Author Archive

Giving Skydiving a Positive Image—One Step at a Time

October 15, 2012

Skydiving has come a long way from the days of the general public seeing us as a bunch of reckless daredevils with a death wish. But there are still plenty of people out there who don’t understand what skydiving and skydivers are all about. As an organization, USPA needs to take whatever steps we can—both big and small—to change the public’s misperceptions and inform the media and the general public about our sport.

Recently, an article appeared in the “Fairbanks Daily News Miner” in Fairbanks, Alaska, that disparaged skydivers. This unrelated news article about traffic violations included a quote from the Fairbanks police chief’s memo to his department: “Our profession has only recently come to appreciate the irrefutable correlation between collisions and crime, a relationship that is explained easily: Risk-taking behaviors of any sort — gambling, skydiving, careless driving or committing crimes — need a place and opportunity to happen.” A concerned USPA member in Alaska forwarded the article to USPA, expressing his dismay at skydiving being grouped with reckless and criminal activities.

This seemed like a great opportunity to educate the police chief, his department and the newspapers’ readers about our sport—even in a place with minimal skydiving activity like Alaska. As USPA President, I sent a letter to the police chief and the newspaper explaining that skydiving is a legitimate aeronautical activity and hobby and that skydivers are a diverse group of people who are upstanding, contributing members of society. You can read the letter here.

An off-handed statement like the police chief’s may not seem like a big deal, but it’s in small ways like this that people can get the wrong impression about skydiving—especially when it’s directed to those whose job it is to enforce the law. USPA and all its 34,600 members need to take every opportunity to help the general public understand that ours is an amazing, life-changing sport and that we as skydivers are responsible aviation enthusiasts.

Jay Stokes
USPA President


Refocusing the U.S. Parachute Team Sponsorship Program

November 30, 2011

This past July, the USPA Board of Directors unanimously approved two motions with the goal of finding corporate sponsorship for the United States Parachute Team.

Initially, we had in mind the idea that current and former U.S. Team members and other highly qualified skydivers would perform at air shows on behalf of the U.S. Parachute Team Inc.—a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization—primarily to gain the attention of potential corporate sponsors. The team’s availability would have been announced at the upcoming ICAS (International Council of Air Shows) Convention. From the profits earned, the U.S. Parachute Team Inc. would have reimbursed USPA for the seed money and expense of supporting the team.

What we weren’t able to predict was the opposition of some of our members to the idea. Some saw that the USPA would be helping the U.S. Team compete with demo teams for air show business. While all along corporate sponsorship was the goal and air shows the means to get there, nevertheless, we heard the members’ concerns and acted.

After a conference call with the Competition and Executive Committees, we agreed to refocus the plan away from ICAS and take a more direct approach to corporate sponsorship that we think will alleviate members’ concerns and still benefit the U.S. Team. While the initial seed money remains available, it will be invested into producing a sponsorship proposal and attending the IEG (website HERE) convention in March. Here, the U.S. Parachute Team will be presented as the team that represents the United States in Olympic-caliber competitions. With this redirect, we intend to build an identity for the U.S. Team and present a case for its value to corporate sponsors. This proposal will be presented and discussed at the board meeting in February. We will welcome discussion from USPA members at that time, as well.

For those who keep track of the motions by the board and its committees, both the Competition and Executive Committees approved the following interim motion:

“Move to modify the ‘U.S. Parachute Team Sponsorship Development Program’ so that we will not be attending ICAS this year and that the money allocated to it will first be used toward generating corporate sponsorship for the U.S. Parachute Team.”

We value the feedback from each of our members and hope to continue receiving your support and concerns. Together we can continue following USPA’s purpose of promoting safe skydiving, ensuring skydiving’s rightful place on airports and in the airspace system and promoting competition and record-setting programs.

Jay Stokes
President, USPA Board of Directors

USPA Helps Further Dialogue between Aviacom and Container Manufacturers

July 22, 2011

Shortly after several rig manufacturers withdrew approval for Aviacom’s Argus AAD to be installed in their rigs, I heard from many skydivers and DZOs who were frustrated with a lack of information and uncertainty about any resolution. Many asked that USPA “do something.” Even though USPA is a member association, not a trade association or regulatory body, I felt compelled to see if there was some way we could help.

With help from USPA staff, I arranged for a conference call with each of the rig manufacturers to hear first-hand of their concerns and whether there was hope for a resolution. We learned that the individual manufacturers finally reacted to a growing concern over the ability of the Argus to cleanly sever the reserve closing loop after an activation of the AAD in at least three previous incidents. We were also able to get the manufacturers to discuss the type of testing protocol that they wanted to see performed by Aviacom to resolve those concerns. We learned that useful dialogue had broken down between the parties.

Once we had the list of state concerns, I contacted Karel Goorts of Aviacom, and made arrangements for another conference call involving Karel, USPA staff and me. Karel expressed an eagerness to resolve the issue and described testing that he was willing to perform with involvement by the rig manufacturers. He also expressed a willingness to reestablish and enhance communication with the manufacturers while trying to resolve the issues.

Finally, USPA shared the information between Karel and the rig manufacturers and urged both sides to remember that our members (and their customers!) deserve their efforts to try to work toward a solution. Since then, one manufacturer has reapproved the Argus for their rigs. The two sides still have much ground to cover, but at least there is now some open communication that will hopefully lead to progress. I hope for those of you who own an Argus that the solution comes quickly.