Archive for the ‘members’ Category

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


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.

USPA Online – Thank You, Everyone!

March 16, 2011

This is “G.” again, your friendly neighborhood web-guy. I just wanted to say a few things and give out a few updates.

This week we hit 1,000 followers on Twitter. We are also nearing 11,000 fans on Facebook, and that’s not all. Our followers and fans tend to be some of the most respectful and polite web users I’ve encountered – no trolls in our midst.  So, this is a thank you for being there, being square and being stable.

On another note, the only request I received so far regarding Parachutist Online was from skydiving drupalers who would like a write-up on how the site was made. I haven’t forgotten about it. We also have a few things floating around regarding a complete archive of Parachutist available online, but nothing set in stone yet.

Still, if there’s anything you would like to see, send us some feedback through the website or e-mail

We hope you guys are enjoying the dynamics with USPA staff online, and again, thank you for being there.

PS: The free SIM App for iPhone is doing very well as well, which makes me really jealous of all you iPhone users. But not for much longer—the Android version is on track to be released in less than two months!

Links Recap:
Parachutist Online –
SIM App (for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad) – here
USPA 65th Anniversary Commemorative Items – USPA Shop

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!

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.

Blue Skies, Patrick Swayze

September 16, 2009

To the general public, Patrick Swayze—who died at age 57 this week—will best be remembered for the films Dirty Dancing and Ghost. To skydivers of the day he’ll be remembered for Point Break. And for two reasons. First, Swayze took up skydiving at Perris Valley so that he could film many of the skydiving scenes himself. According to co-star Keanu Reeves, the production company issued Swayze a cease-and-desist order to stop skydiving; he kept jumping anyway. Along the way he joined USPA and earned his A license. Second, the movie’s release in 1991 brought a flood of first-jump customers out to DZs nationwide. Those customers didn’t find skydivers bantering in five-minute freefalls, but many did find a sport of their own as shown by USPA’s membership totals. Membership rose from 20,000 at the end of 1990 to 26,150 in 1992, and steady increases in subsequent years. Thanks, Patrick, for boosting our sport. Blue Skies.

Rising Through the Recession

July 6, 2009

32,003. That’s the current level of USPA membership at the end of June. What’s the significance? Well, in addition to the fact that membership continues to grow, it’s the first time since May 2005 that we’ve exceeded 32,000. Here’s the full story: USPA membership reached its all-time zenith of 34,583 in August 2001. Then the following month came the attacks of 9/11. Like all of aviation, skydiving suffered for months from a public apprehension and mistrust of all flying. A stalling economy didn’t help either. Membership began a slow but steady decline, going below 32,000 in June 2005 and finally bottoming out in October 2006 at 30,488. Then began a slow but steady climb, and finally back over 32,000 last month. 32,003 is just a number, after all. But it signifies skydiving is holding its own through this recession. And that’s good news for all of us.

Slack USPA bloggers?

April 23, 2009

Loyal USPA blog readers may have noticed the lack of recent posts lately. We’re not abandoning the blog, and we certainly have no lack of news! We have recently spread our online wings to include Twitter and Facebook, and are still on MySpace and LinkedIn. Those sites, especially Twitter and Facebook, have been more conducive to the kinds of news we’ve had lately – short, quick updates not really worthy of too many words–140 or less, in fact (that’s the maximum number of characters a Twitter update, or “tweet” can be).

It has been great for things like letting people know the SIM pdf is now updated with bookmarks (, that there is a new job opening at USPA ( or that Safety Day reports are online (

Those sites also get more activity and response than the blog has, so we’ll spend a little more time there. We will still be blogging when there is a major story that requires a little more behind-the-scenes, personal explanation, or if inspiration strikes! Let us know if you want to read about anything in particular, too – either comment here, or use the “Why” post ( as a forum to ask your questions about why USPA does some of the things it does.

Here are all the places you can now find USPA online:


Jacques-André Istel Presented with the USPA Lifetime Achievement Award

February 19, 2009

One of the pleasures of my job is to meet and talk with some of our sport’s luminaries and pioneers. I enjoy history, and I particularly enjoy the history of our sport. So maybe you can imagine how privileged I felt last week when I presented USPA’s Lifetime Achievement Award to Jacques-André Istel, the father of modern skydiving in the U.S. See, Jacques, who had immigrated here from France as a boy and had begun parachuting here in 1950, saw on a visit to France in 1955 that French skydivers had learned techniques of controlled freefall. Until he learned and brought those techniques back to the U.S., parachuting in this country was simply flailing between exit and deployment—no arch, no control, no turns, and no stable deployments. There was no skydiving here until Jacques advanced it. He also coined the term, by the way. But he didn’t stop there. Jacques became a vocal advocate for public acceptance of skydiving as a sport, not a daredevil activity. Here’s an excerpt from an August 1957 issue of Time magazine:

” ‘You just let go of the plane and suddenly you’ve changed elements. You start to drop but you don’t feel anything—only a marvelous sense of control. It’s like being immersed in light water. Then you bring your right arm up and you make a turn, just as simple as that. It’s an incredible sensation.’

Thus runs the evangelical message of Jacques-André Istel, 28, a black-browed ex-Wall Streeter and dedicated prophet of parachuting in the U.S. His gospel: jumping….out of an airplane can be a safe, exhilarating sport, not a devil-daring performance…”

That’s not all he did either. Jacques advanced parachute competition, too, by forming the first U.S. team to compete at the 3rd World Meet in Moscow. With that, parachuting and then skydiving competition began to flourish here as well, with Jacques introducing our collegiate competition as well.

For these reasons, and many more, I was humbled yet proud to be joined last week in Felicity, California, (where Jacques is not only the founder, but the mayor) by board members Larry Hill and Scott Smith, previous Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Pat Morehead, previous USPA Gold Medal of Meritorious Service recipient Ted Strong, and many, many skydiving friends, in presenting Jacques-Andre Istel with his own engraved and mounted silver bowl. Like a true Frenchman and skydiver, Jacques used the bowl to toast his admirers…

Jacques-Andre Istel holds the USPA Lifetime Achievement Award surrounded by (from left) Pat Morehead, Larry Hill, Ed Scott, and Scott Smith.

Jacques-André Istel holds the USPA Lifetime Achievement Award surrounded by (from left) Pat Morehead, Larry Hill, Ed Scott, and Scott Smith.