On October 16, former USPA National Director Tom Noonan, D-24313, died at age 47. He was preparing to make a high-altitude skydive that he did not complete due to a medical emergency. His passing marks a huge loss for the skydiving community, which benefitted from his expertise, intelligence and warm-heartedness for more than two decades.
Noonan joined USPA in 2000 and soon became interested in sharing his love of the sky with others, becoming a USPA Coach in 2001 and a Tandem Instructor in 2003. He went on to become a USPA Coach and Tandem Examiner, an AFF Instructor and an Examiner Course Director, and became the director of tandem for Strong Enterprises. He then moved to United Parachute Technologies, where he became the tandem program director and mentored hundreds if not thousands of future instructors using his safety-oriented approach. In addition, Noonan was a Federal Aviation Administration Senior Rigger and a USPA Safety and Training Advisor.
Along with his work in the instructional field, Noonan served USPA members on its board of directors. He was the Southeast Regional Director from 2009-2010, serving on the Safety & Training and Finance & Budget Committees. Leaving the board when his term ended, he continued to contribute to the success of USPA by acting as an advisor to the Finance and Budget Committee from 2011-2012. In 2013, he rejoined the board as a national director. He served in that capacity from 2013-2018, at various times serving on the Safety & Training, Finance & Budget and Executive Committees. During his time on the board, he most visibly worked on ways to improve the safety of the sport.
Noonan traveled the world both for work and for adventure … and usually combined the two. Since its founding in 2008, he was the chief technical director of Everest Skydive, which arranges skydiving adventures near the famed mountain in Nepal. On one of those trips, he, along with Wendy Smith and Jai Kishan, made what is thought to be the world's a highest-altitude landing at 17,192 feet. Noonan's time in Nepal gave him an enormous appreciation for the country, its culture and its people.
At his heart, Noonan was a mentor who had the gift of recognizing and nurturing talent in others. When he noticed a tandem instructor was excelling, he would personally call them and encourage them to move forward in the next step of their careers. Director of Safety and Training Ron Bell remarked, "Saying that Tom was very influential in my career is an understatement. He always required me to be the best me, and he pushed me to be more than I was. He was that way with everyone. There have been a handful of people who were instrumental in my skydiving career, and he is the one of those."
Former USPA Director of Safety and Training Jim Crouch wrote, "Tom Noonan worked tirelessly to improve the tandem training program, and he traveled the world along the way. … He saw and did a lot more than most people could ever wish for in any lifetime."