Archive for the ‘government relations’ Category

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 Acts Against Indiana Bill

March 2, 2011

Within days of learning from USPA members and Indianapolis attorneys Amy Romig and Brett Nelson that a bill to regulate skydiving had been introduced in the Indiana State Senate, a “steering committee” comprised of Romig, Nelson, Mideastern Regional Director Randy Allison, USPA Director of Government Relations Randy Ottinger, and USPA Executive Director Ed Scott conferenced and devised a plan. Within a week, Scott and Romig convened a meeting of Indiana drop zone operators and their S&TAs in Indianapolis. The group then met with the sponsoring state senator and pressed him for the reasons he had introduced the bill. Hearing no good reason from him, we parted agreeing to disagree. Later that day, a smaller group was able to speak to the chairman of the Senate Commerce & Economic Development Committee, through which the bill would have to pass. The chairman wanted more information from USPA about existing federal regulations and about USPA’s safety programs. USPA provided that information within less than a day, along with an argument that FAA regulation and USPA oversight worked well. The USPA also highlighted that there are certainly no safety problems in Indiana. The USPA heard a few weeks ago that the committee chairman was convinced that state regulation of skydiving is unnecessary and that the Senate Commerce & Economic Development Committee will not move the bill. As of February 23, the last day for the third reading of Senate bills, the proposed legislation had not been called for either a 2nd or a 3rd reading and will therefore not pass as drafted this legislative session. Thanks go out to the Indiana DZOs and S&TAs who dropped what they were doing to join us on very short notice, and to all Indiana members of USPA for their assistance. This outcome is a great example of how the USPA and its members can work together to ensure that the best interests of skydiving are represented in each state.

Election Turnout Nearly Doubles

January 6, 2011

By every metric, USPA’s move to online voting for the biennial board election was a success. The number of completed ballots totaled 6,441, with 5,661 (87.8%) submitted online and 760 (12.2%) using the paper ballot. In the previous election that used paper ballots only, the ballot total was 3,290. So there was a 95.7% increase in member participation. From the perspective of staff resources, staff workload was reduced about four-fold. To validate, batch and count the ballots two years ago involved four people devoting an entire week to the process. This time, it required only occasional attention by one staff member. Plus, results were known within two business days of the election’s end. Every prior election took a week to ten days to produce the results. Member comments were overwhelmingly favorable. Yes, there were a couple of glitches and some members’ spam blockers and e-mail settings interfered with their use of the online ballot. We’ll perform an after-action analysis to see if we can address the few problems next time. There will be a full report to the board at the February meeting and an article in the March issue of Parachutist.

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 and 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 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

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

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

180-Day Repack Answers

December 10, 2008

The new FAA rule implementing 180-day main and reserve repack intervals takes effect December 19, 2008. In consultation with the FAA and the Parachute Industry Association, USPA has developed answers to some obvious questions.

Q: Is there any change prior to December 19, 2008?
A: No, up until that date, the reserve and main must have been packed within the previous 120 days.

Q: What happens on December 19, 2008?
A: Beginning on that date, you can jump a rig in which the reserve and main have been packed within the previous 180 days.

Q: Even if my reserve pack job had previously expired?
A: Only to a point. Beginning December 19, count back 180 days—if the reserve was packed within those 180 days, it is legal to jump.

Q: What about my AAD?
A: Good question. FARs 105.43 and 105.45 hold the “person” (the skydiver and the tandem instructor) responsible for ensuring that an AAD, if installed, has been “maintained in accordance with manufacturer instructions.” You can only comply with that regulation if you know the maintenance schedule and service requirements of that AAD. Do you know when the battery must be replaced? Do you know when the AAD must be removed for factory service? Do you know when the service life ends? If you don’t, prudence requires you to ask your rigger or the manufacturer before you jump a rig beyond its originally intended 120 days.

Q: What if my AAD requires servicing before the end of the 180 days?
A: Our interpretation of the FARs is that when a manufacturer-recommended AAD maintenance/service interval comes due, even if before its 180 days expires, the rig should not be jumped until that maintenance/service is performed. That’s why it is imperative that future AAD service dates are recorded by the rigger, preferably on the packing data card, and known by the skydiver/rig owner.

