The Summer 2019 USPA Board of Directors Meeting

A USPA Staff Report

Features | September 2019
Sunday, September 1, 2019

The USPA Board of Directors held its second meeting of the 2019-2021 term in Arlington, Virginia, July 12-14. The Virginia location gave directors, including those on the board for the first time, the opportunity to visit USPA Headquarters (an hour south in Fredericksburg) prior to the meeting.

USPA President Chuck Akers and the board’s Executive Committee operated like a well-oiled machine. Proving a quick study, Akers chaired the meeting firmly and efficiently, ensuring everyone had their say but also that progress kept moving. Momentous, game-changing motions were few; instead the board mainly focused on tweaks and changes to existing manuals and doctrine. Several board members remarked that it was one of the most productive board meetings in recent memory.

USPA Award Recipients

At each year’s summer meeting, the board selects recipients of USPA’s service awards—the USPA Lifetime Achievement Award, USPA Gold Medal for Meritorious Service and USPA Regional Achievement Award.

USPA bestows its Lifetime Achievement Award on one skydiver annually (at most) for making significant contributions to the sport of parachuting and USPA. At this meeting, the board selected Ray Ferrell, D-5748, to receive this honor for “more than 40 years of advancing the skydiving industry in myriad ways, including jumper and pilot training, rigging and aviation innovation, world records, competition, business and service to USPA, all while maintaining the highest standards and principles.”

The board also selected three members to receive the USPA Gold Medal for Meritorious Service. This award honors outstanding Americans who, by their efforts over a period of years, have made significant contributions to the skydiving community. The recipients are Bryan Burke, D-8866; Tom Jenkins (posthumously), D-7707; and Kirk Knight, D-6709.

Additionally, the board recognized five individuals with the USPA Regional Achievement Award. USPA presents this award to individuals who have made a significant contribution to the sport on a local or regional level. Recipients are James Burriss Jr., D-9540 (Mid-Atlantic); John “Mad John” Dobleman, D-7790 (Pacific); Logan Donovan, D-31751 (Eastern); John Mitchell, D-6462 (Northwest); and Marc Nadeau, D-14782 (Eastern).

Round-Canopy Groups

With USPA’s fairly recent realization that several groups in the U.S. facilitate low-altitude, military-style static-line jumps, the board invited representatives from those groups to the meeting to share information and ideas. These groups typically jump at 1,500 feet, well below the minimum altitude mandated by the Basic Safety Requirements (2,500 feet for C- and D-license holders and 3,500 feet for students and A-license holders). Because these groups emulate military jumps at low altitudes, they also don’t provide much of the equipment that the BSRs mandate for students (meaning unlicensed jumpers), such as automatic activation devices, reserve static lines, altimeters and ram-air main canopies. Therefore, USPA members and Group Member DZs, who have committed to complying with the BSRs, are not able to accommodate or participate with these groups.

However, prior to the meeting, the board approved allowing USPA members to jump with these groups at their locations. Still, the round-canopy groups and USPA need to work out other details, and after very informative discussions, they formed a task force to continue the dialogue.

Safety & Training

The Safety & Training Committee, chaired by Michael Wadkins, discussed allowing USPA Coaches to train students for their canopy dive flows in categories F through H of the Integrated Student Program. The committee felt that since Coaches already complete these very same exercises twice (once during their A-license programs and again for their B-License Canopy Proficiency Cards), they understand the concepts and are prepared to teach them to students under the supervision of instructors. The full board passed the motion to allow Coaches to teach these exercises, and USPA will make the changes to the Instructional Rating Manual and the four-page A-License Progression Card.

The committee recommended and the full board passed a motion to add a new section to the Skydiver’s Information Manual on incident reporting. Section 5-8, Incident Reports, now provides guidance on how and what to report. Now that the SIM provides this guidance, instructors and examiners can educate their students and candidates on the importance of filing reports when an incident occurs.

The committee also recommended and the full board passed significant changes to the PRO-rating program. These changes to SIM Section 7-2 include an endorsement procedure for those who choose to use high-performance canopies (a wing loading greater than 1.5:1). A task force (board members Luke Aikins and Jack Pyland, former Director of Safety and Training Jim Crouch and Director of Information Technology Jen Sharp) worked diligently for three years to bring these changes to fruition and improve the safety of demonstration skydives. The new requirements go into effect January 1, 2020, or at a PRO rating holder’s first renewal after that date.

Competition Action

The Competition Committee, chaired by Kirk Verner, instituted a currency system for USPA National Judges. This change, effective immediately, requires all nationally rated judges to perform some level of judging every five years to remain current. If the rating holder does not perform judging duties in those five years but later wishes to, they must apply for a new rating. Skydiver’s Competition Manual Chapter 2, Section 5.1, includes complete information on this change.

The Competition Committee, in an effort to formalize a prior practice, clarified language in the SCM regarding sequential records. The SCM now states that if jumpers declare that they are attempting and then successfully execute a sequential large-formation record, any records they set on the way to the highest declared point total are also claimable. SCM Chapter 3 has more information on record claims.

The board also instituted mandatory dates for the USPA National Collegiate Skydiving Championships. These dates are December 28 for the official practice day and registration, December 29 through January 2 for competition and January 2 for closing ceremonies. This change is effective with the 2020 USPA National Collegiate Skydiving Championships.

The USPA Board next meets January 31-February 2 in Phoenix, Arizona.

For an in-depth report on discussion topics in the Safety & Training and Competition Committees, search “BOD 2019” on


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