Archive for the ‘parachute’ Category

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

The United States Parachute Team Sponsor Developmental Program

October 20, 2011

E-mails and calls we received at headquarters after members read the October Parachutist “Gearing Up” on this program made it clear a 500-word summary was too succinct, leaving some readers with more questions than answers. So here is a full discussion of the program as presented to the board of directors last July and approved unanimously. This is my longest blog ever, so get a cup of coffee and settle in. I think you’ll find it an interesting read.

First, you need to know the long-standing problem this program is designed to solve: our U.S. Teams are woefully underfunded.

Second, it’s important to understand that USPA’s constitution (and its status as a not-for-profit organization) requires that it select, train and send U.S. competitors to international competition. We aren’t doing the best job. The last time we sent a fully funded team to the world championships was circa 1976, when the U.S. team consisted of 10 style and accuracy competitors. Since then, our team has grown to 60 skydivers in six disciplines, too large for member donations to finance the team. The board has wrestled to find a long-term solution to this problem for decades.

To date, the U.S. Parachute Team Trust Fund is the best solution the board has come up with, so let me take a moment to explain how it works.

The money members donate to the U.S. Team generally goes (unless designated otherwise) to the U.S. Parachute Team Trust Fund, currently valued at a little over $588,000.  During world meet years, a portion of the annual Trust Fund earnings is disbursed to the U.S. Parachute Team. Historically the fund has provided around $250 – $450 per competitor—nothing to sneeze at—but only about 10 percent of the direct cost of travel and entry fees. A competitor strives for years to make the U.S. Team and then takes a big financial hit for the privilege. Ouch.

Doesn’t seem right, does it?

Some related math: the Trust Fund would have to be 10 times its current value, at five million dollars, in order to generate a disbursement of $250,000, which would provide each competitor about $4,200. That’s not bad, still less than the amount needed for a pre-WPC training camp, round-trip airfare and entry fees. So how can we accelerate the growth of the trust fund and simultaneously give our U.S. Teams substantial financial support in the meantime?

There’s one proven solution—one most other national athletic teams employ—corporate sponsorship. Hence, the focus of this program is to attract partners and sponsors. A sponsor wants and needs exposure to as many eyes as possible to justify its investment. We’ve learned through hard experience that our USPA Nationals and the exposure our teams get overseas are not sufficient to attract sponsorship. The board concluded that if the U.S. Team performs before American audiences and establishes “brand identity,” it could give us a legitimate shot at real financial sponsorship.

One concern the board had when considering this program was that it might be perceived as a move to take demos away from PRO-rated members. On that issue, it’s important to know there are hundreds of airshows and events each year and we don’t foresee the U.S. Parachute Team doing more than a dozen—so chances are unlikely. However, we can’t guarantee an airshow or event organizer might invite the U.S. Team to do a show that some other skydiving team has done before. No show team ever “owns” rights to an event; the desire for “fresh acts” is part of the airshow business, whether the U.S. Team is involved or not.

That said, we certainly don’t want the U.S. Team to squeeze our brother and sister skydivers from a show they’ve worked long to cultivate. That raises an important part of the program. If the U.S. Team is invited to do a show, we will reach out and ask local demo teams and jumpers to perform with the U.S. Team. If it’s a paid show, they will earn their standard fees (members of the U.S. Team will only be reimbursed travel and per diem). If all we do is break even, we’ve met our primary goal—presenting the U.S. Team to the public in order to attract sponsorship.

Another point: while the immediate goal isn’t sport promotion, this initiative most certainly will generate positive coverage and broad public interest. We will invite local group member DZs to get involved, possibly supplying aircraft, plus local demo jumpers/team and tandem instructors to do VIP jumps before the show, with local skydivers helping staff a booth where U.S. Team merchandise is sold while simultaneously advertising local DZs. It should be a win-win for all.

Some members expressed concern about the $10,000 loan USPA authorized to jumpstart this program. Keep in mind that USPA routinely invests in new ideas and seeds special projects that show promise of enhancing the sport. The loan was made in order to market the team at the International Council of Air Shows (ICAS) Convention this December to solicit air show interest. The first $10,000 earned (after show expenses) by the team in 2012 will go back to repay the loan.

By giving a green light to this project, the USPA Board of Directors is meeting its constitutional obligation to the U.S. Team, launching a new program that might help it attract corporate sponsorship. If the plan works, our newer athletes might enjoy a developmental program with paid coaching. Our elite competitors might finally have a way to afford full-time training—leveling the playing field with government-sponsored teams we so often face in world competition.

