Gotta say, this is an exciting issue of Parachutist. Although you’re not going to find much about what went on in the past month in the skydiving world, you are going to find a wonderful look back at a 75-year history of our organization. It’s packed with stories of our sport through the ages, and I hope you’ll have half as much fun reading it as we did putting it together.
From my seat, I’ve had the opportunity to research and reflect on the nine executive directors who came before me and the 16 presidents of this organization. Neither this column nor this entire magazine is long enough to tell each of their stories. In my research I looked for their common traits. I looked for a certain skill or talent that brought each of them to their respective roles, and I believe I found two things.
The first was an undeniable love and devotion to this sport, a love and devotion that went to the core of who they were, inseparable from them as human beings. I think that this foundation supported all their other skills and traits and made them amazing people. The second was that each one of them, while very different from one another, was the right person for our organization at the time. Some were visionaries, others were tactical masterminds, some saved the organization from financial ruin and others could barely balance the checkbook. The traits each one possessed may not have been successful in a different era, but they were each exactly what our organization needed when they arrived.
One of my favorites was our first president, Joe Crane. To learn more about him, have a peek at the article “The Unusual History of a Quiet Man” in the April 1967 Parachutist (available at parachutist.com under the Back Issues tab). In that article, it comes through loud and clear that he both loved jumping out of planes and was the right person to lead the organization at the time. Although many of us make more jumps in a season than Crane made in his entire jumping career (689—which was actually a whole lot for his era), his love for parachuting and his tenacity brought us the requirement to use reserve parachutes; the creation of USPA’s direct predecessor, National Parachute Jumpers-Riggers; the recognition by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (World Air Sports Federation) that parachuting was sport; and the creation of a licensing system.
For most of Joe Crane’s jumping career, the world thought that jumpers would pass out if they entered terminal velocity. I wonder if in his wildest dreams he ever conceived of a discipline like vertical formation skydiving? Or what he’d think of high-speed canopy piloting? After all, in his day, the most elite parachuting competition in the world was “spot-jumping,” won by the jumper who could best guess the winds using the most accurate wind measuring device available: a finger, which the jumper licked and held in the air.
What will our sport look like in July 2046 when we’re celebrating our centennial? I guess that’s up to all of us to decide. But one thing is certain: With all the talent and love of the sport in our community, anything we decide to do is bound to be a success.