Well, my second year as USPA Director of Safety and Training has gone by faster than my first, and boy has it been a roller coaster! People are calling COVID the “pandemic of the century,” and I hope they are right … I don’t want to go through anything like this again. Drop zone closures and re-openings have really highlighted how important it is to stay current, especially on specific skills related to individual disciplines. Of the 10 fatalities so far this year, eight occurred in the 60-day period that followed DZ closures due to COVID.
This year, my wish list is all about the basics that make skydiving safer.
- I want skydivers to understand that currency is not just a jump number. Everyone has a specific skill set related to their chosen discipline, and it is up to the individual to keep those skills current. No matter how sharp their skills once were, jumpers need to gradually work back up to peak performance after a layoff.
- I want instructors to understand that currency affects their teaching skills. For the safety of students, instructors need to be sharp. Although air skills are extremely important, ground skills such as teaching, review, running drills and ground-to-air communications during student landings also play pivotal roles in keeping students safe.
- I would like to see members take the time to fill out incident reports on situations such as minor injuries or cutaways. With the new mobile-phone-friendly reporting system, it has never been easier or quicker to anonymously fill out an incident report.
- I want all skydivers to rededicate themselves to making every skydive as safe as it can be and to realize that every decision, no matter how small, affects the outcome of a skydive.
- I want skydivers to look up information instead of relying on rumors or offhand comments. “Don’t make it up; look it up!”
- I want skydivers to realize that 200 is not a magic number but that it roughly defines the number of skydives it takes for a typical jumper to reach a level of maturity in the sport. At 200 jumps, the door opens to more complex skydives, but the jumper still needs to master one new skill at a time.
- I want all skydivers to keep an eye on the physical and mental health of their fellow jumpers and make an effort to help each other. After all, we refer to ourselves as a family.
- I want all skydivers to realize the importance of braked flight. Instructors need to properly teach and supervise this skill. Students need to master it. Experienced jumpers need to keep current on it. No matter who you are, proficiency at braked flight and braked turns will eventually save you from injury.
- I want every skydiver to realize the importance of keeping a logbook. They’re useful not only for verifying jumps for licenses and ratings, but they record memories of exploits with beloved friends.
- I want every skydiver to realize that no one piece of equipment is worth their life and to cut away any accessory well above the decision altitude if it is causing a problem.
- I would like to see tandem instructors acting like just that: instructors! I’d like to see them truly teaching and sharing their love of the sport with their students.
So, there you have it, Santa. I could probably go on for another few pages, but that should do it for this year. Oh wait! One last thing: Since my last main canopy had a horrible demise earlier this year, I’d love a replacement.
Ron Bell | D-26863
USPA Director of Safety and Training