Some nuts-and-bolts: this December, we’ll present the U. S. Parachute Team to ICAS (and to corporate America through our PR firm) as a performing entity available for select airshows and special events beginning spring of 2012. In our promotional materials, we’ll explain that the U.S. Team will perform with leading USPA PRO-rated jumpers (and pro demo teams, if they are willing and able). Part of the sell is that we intend to be inclusive of established skydiving performers. Together we can make the U.S. Team an attractive brand that corporate America wants to associate with and sponsor.

Before the airshow season begins next spring, we have much to do. Not every member of the U.S. Team has time or talent to take part. However, by reaching out to current and former U.S. Team members and our top demo jumpers, we think we have a pool of about 300 capable skydivers to draw from. From this pool, and with the help of leading demo experts, we’ll run a demo training camp to practice all the elements of show jumping: flag jumps, hi- and lo-variants, pyro, dealing with the media, the public, etc. Some already have experience; for others it will be a steep learning curve.

All who volunteer must understand that this is a building year for a new project, and we will have to bootstrap it largely at our own expense. One big advantage in our favor is the U.S. Team is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization, so services and goods-in-kind it receives from members and supporters and any future income from sponsors is tax-deductible.

As Executive Director Ed Scott pointed out to the board, no one knows if this will work. We do know you can’t expect a sponsor without self-promotion and public exposure. Other ideas have been tried without real success. The generosity of our members who donate to the U.S. Team Trust Fund is much appreciated but it only goes so far. We need to move the U.S. Team out of obscurity into the limelight, and this is a bold way to do it, but only with member help and support—especially from our pro demo jumpers—will it succeed.

– Jim Hayhurst, USPA Director of Competition

Records Broken at the Big Boy Pants CP Comp

August 1, 2011

A remarkable 10 national and world records (and 17 personal bests) were set by the world’s best canopy pilots at Mile-Hi Skydiving Center in Longmont, Colorado, this weekend. Highlights included the U.S. and world speed and distance records set in the female category by the PD Factory Team’s Jessica Edgeington (2.301 seconds and 168.32 meters, respectively) and the astounding world distance record set on the first day by Nick Batsch, who lives and trains at Longmont. Jumping only moments after PD Factory Team pilot Jonathan Tagle smashed the standing 181-meter record with a gorgeous 195.65-meter flight, the now-former record-holder Batch flew his NZAerosports “Petra” prototype a mind-boggling 222.45 meters to take his record back. Serving as a judge on the far end of the distance course along with Canadian judge Buzz Bennett, I was privileged to assist Bennett in marking the landing, which was then verified by Chief Judge Marylou Laughlin. It was a transcendent moment of sport for me (this after 40 years in skydiving), like watching Bob Beamon’s historic 29-foot broad jump at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. Like Beamon’s world record jump, Batsch’s flight was aided by thin, high-altitude air and a tail wind of 6.7 m/s,  just under the limit of 7 m/s.

National records were also set by Jason Moledzki of Canada, Thomas Morris of Germany, Pablo Hernandez of Spain, and Edson Pacheco of Brazil. Only the world speed record of 2.093 seconds held by Golden Knight Greg Windmiller remained intact after the three days of blazing action, but not for trying, with two competitors, Tagle and Batsch, challenging the record with runs of 2.096 and 2.095 seconds, respectively. Meet sponsor Performance Designs awarded $2,000 to Batsch for his new world record, and an additional $4,000 in prize money was also given to the top five overall competitors: 1) Batsch, 2) Curt Bartholomew, 3) Moledzki, 4) Windmiller and 5) Hernandez.

The only serious injury of the competition was suffered by Warren Cleary of Georgia, who remains hospitalized in stable condition. Many of the prize winners and most competitors and spectators donated money to help Cleary, and the donations were generously matched by Mile-Hi Skydiving.

The FLCPA or PD Factory Team websites will soon be posting complete results.

