If you’re a skydiver, you know by now that the second Saturday in March is USPA Safety Day. You also know whether your home drop zone has scheduled Safety Day activities for this day—March 10—or another date of its choosing. Hopefully you’re planning to attend a Safety Day at a DZ near you.
Drop zones should be motivated to hold their own Safety Day activities for three very good reasons: A Safety Day lets the DZ’s airport management, local pilots and surrounding community see that the DZ is serious about promoting a safety culture. A Safety Day helps a DZ’s skydivers focus on the concepts and procedures that enhance safety for them and the DZ. Finally, a Safety Day proactively engages a DZ’s staff—its Safety and Training Advisors, coaches and instructors—in thinking about how to most effectively model and communicate skydiving safety to everyone from the first-jump customer to the most experienced skydiver.
If you are among the 676 USPA-appointed Safety and Training Advisors, you should be directly involved in planning and conducting a DZ’s Safety Day presentations and events. Period. According to USPA’s Safety and Training Advisor Handbook, “The principal responsibility of the S&TA is to promote safe skydiving.” Being involved in planning and conducting Safety Day is expected. If your DZ owner isn’t planning a Safety Day, convince them that they should; feedback over the last 22 years proves that skydivers truly value and want Safety Day events hosted by their local drop zones.
If you are among the 6,417 individuals that hold one or more instructional ratings—whether coach, instructor or instructor examiner—you too should be involved in Safety Day. You have experience and knowledge you can impart to others. You should also use Safety Day to knock the rust off by reading through the Skydiver’s Information Manual, reviewing your decision trees and practicing your emergency procedures. All rating holders have a responsibility to be current and at the tops of their games when the season starts.
Speaking of rating-holder responsibility, USPA’s board of directors recently took steps to improve instructor qualifications and better validate the integrity of those who apply to become instructor examiners. The board took these steps after it became clear that some who held USPA ratings betrayed the association’s trust by misusing the privileges of those ratings. Among the changes:
- Coach examiner candidates must make 25 evaluation jumps, up from 15, to receive a rating.
- All instructor-examiner candidates must teach two complete instructional courses for a rating in each method instead of just one.
- The ability to challenge an instructional rating course is now available only to expired USPA rating holders and foreign rating holders seeking a USPA rating.
- Instructor examiners are subject to a three-strikes rule: USPA will revoke a rating after three instances of an examiner failing to adhere to training standards.
- Rating candidates must wait 14 days to retest after failing a rating course.
- The board’s Safety and Training Committee will review and verify qualifications of all instructor-examiner applicants.
- The board is also considering additional changes.
Most rating holders will tell you that there are few things as satisfying as teaching and mentoring people to become safe skydivers. And the vast majority work hard to meet expectations. But those few who fail to respect and uphold skydiving’s training standards or who purposely undermine the training process do a great injustice to all skydivers.