Size Doesn’t Matter—Female Tandem Instructors

USPA’s demographic information shows that in 2009, females constituted 13 percent of its total membership, par for the course historically. The gender gap is even more pronounced for tandem instructors: Only 2.9 percent (61 of the 2,111 current USPA Tandem Instructors) are women. more »

Drop Zone Weather Forecasting

We’ve all been there—sitting on the ground for hours, glaring at the billowing wind sock as powerful gusts threaten to free the packing tent from its earthly tethers. The weather can seem fickle, so how is a safety-conscious skydiver—one who prefers to arrive and depart the DZ in the same unbroken condition—to know whether to place a bet on better conditions later in the day or to admit that Mother Nature is holding the trump card and fold early? more »

VFS Camera Tricks and Traps

Vertical formation skydiving (VFS) is an emerging discipline that combines the body-flight skills of freeflying with the mental skills of formation skydiving. In the past, very few skydivers had the ability to take part in this discipline because of its complexity. That has changed now that wind tunnels are springing up all over the globe, assisting skydivers in their quest for awesomeness. more »

Tragedy in Antarctica

Due to popularity, we decided to publish this older article online as well. Originally printed in June 2011.

Letters to the Editor about the article are published in the comments. Scroll all the way down to read them.

Skydiver Michael Kearns says, “I think it’s time.” Fourteen years after one of the worst mass-fatality accidents in skydiving history, Kearns and fellow jumper Trond Jacobsen have decided to disclose personal conversations and information about the incident to fellow skydivers. Many news reports at the time were incomplete or incorrect, stating the usual “their parachutes failed to open” explanation.

more »

Landing Off the Map—Jumping Into Exotic Locales

Photos courtesy of Donald Schultz

Born in South Africa, 31-year-old Donald Schultz, star of Animal Planet’s “Wild Recon,” is an internationally known expert on snake venom. He started with an internship at the world-famous Fitzsimons Snake Park in Durban, South Africa, and found work in the United States at the Veterinary Specialty Hospital in San Diego, California. But beyond his work with snakes, Schultz also had aspirations of bringing his adventures to the public with a TV show. Since harvesting venom from the fangs of deadly snakes and swimming in shark-infested waters wasn’t spectacular enough for the TV show Schultz envisioned, for extra effect he decided to skydive into his remote locales. more »

Don’t be a Victim: Protecting Yourself from Gear Theft

Gear theft is not uncommon, and though you may be unable to prevent it completely, you can take significant steps to protect yourself. However, some thieves will be determined, and whatever steps you take to guard your possessions may not be enough. In that case, there are still a few things you can do to have the best chance of recovering your gear, making a successful insurance claim or getting satisfaction when the thief is caught. more »

Skyjacker—the Richard McCoy Jr. Story - Part 2

In the first of this two-part series (Parachutist, March), skyjacker Richard McCoy Jr. had just extorted $500,000 and leapt from a commercial airliner in flight...

The sensation was nothing like the three night jumps McCoy had made in the past; he felt as if he were falling from a tall building. Then the blast of freezing air hit. McCoy later said that it practically tore his head off. more »

Setting the Pace—The USPA Board of Directors Meeting

The newly elected USPA Board of Directors met in Reno, Nevada, February 11-13 for the first meeting of its term. The tone and pace of the first meeting after board elections is often difficult to predict, but the change in group dynamics is generally related to the amount of turnover. The 2011-2012 board welcomed five new members, though two—National Director Jan Meyer and Mid-Atlantic Regional Director Tony Thacker—returned after brief absences. The first-time board members—National Director Rich Winstock, North Central Regional Director Merriah Eakins and Southeast Regional Director Eric Florio—proved to be quick studies, making their presence and opinions known early. more »

Time to Regroup—the 2010 Fatality Summary

On a formation skydive, when things don’t go as intended, the jumpers regroup. Assess the situation and move on. Bring order to the chaos. more »

Load Organizing 101—Tips for Successful Formation Skydives

“So, what does everyone want to do? Who wants to plan this dive?”

Although most jumpers don’t plan on becoming load organizers, everyone is likely to fill that position at some point in a skydiving career. Few drop zones offer full-time load organizing for their experienced jumpers, but with a little help, anyone can put together a successful dive. The goal of a load organizer is simple: to facilitate safe, fun and successful skydives on which everyone will have an opportunity to learn and be challenged. more »