal data is defined as any data that can uniquely identify an individual … such as a membership or license number.
The principal responsibility of the S&TA is to promote safe skydiving.
In 1984, the IRS classified USPA as a 501(c)4 non-profit association. That was based on its finding that USPA’s main purposes “promote the common good and social welfare.” Importantly, 501(c)4 organizations can lobby government officials as long as they meet all lobby registration and lobby reporting rules. And USPA does lobby on behalf of skydiving. What does that mean? Primarily, USPA’s executive director and director of government relations engage in efforts to build relationships with various officials, usually those in the Federal Aviation Administration and the Transportation Security Administration but sometimes other federal and state agencies.
The big question is, what will the activity level be at DZs upon reopening? And how long will it take until first-jump customers and experienced skydivers return to normal levels?
Many jumpers are surprised to learn that women make up only about 13 percent of USPA’s membership, because it seems like there are more women than that at their DZs.
At the USPA Drop Zone Operators’ Conference this year, attendees heard from presenter Jeanice Dolan, a CPA and DZO of Ocean City Skydiving Center in Maryland, about a growing enforcement issue that is changing the landscape for DZs: worker classification. Increasingly, state and federal departments of labor are auditing businesses—including DZs—to determine whether they are correctly classifying workers as either employees or contractors. Two things are driving this government scrutiny: 1) a growing gig economy where businesses classify their workers as contractors and 2) governments’ need for tax revenues.
HDOT ordered all businesses at the airport to shut their doors by June 30, demonstrating a cold indifference to the scores of people whose livelihoods and lives will be upended.
On October 23, Advanced Aerospace Designs issued reminders of approaching deadlines for compliance with its last two service bulletins.
PIA released Service Bulletin PSB-10092020 affecting after-market tandem main risers constructed with obsolete RW2 rings. All sport tandem main risers produced with RW2 rings, or equivalent sized rings, are affected regardless of the hardware manufacturer, the date of manufacture, the material type or the forging process used. This PSB does not affect "solo" main risers that use RW2 rings. Compliance is MANDATORY – REPLACE BEFORE THE NEXT JUMP.
The FAA is adopting a new airworthiness directive (AD) for certain Uninsured United Parachute Technologies, LLC (UPT) parachutes. This AD results from reserve pin covers (RPCs) catching on the parachute container flaps and preventing the reserve parachute from deploying. This AD requires modifying the RPC before the next parachute jump and replacing the RPC at the next reserve parachute packing. The FAA is issuing this AD to address the unsafe condition on these products.
It’s no secret that more and more people are turning to giving gifts of experiences instead of material things.
Strong Enterprises issued Service Bulletin #35 mandating inspection of the 3-ring attachment on tandem drogues manufactured between June 22, 2020, and February 2, 2021 whose last three digits of the serial numbers between 625 and 714. Status is MANDATORY. Compliance is IMMEDIATE – before the next jump.
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