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Leadership, Generosity and Passion—Patricia “Pat” Thomas Receives the 2018 USPA Lifetime Achievement Award
Features | April 2019

Leadership, Generosity and Passion—Patricia “Pat” Thomas Receives the 2018 USPA Lifetime Achievement Award

By Jessie Thompson

If you ask Patricia Annette Thomas (whom most simply call “Pat”) about her greatest life achievement, she will unhesitatingly say it is her family, then quickly change the subject. However, if you persist, she might share some stories from the myriad wonderful moments in her life.

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Building a 100 in Freefall
100 years of Freefall | April 2019

Building a 100 in Freefall

By Steve Lefkowitz of SDC Rhythm XP


USPA is celebrating the 100th anniversary of freefall on April 28 and is encouraging skydivers to submit photos of themselves making 100-shaped formations in the sky, so it’s the perfect time to learn how to make one.

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It All Started in Dayton
Features | April 2019

It All Started in Dayton

By Ann Armstrong-Ingoldsby

Many people know that the Wright brothers developed their flying technology in Dayton, Ohio, even though their first flight was in North Carolina. But what a lot of people don’t know is that Dayton continued as a hub of aviation innovation long after the Wright brothers’ time there. By World War I, the U.S. Army Air Service was located in the city at McCook Field, where the development of aviation technologies—including the parachute—thrived. The field, named for the McCook family (Union General Alexander McDowell McCook, his seven brothers and five cousins all fought in the American Civil War), was the home of the first military aviation research facility in 1917 and the first intentional delayed freefall skydive on April 28, 1919.

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A Record Low—The 2018 Fatality Summary
Features | April 2019

A Record Low—The 2018 Fatality Summary

By Jim Crouch

In 2018, 13 people died during skydives in the U.S. This is the lowest annual fatality number since 1961, when USPA (then the Parachute Club of America) began keeping statistics. That year, 14 jumpers died, and the number of fatalities steadily increased for the next two decades before they began to drop in the early 1980s. Considering the increase in skydiving activity over the last 57 years, this is a phenomenal achievement.

Author: Jim Crouch
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Getting to Zero Isn’t Impossible, We Just Haven’t Done It Yet
Features | April 2019

Getting to Zero Isn’t Impossible, We Just Haven’t Done It Yet

By Ron Bell

Though our fatality numbers are at an all-time low, there is never an acceptable number of injuries or deaths. Look at it in the family context: What number of people in your family would it be OK to lose in a skydiving accident? That answer is clearly zero. However, as improbable as it may seem to get the fatality count down to zero, we have already succeeded in two of our deadliest categories: canopy collisions and high-performance landings. There were zero fatalities in these categories in 2018.

Author: Ron Bell
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Skydiving-Related Aircraft Accidents
Features | April 2019

Skydiving-Related Aircraft Accidents

by USPA Director of Government Relations Randy Ottinger

Tragedy struck the skydiving community in 2018 when a Cessna 182 crashed shortly after takeoff, killing the pilot and three skydivers and leaving the lone survivor with serious injuries. According to the National Transportation Safety Board Preliminary Report: “A witness that was in a park outside the airport watched as the airplane climbed after takeoff on the accident flight. The witness said that the airplane was about 150 feet over the runway when the engine stopped. They watched as the wings of the airplane rocked left and right before the airplane pitched down and collided with the ground.”

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Training, Mentoring and Inspiring—Rob Laidlaw Receives the 2016 USPA Gold Medal for Meritorious Service
Features | April 2019

Training, Mentoring and Inspiring—Rob Laidlaw Receives the 2016 USPA Gold Medal for Meritorious Service

By USPA Vice President Sherry Butcher

Rob Laidlaw, D-32405, has an extensive skydiving resume, and his name is synonymous with innovation in skydiving training and advanced coaching. He began skydiving in 1973 at the age of 19 in Manitoba, Canada, and since then has made more than 18,600 jumps.

