Gearing Up - October 2012
When I became USPA’s Executive Director nearly five years ago, one of my first calls was to Parachute Industry Association President Cliff Schmucker. The relationship between our two associations needed to be reinvigorated. USPA soon became an affiliate PIA member, and the partnership improved dramatically. It couldn’t have happened at a better time, considering the issues facing our sport.
Here are excerpts from a speech I gave at a PIA meeting in August, detailing some important issues confronting the skydiving community:
“The Federal Aviation Administration is in a state of turmoil, losing people with expertise and historical knowledge and forgetting that the agency needs to trust and rely on skydiving industry resources. The FAA is doing what every bureaucracy does: It grows and extends its reach. That means more regulation. Witness the current FAA initiative to standardize parachute landing areas.
The world watched as 80-year-old Laverne Everett nearly came out of her tandem harness. Then, a few weeks later, a tandem double fatality got the media’s attention. It is easy to imagine another tandem incident bringing more regulation. Strong Enterprises and United Parachute Technologies are to be commended for taking steps to modify their tandem student harnesses, but let’s ensure that every instructor properly fits and checks every student’s harness every time.
Now that we’ve identified a problem with delayed reserve deployments, we have an obligation to identify the causes—and the solutions—as quickly as possible. I strongly urge PIA to address this issue squarely. We also have the issue of main containers locking shut when the main closing pins pierce the bridles. We ask those directly involved in the development and production of bridle components to give this issue your focus. Let’s act before this issue results in a fatality.
Naturally, USPA and PIA are not going to agree on everything. PIA is largely a trade group, albeit with riggers as individual members; and USPA is primarily an individual membership association, albeit with drop zones as affiliates. One issue is service life limits. USPA respects manufacturers’ decision to impose a life limit on its equipment during initial TSO approval. But we agree with the FAA that manufacturers cannot retroactively set a service life limit on equipment already in the marketplace without first proving a safety problem.
The other issue is age limits. Sorry for the confusion caused by USPA’s adoption of the PIA-requested age-related Basic Safety Requirement in February and our retraction of that BSR in July. It was only after the February USPA Board meeting that we solicited the view of our attorneys on the issue. Their response was: 1) The new BSR would do little to decrease USPA’s liability; 2) there are stronger acts that manufacturers can take, like placarding equipment, to inform the public and consumers of age limitations; and 3) if USPA has concerns about the age of majority, we should simply adopt one age-limit BSR and be done with it.
Let’s work to understand the few differences between USPA and PIA but spend more time addressing the larger number of issues we can agree on. Both USPA and PIA have much to be proud of. But we both still have much to do—together.”
Ed Scott | D-13532 | USPA Executive Director