Gearing Up - February 2016


Parachutist’s print schedule has me writing this just after the close of 2015, a perfect time to reflect on USPA’s accomplishments and challenges during the past year. There were lots of both. In July, USPA reached its highest membership number ever—38,305—quite an improvement from the low of 30,488 that came in the midst of the five-year downturn following the September 11 attacks in 2001. However, membership activity slowed in 2015; the exact numbers are pending, but the number of new memberships, licenses and ratings did not exceed the previous year’s numbers as they have each year since 2006. The number of Group Member drop zones remained high at 230, with 18 new DZs replacing an equal number that closed or merged.

USPA enhanced its member services by providing a new online portal that allows members to instantly join and renew. We also launched a new website that provides quicker and easier access to loads of membership and safety information.

Our Sisters in Skydiving program added 66 Big Sisters to its roster, and now 630 women skydivers are actively mentoring other women who enter our sport. There were 27 calendared SIS events in 2015.

In competition, USPA added wingsuit flying as a competitive event at our national championships. In total, 760 skydivers participated in USPA Nationals events at Skydive Arizona in Eloy; Skydive Paraclete XP in Raeford, North Carolina; Chicagoland Skydiving Center in Rochelle, Illinois; and Florida Skydiving Center/Skydive Lake Wales. Additionally, increasing numbers of skydivers took the challenge of setting new state, national and world skydiving records by setting 115 records in 2015 ... a record in itself.

On the government relations front, we continued efforts to solidify skydiving as a Federal Aviation Administration-recognized aeronautical activity in the national airspace system. A four-year battle with the FAA over the agency’s plan to regulate parachute landing areas on federally funded airports finally ended with no new regulations. The agency was unable to overcome USPA’s powerful, multi-point arguments that the regulations were not only unnecessary but could introduce unintended consequences, including safety issues and DZ closures. Meanwhile, we continued building a winning track record of helping DZs get established on recalcitrant airports and assisting DZs with overcoming the myriad other governmental issues and roadblocks aimed at skydiving.

With a fatal accident on the last day of the year, 2015 ended with 20 total U.S. skydiving fatalities, four of which involved late or incomplete emergency procedures. By comparison, there were 24 fatalities in 2013 and also in 2014. 2015’s lower fatality numbers helped drop the running five-year average from 22.6 to 22.4 fatalities per year.

In 2015, eight jump plane accidents occurred with injuries or damage severe enough for investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board. These accidents resulted in the death of one pilot and severe injuries to one pilot and two jumpers. Several other incidents ended fortuitously with little damage and no injuries. In many cases, the jump pilots acted professionally and ensured a good outcome, but in several others, the pilots’ actions precipitated the incidents. If there is a silver lining, it is that 2010 was the last year a skydiver died in a jump plane accident in the U.S.

2015 ended on a high note at USPA’s National Collegiate Parachuting Championships December 28-January 1, when 101 collegiate competitors registered at Skydive Lake Wales in Florida. Collegiate registration hadn’t hit the 100 mark since 2009, so USPA’s efforts promoting the Collegiates to college-enrolled skydivers in 2015 paid off.

Blue Skies,

Ed Scott | D-13532 | USPA Executive Director


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