Gearing Up - July 2012
From USPA’s inception, one of its primary responsibilities continues to be improving safety through skydiver education. One of the best ways to achieve this goal is to analyze every incident and accident, assess the causal factors and disseminate the information to the skydiver community. Training techniques, emergency procedures and equipment have improved over the years because of what we have learned from incident reporting.
In the past few years though, incident and accident reports have fallen to an all-time low, severely hampering USPA’s safety mission. Until recently, USPA could count on receiving a report on every fatal accident, usually from a USPA-appointed Safety & Training Advisor. No longer. Of the 11 fatalities so far this year, USPA has only received two reports.
For all of 2011, USPA received only 28 reports of non-fatal accidents and incidents (let’s label them all “incidents”). That’s right: Out of some 33,000 skydivers making 3 million jumps in the U.S., USPA received only 28 reports of problems. There were no reports about incidents or injuries from the half million tandem jumps last year. And only three reports were submitted from among 60,000 student jumps last year despite AAD activations, equipment problems, blown exits, two canopies out, off-field landings and a range of injuries. That’s a lot of lessons and experiences withheld from instructors and skydivers alike.
That is in stark contrast to the Australian Parachute Federation, whose membership and annual jump numbers are less than one-tenth of USPA’s, and yet APF received 651 incident reports last year. Take a look at the excerpt from the bimonthly APF News-Sheet (available at uspa.org or by scanning the QR code to the right) that provides details of 64 incidents. In this selection of incident reports, the publication details 34 tandem incidents, 14 student incidents, five incidents involving licensed skydivers and 11 rigging reports. I guarantee you will learn something.
Can any skydiver argue with the premise that incident reports help improve safety or that more reports would make safer skydivers of us all? Unfiled reports only ensure that no one has the opportunity to learn from the experience or misfortune of others. USPA Coaches, Instructors and Examiners especially know the value of lifelong learning in our unforgiving sport, and yet we are all failing to provide one of the best sources of skydiving education.
Here is how we can turn this around: First, S&TAs need to meet their responsibilities to submit reports of incidents and accidents to USPA or consider resigning their appointments. Second, all instructional rating holders (who are in the best position to observe or experience incidents) should step up and submit reports, as well. Third, nothing prevents average skydivers—you or me—from submitting reports about incidents that we experience or observe. Just so you know, USPA quickly distills all reports and then permanently disposes of them. Reporters can’t be identified and reports can’t be subpoenaed. Anyone can submit an incident report through uspa.org. Locate the Accident Report Form under the Safety tab of the USPA Members page, complete it and hit “submit.” You’ll help prevent a future incident, and you might save a life.