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Contributions and Innovations—Mark Baur Receives the 2018 USPA Gold Medal for Meritorious Service
Features | April 2019

Contributions and Innovations—Mark Baur Receives the 2018 USPA Gold Medal for Meritorious Service

a USPA Staff Report

Mark Baur, D-6108, is a USPA Lifetime Member who made his first skydive in 1978. By 1979 he had earned all four licenses and USPA issued them all—A through D—in March of that year. Over the years, Baur earned nearly all possible USPA instructional ratings: He was a Coach Examiner and AFF, Tandem and Static-Line Instructor Examiner. Although he no longer holds instructional ratings (he stopped using his last rating—AFF Instructor—at the end of 2018), he continues to mentor local instructors at his home DZ, Skydive Twin Cities in Baldwin, Wisconsin.

Author: USPA Staff
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Parachute Industry Association Symposium 2019—Dallas, Texas | February 4–8
Features | April 2019

Parachute Industry Association Symposium 2019—Dallas, Texas | February 4–8

A Parachutist Photo Essay | Photos by Elliot Byrd

Every two years, skydiving gear manufacturers, riggers, drop zone operators and everyday skydivers gather somewhere in the United States for the Parachute Industry Association Symposium. The event includes something for everyone: seminars on a variety of topics by industry leaders, continuing education for riggers and a huge trade show where vendors show off their latest and greatest products.

Author: USPA Staff
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Star Awards Culminate at PIA
Features | April 2019

Star Awards Culminate at PIA

By USPA Director of Information Technology Jen Sharp

In an effort to encourage technological innovation that advances skydiving, USPA and Sigma, a global platform for verified identity, co-hosted the Skydiving Technology Advancement Roundup (STAR) competition. Following a six-month online submission period, nine finalists exhibited their innovations during the Parachute Industry Association Symposium in Dallas, Texas, February 4-7. From those nine, three winners walked away with cash, while all the finalists, as well as the audience, walked away with the excitement that comes from seeing dreams put into action. But it’s the average skydiver who is the ultimate winner.

Author: Jen Sharp
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Real Talk About Skydiving With a Cold
Features | March 2019

Real Talk About Skydiving With a Cold

By Annette O'Neil

As a skydiver, you probably take the advice of doctors on health questions involving skydiving with a few grains of salt, right? I mean, if it’s important enough that you’re actually going to bother asking somebody outside of the internet, your fate seems predestined.

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Fly Girls!
Features | March 2019

Fly Girls!

By Amy Chmelecki | Photos Courtesy of Red Bull

The Second Annual Red Bull Fly Girls Summit at iFLY Orlando and Skydive DeLand in Florida hosted 55 of the country’s best female skydivers—professional and amateur—during the first weekend of 2019. The summit celebrated women in skydiving, a sport that men have traditionally dominated. With its event, which featured a variety of seminars, tunnel time and fun jumps, as well as a competition and an instructional rating course, Red Bull hoped to inspire more women to become skydivers and grow the sport accordingly.

Author: Deborah
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Banish Unsightly Wrinkles Forever—How Packing Affects the Lifespan and Appearance of Your Container
Features | March 2019

Banish Unsightly Wrinkles Forever—How Packing Affects the Lifespan and Appearance of Your Container

By Riley Marshall

Have you ever noticed how two containers with the same number of jumps on them can look vastly different? This is a result of many factors, which you should take into account every time you use your rig.

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Knowledge and Networking
Features | March 2019

Knowledge and Networking

USPA's 2019 Drop Zone Operators' Conference

Every two years, USPA brings together drop zone owners, operators and staff for a day full of presentations and discussions on all the latest important issues for DZs. This year, USPA held its 2019 Drop Zone Operators’ Conference February 3-4 in Dallas, Texas. About 100 DZOs, speakers, Federal Aviation Administration representatives and sponsors met to share information on everything from safety to marketing to keeping young jumpers in the sport.

Author: USPA Staff
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New Faces, Fresh Ideas—The 2019 Winter USPA Board of Directors Meeting
Features | March 2019

New Faces, Fresh Ideas—The 2019 Winter USPA Board of Directors Meeting

A USPA Staff Report

Following USPA elections last fall, the USPA Board of Directors gathered for the first meeting of its three-year term February 1-3 in Dallas, Texas. The new board welcomed six new members, two of whom had previously been on the board and returned after a hiatus.

