We all know how rigid most organizations and corporations are. Although they say, “We value your feedback,” individual comments rarely go anywhere, and a satisfaction rating just gets tossed into an average for some corporate board meeting. Recently, I wanted to see how USPA reacted to feedback and if it would even change something based on it.
During a cold Northeast winter, I came across a curious post on Reddit. An AFF student was venting from frustration, because he couldn’t seem to pass Category D after multiple jumps because he couldn’t stand up his landing. My initial thought was, “Why would that matter? It’s not like he’s trying to get the proficiency card signed.” I questioned the student about it. Apparently, his instructor was a huge stickler for following the Skydiver’s Information Manual (which is perfectly fine), and the advancement criteria for Category D included a stand-up landing.
I felt that it wasn’t right to fail a student who does a perfect dive flow and performs the canopy tasks but PLFs due to concern for safety. I emailed USPA’s main address, but without any hopes of getting a response. Why would USPA even listen to me? I only have a B license. I do not have a coach rating. I’m just a typical weekend jumper. In my email, I outlined my reasoning and proposed that USPA either remove the stand-up landing from the advancement criteria or change the wording to “strongly recommended but not required to advance” in the SIM.
After a few weeks (it was the holidays), I received no response and sent a quick follow up. Shortly thereafter, I received a response from Director of Safety and Training Ron Bell, who told me that the board had discussed my concerns and removed the stand-up landing requirement for Category D from the next edition of the SIM.
So, there you have it. I stated my reasons, I contacted USPA, and they listened. They replied with something other than a boilerplate corporate response. Change happened. AFF students will be safer. Instructors will be happier.
Do not be afraid to talk to your instructors. Do not be afraid to reach out to USPA. Do not think you will be ignored. After this experience, I can honestly say that I no longer feel like just a random number who pays my annual fee to USPA. I feel that my concerns are valid, and they really do listen.
Yuriy Umanskiy | B-46442
Brooklyn, New York