– Jim Hayhurst, USPA Director of Competition

Competition News from the Board Meeting in Denver

July 20, 2011

Brian Krause has been selected as team manager for the 2011 Formation Skydiving (FS) World Cup. For the 2011 Dubai Cup, Larry Hill is head of delegation, Lindy Leach is team manager for Canopy Formation and Accuracy, and Shawn Hill is team manager for Canopy Piloting (CP) and FS. The following qualified teams/competitors can expect to be contacted by their respective team manager this month:

Formation Skydiving:
Perris Fury – 4-way, Male/Mixed (official entry)
SDC Rhythm XP – 4-way, Male/Mixed (team 2)
Alpha Armada – 4-way, Female (official entry)

Canopy Formation:
Motley CReW – 4-way Rotation (official entry)
The Next Best Team – 4-way Rotation (team 2)
Maytown Short Stack – 2-way Sequential (official entry)
The Next Best Team – 2-way Sequential (team 2)
The Next Best Team – 4-way Sequential (official entry)

Team Accuracy, Male/Mixed (official entry):
1)    Cheryl Stearns
2)    Jim Hayhurst
3)    Rick Kuhns
4)    Jimmy Drummond
5)    Marius Ivascu

Team Accuracy, Male/Mixed (team 2):
1)    Dennis Murphy
2)    Marty Jones
3)    Edin Alisa
4)    Mery Rose
5)    Samir Kurtovic

The Competition Committee decided that any slots that open up for Dubai will be filled based on results of the 2011 USPA Nationals.

In other competition news, Albert Berchtold will be meet director of the 2011 CP Nationals at Skydive Spaceland in Texas; Chief Judge Judy Celaya will introduce a new, streamlined FS judging procedure at this year’s USPA Nationals at Skydive Arizona in Eloy. Male style & accuracy competitors should expect an e-mail this month requesting their vote on two team selection methods applicable for the 2012 WPC World Parachuting Championships; competitors who don’t receive the e-mail should contact competition@uspa.org.

Standards for national records have been raised; two national judges and one regional judge must validate the record, and 51 percent of the participants on group records attempts must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents per the requirements in Section 1 of the Skydiver’s Competition Manual. Finally, with the board’s approval, USPA Headquarters is moving forward to develop a pilot program to present the U.S. Team at airshows and public events in the near future—an innovative way to earn direct income and attract sponsors for our U.S. Teams.

Voting Online in USPA’s Election

November 2, 2010

USPA’s first online election for the board of directors kicked off Monday morning, November 1, with an e-mail blast to all current USPA members who have a valid e-mail address on file. Some early voters encountered initial problems with the link, but the vendor quickly reconfigured some settings to resolve the issue. Anyone who received the e-mail but could not voter earlier is encouraged to go back and try it again.

If you did not receive the e-mail—

  • Check to make sure your membership is current.
  • Check your spam and/or junk folders for the e-mail.
  • Make sure votenet.com and uspa.org are included in your e-mail’s list of approved contacts.

Current members who did not receive the link should either vote using a paper ballot or submit your e-mail address here. Within 10 days from submitting the e-mail address at USPA Headquarters, you should receive an e-mail from cvincent@uspa.org containing a link to the voting website. The website recognizes the member’s encrypted user name and unique password and logs the member in, displaying candidate information for national directors, as well as regional directors for the voter’s region. Write-in spaces are provided for each. To indicate your selection, be sure to click the box next to any candidate’s name, including write-ins.

For added security, the e-mailed link will expire in three days from when the e-mail was sent. USPA will send a weekly e-mail reminder to all eligible voters who have not completed the voting process, so if the link expired, keep an eye out for the next e-mail or vote by paper ballot. If you started voting but didn’t finish, your partially completed ballot will be saved, and the link in the reminder e-mail will return you to your ballot.

While we’ve received several comments that the online voting process was easy to use, we’re aware that a few members have had problems. If you are one of those few, e-mail an explanation of your issue to cvincent@uspa.org.

Voting is open until 5 p.m. EST, December 31, but don’t delay. Vote now!

Canopy Safety Discussion

October 13, 2010

One of USPA’s responsibilities is to track and analyze safety data, and disseminate it so that others can be aware of accident trends. My “Gearing Up” commentary in the October Parachutist was intended to elaborate on the recent advisory we sent out about the rising trend in canopy-related fatalities. [See advisory here.] The piece went on to describe the many steps taken to educate skydivers and mitigate the problem.

Already, the USPA staff and the board’s Safety & Training Committee are developing ideas on possible solutions to present to the full board. We’re doing so with an open mind and are trying to investigate all possibilities. Here are some of the questions we’re asking:

Does USPA need to …

  • alter the Integrated Student Program to include more canopy-skills training?
  • alter any licensing requirements to include more canopy-flight training?
  • certify canopy flight coaches and/or instructors?
  • require jumpers to attend dedicated canopy courses for licenses or ratings?
  • restrict wing loading by license level?
  • require DZs to post landing areas and patterns?

