Gearing Up - October 2011


Until recently, skydiving’s medal-winning competitors received accolades within the pages of Parachutist and from friends and family but earned little other attention. Two years ago, USPA initiated a campaign to notify local and regional hometown media—including newspapers, radio and TV—that their hometown man or woman was a national champion, or in the case of world meets, an international champion. The effort was an astounding success, creating local celebrities and generating countless pages, video and airtime of positive skydiving coverage. The medalist’s DZ often gained positive media attention, too.

At its last meeting, USPA’s board endorsed a follow-up plan to generate even more publicity for each U.S. Parachute Team. The idea, conceived by USPA Director of Competition Jim Hayhurst, is to arrange to have members of the U.S. Team perform at major air shows and other large outdoor venues across the country. Air shows are big business, drawing 12 million live spectators every year. Those gate receipts allow air-show organizers to pay top dollar for the top performers, which with proper planning and promotion, the U.S. Parachute Team will be. After all, there is only one U.S. Parachute Team, comprised of the best competitors in virtually every skydiving discipline.

The concept isn’t new. In 1972, USPA organized jumps with U.S. Team members and others at TRANSPO ’72, the largest U.S. air show in history. An after-show survey established the skydiving as the second most crowd-pleasing performance of the 10-day event, after the British military jet team Red Arrows and ahead of the Thunderbirds, Blue Angels and others.

Fast forward 40 years, and U.S. Team members will gain long-overdue visibility and public recognition for their skills and accomplishments beyond the pages of Parachutist and friends and family. With the caché of being our nation’s finest skydivers and a fresh, entertaining act, they’ll generate a flood of local and regional media attention. And there’s more. U.S. Team members will be in a position to raise funds toward their expenses for world meets, not only through performance fees but also through the sale of U.S. Team merchandise. Last but not least, the U.S. Team increases its potential to gain the attention of a major sponsor who will want its company or product associated with these winners and who will be willing to provide monetary support for it.

The campaign kicks off in December with a new U.S. Team exhibit at the annual International Council of Air Shows (ICAS) convention in Las Vegas. That’s the place where air-show performers and air-show organizers meet, greet and fill in their dance cards for next year’s air-show season, deciding which performers and teams will perform at which of the 365 air shows scheduled for 2012. Because there are restrictions on how tax-deductible donations to the independently administered U.S. Parachute Team Trust Fund may be used, USPA loaned $10,000 to the effort, to be repaid with interest from next year’s proceeds. Hoping to secure a half-dozen to a dozen major air-show contracts, USPA will solicit current and former U.S. Team members to participate in a demo training camp and be available to perform with per diem and travel expenses covered. We’ll keep you apprised of how it goes.

Blue Skies,

Ed Scott | D-13532 | USPA Executive Director


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Tom Schroder
Fri, 10/28/2011 - 12:23

Sorry, Ed. But you knew this storm was coming. Please pass my comments on, along with all the others, to Jim Hayhurst and the BoD.

Not a good idea for OUR organization to set up a demo team from those "poor jumpers" who just stood on the podium at the Nationals. Come on, we all know what it takes, financially, to get there these days.

I remember 1972, I was doing demos then also. Guys [and girls] like me are still out there, PRO-rated civilian teams, plus contract work for other civilian teams. We're the teams who HOPE to get a few airshow demos each year, we're the ones who stepped up for PRO ratings and do a professional job of representing our sport.

Easy stuff, air shows, by comparison to some jumps. High profile / Low Risk / High dollar - it is an airport after all. As opposed to the "work" jumps into downtown ballparks, car dealership grand openings, parking lot celebrity bashes, or small town festivals. Lower profile [unless something goes wrong] / High risk / Low dollar work that keeps the team in uniform, gear updated, and, maybe, pays for a few practice jumps.

Let's say, as you suggest, that a USPA Demo Team would get 6 to 10 airshow demos next year. They pay back the membership funds plus interest - to get that issue off the table. Then they pocket a few dollars that would have gone to some hard-working, self-supporting civilian teams or, maybe more importantly, take away some recruiting opportunities from our military teams.

Sorry, not a good plan.

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