Author: USPA Staff
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Life's a Beach... and Then You Fly!
Features | March 2019

Life's a Beach... and Then You Fly!

A Parachutist Photo Essay—Photo's by Norman Kent

Author: Norman Kent
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Energy and Excitement—The 2018 USPA National Collegiate Parachuting Championships
Features | March 2019

Energy and Excitement—The 2018 USPA National Collegiate Parachuting Championships

By USPA Director of Competition Steve Hubbard

USPA held its 2018 National Collegiate Parachuting Championships at an unusually frigid Skydive Arizona in Eloy December 28-January 2. Skydive Arizona has hosted numerous Collegiates over the event’s 61-year history, and as usual, owners Larry and Lil Hill, Safety and Training Advisor Bryan Burke and the rest of the staff held a fantastic and successful competition despite the surprisingly chilly temperatures.

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We’re Not Here for Tandems— Team Blackstar Fills the Blanks in Skydiving’s Greater Story
Features | February 2019

We’re Not Here for Tandems— Team Blackstar Fills the Blanks in Skydiving’s Greater Story

By Annette O'Neil

In the fabric of stories that makes up the history of skydiving, there’s one notable place where the material dwindles into a frayed edge: the part that weaves in skydivers of color. If you’re not so sure about that, I’ll just put it this way: Google “the history of African-American skydiving.” The first hit is for Team Blackstar.

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Stepping It Up–03.09.2019
Features | February 2019

Stepping It Up–03.09.2019

A Parachutist Special Section

Safety Day—traditionally held on the second Saturday in March—represents the beginning of a new season of skydiving. Whether you're from a northern drop zone that shuts down for the winter or you’re a fair-weather jumper from the south, you’ll soon catch yourself staring out the window listening to the birds sing, watching the trees bud and daydreaming of the jumping days ahead. If you’re like many jumpers across the country, you’ll start pulling out gear that has sat unused for months. Now is the time to check your data cards, dust off the electronics and charge the batteries. The 2019 season will soon be here.

Author: USPA Staff
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Sky Seekers
Features | February 2019

Sky Seekers

A Parachutist Photo Essay

The country of Egypt currently has no civilian drop zones, but that didn’t stop Alia Parachuting and Air Sports Federation—an organization that helps facilitate sport-skydiving activities in the country and abroad—from putting together an amazing boogie over the pyramids of Giza December 9-11.

Author: USPA Staff
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The Future is Limitless—Blacklist 2
Features | February 2019

The Future is Limitless—Blacklist 2

By Scott Lazarus

In mid-November, some of the world’s best wingsuit flyers and canopy pilots joined an equally talented group of canopy formation skydivers to stretch their limits at Project Blacklist 2, a four-day invitational event at Skydive Sebastian in Florida. Made possible by the evolution of multiple skydiving disciplines in the past decade, Blacklist gives jumpers a chance to fly together and explore their diverse skill sets in spectacular fashion.

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Heavy Drop—Making the World's Largest Flag Jump
Features | February 2019

Heavy Drop—Making the World's Largest Flag Jump

Photos and Text by Mark Norman

Breaking world records in skydiving is not easy, as anyone who has taken part in one will attest. And nearly doubling one is harder yet. Needless to say, it was no simple task when Abdulla Al Mansoori and Samir Al Ammar, management at Skydive Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, decided that the DZ would take on the challenge of hosting a jump with a 4,885.65-square-meter (52,588.70 square-foot) flag to break the Guinness World Record for Largest Flag Flown While Parachuting (set by Ralf Grabowsky of the CYPRES Demo Team in July 2017 with a 2,698-square-meter flag).

Author: Mark Norman
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USPA Mourns Skydive and President George H.W. Bush
Features | January 2019

USPA Mourns Skydive and President George H.W. Bush

By Christopher Needles

Skydiving has had many great moments, but none surpass the first skydive by President George H.W. Bush. Now it is with great sadness that the skydiving community bids farewell to one of its own. President Bush was 94 years old.