Rig owners with specific questions about their rigs should consult with their riggers and/or the manufacturer of a specific component. Technical or rigger-related questions posed here will be forwarded to PIA or the component manufacturer, if USPA is not able to answer with certainty. PIA has also posted answers to FAQ on their website:

NTSB Update

November 24, 2008

As USPA has reported, jump plane maintenance and operations were the subject of a National Transportation Safety Board Special Investigation Report on the Safety of Parachute Jump Operations, and not in a good way. Knowing the FAA has a decision to make about how to respond to the NTSB, USPA met with the FAA and proposed a self-regulatory approach, believing that substantive improvements in jump aircraft maintenance and pilot training can be gained without the need for additional federal regulation. But first, USPA and FAA had to agree that all parachute operations that offer services to the general public and/or to experienced civilian skydivers for compensation are “commercial operators” as defined by the general definitions section of Title 14: Aeronautic and Space, Code of Federal Regulations.

14 CFR 1.1 Commercial Operator means a person who, for compensation or hire, engages in the carriage by aircraft in air commerce of persons or property, other than as an air carrier or foreign air carrier or under the authority of Part 375 of this title. Where it is doubtful that an operation is for “compensation or hire”, the test applied is whether the carriage by air is merely incidental to the person’s other business or is, in itself, a major enterprise for profit.

With that established, current regulatory requirements for aircraft maintenance will be reviewed with drop zone operators and a verifiable program developed by USPA. The program will then be implemented through our Group Member drop zones. Guidance for jump pilot initial training, recurrent training, and regular competency checks will follow similar development and implementation. Information on these programs will be distributed in Parachutist, the USPA website, and by direct e-mail communication with our Group Member drop zones.

The people behind the 180-day repack change

November 20, 2008

On November 19th, the day the new 180-day repack rule was published in the Federal Register, (making it OFFICIAL!), USPA met with two FAA officials who made it happen. Joining me and Randy Ottinger, USPA’s Director of Government Relations, was Cliff Schmucker, President of the Parachute Industry Association.

PIA President Cliff Schmucker (left) and USPA Executive Director Ed Scott flank FAA Acting Administrator Bobby Sturgell while discussing the new 180-day repack rule. Photo by Randy Ottinger.

PIA President Cliff Schmucker (left) and USPA Executive Director Ed Scott flank FAA Acting Administrator Bobby Sturgell while discussing the new 180-day repack rule. Photo by Randy Ottinger.

First we met with and thanked Kim Barnette, the FAA man who shepherded the regulation. (His work is not yet done; he’s already working on answering the resulting questions.) Then we met with FAA Acting Administrator Bobby Sturgell, and thanked him for signing off on the new rule. (Never receiving confirmation, Sturgell is preparing to exit and make room for an Obama appointee.)

Sturgell took great delight in figuring out that, together, his three guests had logged over 7,600 jumps. We might even be able to get him out to a DZ, once he has more time. Altogether, it was a good day spent at the FAA.

NTSB hearing on parachute jump operations

September 17, 2008

If you watched the web cast of yesterday’s NTSB public hearing, you probably had thoughts similar to mine as I sat in the audience and listened to the special investigation report on jump plane operations. It was difficult to hear about skydive operators who ignored aircraft maintenance requirements and who hired pilots who took a cavalier approach to their responsibilities. While we also heard that all operators shouldn’t be tarnished with what the NTSB found, there’s no denying the evidence that more can be done to make sure operators understand the regulations and then comply with them.

The good news is that the NTSB recognizes that USPA can play a strong role with the FAA in developing and disseminating the programs and guidelines that the NTSB has recommended. USPA must look at this as an opportunity to step up and offer to develop the NTSB-recommended maintenance awareness, pilot training, and pilot testing programs for the FAA to review and endorse. When we accomplish this, our members and the first-jump public can have greater confidence in the competence and professionalism of all of our operators. We—and they—deserve nothing less.

Be sure to read my Gearing Up commentary in the October issue of Parachutist. Though it went to press last week, I felt the need then to address two pervasive urban myths about jump plane operations. In short, skydivers are passengers and jump flights are commercial operations. That needs to be the starting point for the work that lies ahead.

Read the official USPA News report.