The Rating Corner

New S&TA Requirement

As a USPA Safety and Training Advisor, your role on the drop zone encompasses a wide range of responsibilities, from administrative tasks (such as administering license tests) to more technical duties (such as providing guidance for safety-related matters) and everything in between. The S&TA is the go-to person on the drop zone when it comes to all matters involving safety and training. However, until recently, there was never any process for training or testing S&TAs. A drop zone owner would contact the regional director and ask to have Joe Skydiver appointed an S&TA for the drop zone and, poof! An S&TA was born! But this is now changing. By March 1, 2016, all current S&TAs will need to complete an online training module to remain an S&TA, and all new S&TAs must complete it before receiving the appointment. more »

Oddball Requests

Tandem skydiving is now a relatively common activity, with more than a half-million tandem jumps conducted safely each year in the U.S. It is easy for tandem instructors to get bored, and first-time jumpers will sometimes ask for something unusual for their jumps, which is a recipe for trouble. Take one bored tandem instructor, add an unsuspecting tandem student with a request for something out of the ordinary and turn the blender up high. What could possibly go wrong? more »

Tandem Students With Special Needs

As the saying goes in the tandem industry, “A tandem is not just another skydive.” For those in the tandem field, this familiar statement serves as a reminder that tandem skydiving is a technical and specialized type of jump. When you add a student with special needs into the mix, the technical and specialized aspects of tandem skydiving go through the roof. While it is rewarding for both the student and the instructor to make these types of jumps, it is critical that the instructor individually assess each student and determine realistically whether the jump can be completed safely. more »

Defining Goals

After each training jump, a coach or instructor has to determine whether a student succeeded and is ready to advance to the next stage of training or must repeat the jump. Some student programs incorporate a complex series of maneuvers into each jump in an effort to offer a shorter training progression. This is attractive to prospective students, since they put a lot of time, money and effort into learning to skydive. However, students can easily become overloaded when they have too many objectives to accomplish on each jump, which sets them up for failure and costs them more money in the long run. more »

Accident Reports

One of a USPA Safety and Training Advisor’s most important responsibilities is to investigate accidents and submit reports on them to USPA Headquarters. According to data gathered from membership-renewal forms, USPA members sustained 729 injuries that required medical attention in 2014, but USPA received just a handful of non-fatal accident reports from S&TAs. This low ratio of accident reports to injuries is true for other years, as well. Additionally, USPA rarely receives reports of close calls that didn’t lead to injuries, although those could also teach valuable lessons to jumpers. Each year, plenty of close calls and injuries occur, but their valuable and potentially life-saving lessons are lost because nobody hears about them. more »

Tandem Gear Checks

There is probably no more important task before each jump than conducting a basic gear check. This is doubly true of a tandem skydive, where two lives are at stake. You’d think that all tandem instructors would perform thorough gear checks as part of their pre-jump procedures for every skydive. After all, this is something they all learned—or should have learned—during the tandem instructor certification course. Unfortunately, instructors do not always do so, and this neglect occasionally results in an equipment-related emergency. more »

New Tandem BSRs

At its March 27-29 meeting in Daytona Beach, Florida, the USPA Board of Directors approved two important Basic Safety Requirements relating to tandem skydiving: more »

Tandem Selfie

Should tandem instructors allow their students to wear small video cameras such as the GoPro to film their own jumps? This question came up at a recent standardization meeting for tandem instructor examiners—which included some of the most experienced tandem skydivers on the planet—and none of them felt that it is reasonable to allow a student to wear a camera of any type. Additionally, Skydiver’s Information Manual Section 6-8 recommends that skydivers have at least 200 jumps before using any camera on a skydive. However, some drop zones are allowing it. more »

Ramping Up

As the student schedule starts to fill and the summer skydiving season begins to ramp up in most of the U.S., it only makes sense to fully prepare for the long and often hectic days to come. A little effort ahead of time can help ensure that you make a smooth transition from a long layoff or slow winter season into more demanding days ahead. more »

Interviewing Jumpers After an Accident

When a skydiving accident, fatal or non-fatal, occurs at a DZ, the USPA Safety and Training Advisor (or a USPA Instructor appointed by the S&TA) will need to find out what happened to help prevent a similar incident from occurring in the future. In most cases, many people witnessed some part of the accident, and the DZ staff member will have to interview them all. How the S&TA or instructor conducts the investigation will have a large bearing on the accuracy and usefulness of the information gleaned. more »