Grand Finale

For decades, USPA’s board members served two-year terms and attended four board meetings between elections. In 2012, the USPA membership approved three-year terms starting with the 2013-2015 board. The July 24-26 meeting in Hartford, Connecticut, was the sixth and final meeting of that board before the fall elections.

The day before the meeting, the members of Connecticut Parachutists Inc. in Ellington—thought to be the oldest continuously operating skydiving club in the U.S.—hosted visiting board members and staff at their drop zone. Everyone enjoyed the picture-perfect jump weather and grilled meats and chilled drinks at the end of the day in fine skydiver fashion. The next day, with five previous meetings under their belt, the board members began rocking through their heavy committee agendas at a record pace. Here are some of the noteworthy outcomes:

Tandem BSR Revisions
Newly appointed Safety and Training Committee Chairman Tom Noonan had his work cut out for him as he faced the committee’s largest agenda in 15 years. Noonan kept the committee on task and moving quickly despite the large number of items scheduled for discussion.

In an effort to clarify the Basic Safety Requirements regarding tandem skydiving, the board approved a new BSR and revisions to two others. The new BSR states that students who complete at least two tandem jumps while demonstrating the ability to reliably pull the drogue-release handle at the assigned altitude, maintain heading and maintain a stable body position may progress to single-instructor accelerated freefall jumps after completing solo ground training. The first BSR modification clarified that handle checks must be performed according to the guidelines established by the manufacturer of the tandem system used for the jump. The board also made a second modification to state that in addition to holding a USPA Tandem Instructor rating, USPA members conducting tandem jumps must have been certified by the tandem manufacturer for the tandem system used for the parachute jump, clarifying that once received, the manufacturer’s rating remains valid.

Ratings and Appointments
After discussion by the Safety and Training Committee, the board enacted two changes to USPA’s disciplinary procedures. USPA Instructor Examiners now have the same summary authority as Safety and Training Advisors to suspend a USPA rating, but only within their instructional disciplines. Also, this summary authority now applies to all ratings, including PRO ratings.

The Regional Directors Committee, chaired by Southwest Regional Director Jack Pyland, discussed how to use USPA resources to qualify Safety and Training Advisors for their positions. Effective March 1, 2016, every S&TA appointee must complete a training module at uspalibrary.org within 60 days of appointment. After each three-year election cycle, the regional directors will review the S&TA appointees list, and each S&TA will receive a user ID and password for the training module.

Wingsuit Competitions Take Flight
The always-busy Competition Committee, chaired by Scott Smith, took on a number of agenda items that will affect future meets and record attempts.

The board awarded the first USPA National Wingsuit Flying Championships to Chicagoland Skydiving Center in Rochelle, Illinois, September 29 to October 4, 2015. Also, the committee set a September 15 deadline for drop zones to bid on hosting the 2016 Fédération Aéronautique Internationale Wingsuit Flying World Championships. The Executive Committee will select one of those bids for submission at the FAI’s International Parachuting Commission meeting in January.

Canopy Events See Changes
After reviewing after-action reports from the USPA National Parachuting Championships, the Competition Committee increased the minimum number of judges for canopy piloting to eight and added language regarding unjudgeable jumps. The committee also made a rule change that allowed canopy formation skydiving events to continue at Nationals despite low turnout in the last two years. Additionally, it approved a sport accuracy test event at the 2016 USPA National Parachuting Championships at Skydive Lake Wales in Florida.

Collegiates Gets Overhaul
Collegiate parachuting had the committee’s full attention at this meeting in light of declining attendance at the last several USPA National Collegiate Parachuting Championships. The committee floated several ideas, including a scrambles event and tunnel meets, which it will present at a competitors’ meeting at the next collegiate championships and consider further at the next board meeting.

In the meantime, the committee made changes that go into effect at December’s collegiate championships, including making classic accuracy a single-class event and modifying sport accuracy penalties. The committee also reinstituted the Gavin Gavel trophy, which was retired in 1988. Then awarded to the best school, the trophy will now go to the best team, which allows teams with members from different schools to qualify. The committee is working out details so the trophy can be awarded at this year’s event.