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Coming Together
Features | January 2019

Coming Together

Skydivers Join Forces with Kids for Peace

When some of the best skydivers in the world learned that Kids for Peace was launching the Do It for Peace campaign to inspire people worldwide to take action, they just had to be part of it! On September 27, 34 world-class skydivers with a combined total of 195,000 jumps united and accomplished a peace-sign formation at Skydive Elsinore in California.

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Epitomizing the Sport: The 2018 Hall of Fame Celebration
Features | January 2019

Epitomizing the Sport: The 2018 Hall of Fame Celebration

By Doug Garr

Lew Sanborn, D-1, was holding court outside the Bird House bar, relaxing with old timers whose jump totals were in the thousands. Just a few yards away at the other end of the facility, a couple of tandem students were gearing up for the experience of a lifetime. Nobody knew whether they would become skydivers or were merely weekend seekers of a thrill ride. In between, skydivers of every age, from everywhere and from every discipline, champions and casual weekend jumpers, gathered. It was the kind of atmosphere that epitomizes our sport. It was the International Skydiving Museum’s Hall of Fame weekend at one of the iconic locations of sport parachuting: Skydive City Zephyrhills in Florida

Author: Doug Garr
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Aging Gracefully: Skydive Elsinore Celebrates 60 Years
Features | January 2019

Aging Gracefully: Skydive Elsinore Celebrates 60 Years

A Parachutist Photo Essay

Some say that aging gracefully is hard. But on Saturday, November 10, Skydive Elsinore in California showed that time is on its side and age is just a number as it celebrated 60 years of top-notch skydiving at the drop zone’s home, Skylark Airfield. Current, former and aspiring jumpers flocked to the event. Among them was Larry Perkins, the son of the drop zone’s founder, Cy Perkins, who on March 1, 1958, took a skydiver (whose name is lost to time) up in his Cessna 172 and let him fall out. 

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Down for 50
Features | January 2019

Down for 50

What Jumping in 50 States During One Trip Can Teach You

It was the best worst idea (or, perhaps, the worst best idea).  It came, as all the best worst ideas do, over coffee.

It bubbled up one wintry Slovak afternoon as my partner, Joel Strickland, and I were taking a mid-tunnel-camp break. As I snuggled down into a beanbag chair with my thermos, I checked my phone. A dear friend—the inimitable Melissa Dawn Burns—popped up to invite us to visit her in Alaska, where she and her husband have been flying planes over the wilderness at the world’s end. I’d never been to Alaska. I’d always wanted to go.

Suddenly, a thought occurred out of the ether. I turned to Joel.

“Hey, do you want to jump in all 50 states?”

“No,” he said, without missing a beat.

A few moments went by. I kept scrolling.

“Wait. Yes.”

And suddenly, it was real.

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Freefall Celebrates 100 Years
Features | January 2019

Freefall Celebrates 100 Years

A USPA Special Report

On April 28, 1919, 23-year-old Leslie Irvin did something many had long thought impossible: He jumped from an airplane—intentionally untethered by a static line—freefell 1,000 feet, deployed a parachute and landed safely. And so freefall as we now know it was born.

Author: USPA Staff
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Terms and Concepts for Comparing Canopies
Features | December 2018

Terms and Concepts for Comparing Canopies

by Hollie-Blue Allum for Performance Designs

Being a new jumper can be overwhelming. You graduate from AFF and are constantly learning new information about disciplines, the flow of the drop zone, landing rules and more. On top of that, you have a big choice to make: What canopy should you buy? To be fair, this will continue to be a significant question all the way throughout your skydiving career.

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Everything’s Coming Up Pink!—The Jump for the Rose Pinkfest Boogie
Features | December 2018

Everything’s Coming Up Pink!—The Jump for the Rose Pinkfest Boogie

A Parachutist Pictorial

Jump for the Rose is a skydiving charity that raises funds for a beautiful facility called the Rose, a nonprofit breast cancer clinic that Dorothy Gibbons and Dr. Dixie Melillo founded in 1986. The Rose helped Marian Sparks, the founder of JFTR, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009 and had no insurance. Sparks paid it forward by creating a fundraiser to help uninsured women (and men) get help at the Rose.

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