We’d like your thoughts, too. We’ve created a web page for you to post and share your comments. You’ll see a more in-depth explanation of our thoughts and you’re welcome to respond to those, or share your own ideas. We’re all in this together, and we’re all going to need to work together to reduce canopy-related accidents.

USPA Present at Celebration

August 13, 2010

Some USPA staff and board members are at Skydive DeLand for the National Skydiving Museum’s 50th anniversary celebration of Col. Joe Kittinger’s record high altitude jump. The museum’s Hall of Fame will also induct its first skydivers of renown. Just arrived this morning from a federal building in Orlando is brand new U.S. citizen Rob Laidlaw, shown with USPA President Jay Stokes.

Stokes and Laidlaw

Rob Laidlaw with USPA President Jay Stokes

Skydiving Fatality Stats for 2009 at 40-Year Low

January 6, 2010

Following a November 11 fatality, we held our breath for the final six weeks of 2009; and on January 1, we could finally breathe a sigh of relief that there were no additional fatalities for the year. We ended 2009 with 16 total civilian fatalities, the fewest in more than four decades. In fact, you have to go back to 1961 to find a lower annual total. To put this in perspective, 1961 ended with 14 fatalities and just 3,353 members. The following year ended with 19 fatalities, and membership had nearly doubled in 1962 to 6,658 members. Fast forward to 2009, and membership is now at 32,177, and it is safe to say that the nearly 3 million jumps made in 2009 far surpassed the number of jumps made by 6,658 members in 1962. A 2009 membership total of nearly five times the membership in 1962, yet there were three fewer fatalities in 2009!

The reduction in fatalities can be attributed to lots of reasons, including safer equipment and better training. But, it is also a tribute to every skydiver, instructor, rigger, S&TA and drop zone manager who all worked to keep skydiving as safe as possible. Keep it up, and let’s make 2010 even safer for everyone, from the thousands of first-jump students, to those who are making thousands of jumps each year.

The Poetry of Skydiving

August 25, 2009

Scott Van Allen is one of the finalists in the mixed media category of the Rachel Carson Sense of Wonder Contest.

Rachel Carson was a renowned American biologist who dedicated her life to the preservation of nature. Now, the EPA, along with Generations United, the Rachel Carson Council, Inc., and the Dance Exchange, conduct an annual contest in her name with the purpose of combining nature and art. The Sense of Wonder entry criterion was to describe something “that best expresses the Sense of Wonder that you feel for the sea, the night sky, forests, birds, wildlife, and all that is beautiful to your eyes.”

Scott submitted a poem and picture as his mixed media entry titled “All We Need Is The Sky.”

The winner will be chosen through online voting, so head to http://yosemite.epa.gov/oa/agingepa/rcvote.nsf/fmVote?OpenForm and vote for “All We Need Is The Sky” under the mixed media category and help Scott promote our sport. Voting closes October 1st.

Let’s Do a Dive for Shifty—and his Brothers

July 22, 2009

You may have recently seen a sentimental email about the June 17 passing of Darrell “Shifty” Powers at age 86.  If not, read about it here on Snopes:

http://www.snopes.com/politics/military/shiftypowers.asp

While Snopes can’t verify the source of the reported encounter, “Shifty,” as he was known, was real, and so was his bravery as he served with Easy Company of the 101st Airborne in the dangerous days and months following his drop on D-Day.

It turns out that skydivers have a perfect opportunity to honor Shifty and his band of brothers. Sunday, August 16, is National Airborne Day, a day annually commemorated by Congress to remember and honor those servicemen who volunteered to earn their jump wings and serve our country as an airborne soldier. (Read my blog about last year’s National Airborne Day here: https://skydiveuspa.wordpress.com/2008/08/13/national-airborne-day/)

So here’s the thought: Let’s honor Shifty—and his band of brothers—with a memorial skydive. Actually with lots of memorial skydives. Why not organize a memorial dive at your DZ that day? You could form an “A” for Airborne, an “E” for Easy Company, or a “101” for the 101st. Or form a star (if large enough, let a veteran fly in the center), and facing each other with joined grips, give thanks to Shifty and all those who set aside their lives, answered their country’s call, and literally saved the world.

So do a dive for Shifty and his band of brothers and let us know how it went. Send your description of the jump and any photos or links to videos to communications@uspa.org. You don’t have to stop there. Nearly every assisted living facility has WW II veterans who would thoroughly enjoy a visit by a bunch of skydivers expressing appreciation for their service. After all, we not only owe them for their service; we also owe them for sowing the seeds for our sport. It was post-war veterans that wanted to continue jumping out of airplanes who began what became the sport of skydiving.