USPA Records Program
The Competition Committee moved to allow jumpers to file U.S. National Records for Largest Night Formation Skydive retroactively, paving the way for ratification of a 49-way set in 1999 and a 50-way set in 2000. Also, to recoup some of USPA’s costs in processing the growing number of state, national and world records, the board adopted a new records pricing structure effective January 1, 2016.

International Intrigue
As a member of the National Aeronautic Association, USPA has submitted world record dossiers through NAA to the FAI since 1975. Over the years, NAA and USPA had always resolved the minor issues that arose between them. However, after Alan Eustace’s world record jump from 135,890 feet in late 2014, a major disagreement arose that resulted in the NAA submitting a different dossier to the FAI without USPA’s knowledge or support. Failing to get a clear explanation from the NAA about the breach in the process and after confirming that NAA has no written internal procedures on how to treat skydiving record dossiers, the USPA Board took steps in Hartford to disassociate from NAA and apply directly to the FAI for associate membership. If granted, USPA will submit world records directly to the FAI, as well as issue FAI sporting licenses to skydivers who want to set records. FAI will act on USPA’s application at its late-September General Conference.

USPA Award Recipients
At each year’s summer meeting, the board selects recipients of USPA’s service awards—the USPA Lifetime Achievement Award, the USPA Gold Medal for Meritorious Service and USPA Regional Achievement Awards.

For the regional awards, the board selected:

  • Fran Strimenos, D-4957, and the owner of Pepperell Skydiving Center in Massachusetts, to receive the Northeast Regional Achievement Award for her many years of promoting a positive image of skydiving throughout New England.
  • Edward Ristaino, D-3645, to receive the Mid-Atlantic Regional Achievement Award for placing himself in harm’s way to allow jumpers time and altitude to safely exit his balloon before a fast-moving storm hit. The jumpers survived; Ristaino perished in the storm.
  • Gary Lincoln-Hope, D-33675, to receive the Foreign Regional Achievement Award for his outstanding work in developing skydiving in Kenya.
  • Slavo Mulik, D-12537, to receive the Southwest Regional Achievement Award for supporting skydiving with his creation of the Štefan Banič Parachute Foundation, which honors prominent skydivers who have contributed to skydiving safety.

The USPA Gold Medal for Meritorious Service honors outstanding Americans who, by their efforts over a period of years, have made significant contributions to the skydiving community. The board chose three recipients—all female—to receive this year’s awards. The board selected:

  • Alicia Moorehead, D-9821, for her association with the Parachutists Over Phorty Society. A POPS volunteer for more than 28 years, Moorehead has held the positions of USA TopPOP #9, World TopPOP #2 and POPS Records Administrator.
  • Kate Cooper-Jensen, D-7333, whose name is synonymous with big-way skydiving. As an organizer, participant and captain on countless big-way and world record attempts and a veteran of more than 10,000 jumps, Cooper-Jensen coaches and mentors large-formation skydivers.
  • Carol Clay, D-3347, who serves as an inspiration to skydivers around the world as a competitor, record holder and organizer. With more than 18,000 jumps, 300 hours of freefall time and 46 years in the sport, she continues to mentor new skydivers and serves as a role model, particularly for women.

The board bestowed the USPA Lifetime Achievement Award, awarded only once each year, to B.J. Worth, D-3805. Known throughout the world for his stunt jumps in the James Bond movies and as an organizer of world records, USPA chose Worth for his contributions to USPA and its goals and purposes. His citation reads, “For dedicated leadership over 30-plus years as a National Director, IPC representative and chairman of the board, as well as many internationally successful efforts to promote the sport of skydiving.” Worth and the other award recipients will choose when and where they will receive their awards. USPA will announce those dates when they are available, and Parachutist will provide in-depth coverage at that time.

With the honors done, President Sherry Butcher tapped the gavel to end the final meeting of the 2013-2015 USPA Board of Directors, and the exodus from Hartford began. The board will next meet February 26-28 in San Diego. Since elections for all 22 seats on the board begin in October, no one knows who will be seated on that first day, but assuredly they will have lots of business to take up.

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