The USPA Board of Directors Summer Meeting 2012
The USPA Board of Directors traveled to the North Central region for its 2012 summer meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 3-5. As a prelude to the weekend, North Central Regional Director Merriah Eakins invited the board and USPA staff to Skydive Twin Cities in Baldwin, Wisconsin, the Thursday before the meeting. Board and staff members enjoyed a day of fun jumps, a barbecue dinner courtesy of the DZ and the opportunity to meet USPA members in the region. It was a great way to get in the skydiving spirit before spending the next three days getting down to business, addressing a wide array of issues important to the skydiving community.
Safety and Training Committee
The Safety and Training Committee faced a full agenda as usual, with topics ranging from mundane to highly controversial.
The committee learned about the large percentage of A-license cards that USPA Headquarters receives with invalidating errors, in spite of years of educating instructors and Safety & Training Advisors about correct procedures. Since USPA has allowed the signed A-License Proficiency Cards to serve as valid A licenses, there are likely many invalid cards being used as proof of an A license. The board voted to make the A-license cards a temporary license only. Beginning January 1, the USPA A-License Proficiency and Progression Cards will be considered valid in lieu of a USPA-issued A license for only a 60-day period and must be submitted to USPA Headquarters to verify and issue a license number. However, if headquarters receives a license card beyond the 60-day period, staff will still process it and issue a license number.
In another license-related issue, the committee discussed the requirements for USPA ratings. For years, when USPA members in other countries submitted proficiency cards for a USPA Coach or Instructor rating, USPA accepted their Fédération Aéronautique Internationale-equivalent licenses. However, USPA found that many of the foreign applicants had invalid licenses, even though the licenses looked legitimate and the foreign members actually believed they had FAI licenses. This caused delays in the rating process. Many foreign countries improperly issue an FAI Sporting License, required for competition and records, and call it a skydiving license (Certificate of Proficiency). As of January 1, all USPA rating applicants must hold the appropriate USPA license.
The board rescinded a motion passed at the winter meeting that introduced a new Basic Safety Requirement. The BSR would have required skydives to be made in accordance with the age requirements of the manufacturers of the equipment used for a jump. The tandem age BSR remains in place.
The S&T Committee spent a vast majority of its time discussing a proposal from its previous meeting. A USPA member presented the board with a wingsuit instructor rating program modeled after USPA’s current rating programs. If implemented, anyone wishing to make a wingsuit jump would be required to complete a first-flight course and make his first wingsuit jump with a USPA wingsuit instructor. The board formed a special committee after its winter meeting to gather input from the field. After looking through the data, conducting discussions and hearing comments from the gallery throughout the meeting, the S&T Committee passed a motion to approve the rating program with a vote of four for and two against.
The issue created two deeply divided groups both among the full board and USPA members, with those in favor seeing it as a way to standardize training and improve safety. However, USPA has never required ratings for members to learn other advanced skydiving disciplines such as freeflying, canopy formation or jumping with cameras, and many felt that instituting a rating would just add bureaucracy and further restrict wingsuiting. In the end, the board decided to gather more feedback rather than put the motion to a vote. Look for a questionnaire when you vote in the board elections later this year.
Group Member Committee
The Group Member Committee resolved a longstanding issue regarding foreign DZs that affiliate with USPA by joining the Group Member Program. Foreign drop zones sign the Group Member Pledge that requires compliance with USPA’s BSRs. However, some DZs are in countries whose skydiving safety rules conflict with USPA’s; others are in countries that have no skydiving safety organization and few aviation regulations, with no good way for USPA to assess the drop zone’s compliance or level of safety. The solution was to create a new “Foreign Affiliate” designation for foreign DZs and to recast the Group Member Program to include only U.S.-based drop zones. The only requirement for Foreign Affiliate drop zones is to have at least one current USPA-rated instructor on staff.
The Competition Committee tackled an agenda of more than 50 items, deferring only a handful to the next meeting.
Regarding the USPA Collegiate Parachuting Championships:
- The committee considered a proposal to factor in wind tunnel time with the number of jumps for the novice events but concluded that it would be impossible to enforce.
- The target for the sport accuracy event was reduced to a 16-inch diameter pad for all rounds.
- Exit altitude for novice 2-way formation skydiving was raised to 13,000 feet.
- The committee tabled an intermediate 2-way event proposal pending more competitor input.
- USPA will conduct a demonstration 2-way wingsuit event following this year’s collegiate championships.
Regarding the USPA National Championships:
- The committee adopted changes to the Nationals site selection procedures. Potential bidders for 2014 events should download Skydiver’s Competition Manual Chapter 10 and review the revised requirements.
- The SCM has undergone a makeover—the rules are in a completely new format, patterned after the International Parachuting Commission rules. Competitors should download SCM Chapter 1 (General Rules) and their discipline/event rules.
- Air-to-air video must be high-definition in a file format approved by the video controller. Skydive Arizona, this year’s host, will post details and other pertinent meet information (including restrictions on the use of Argus automatic activation devices) on its 2012 Nationals webpage at skydiveaz.com.
- In canopy formation, the board changed the Pro-Am 2-way event to “advanced 2-way.” Competitors should download SCM Chapter 4 and review this and other rule changes.
- The traditional awards banquet(s) has been retired in favor of more timely medal awards ceremonies and optional social events.
- The board adopted a new competitor award, “The Ted Strong Award for Extraordinary Sportsmanship,” which may be awarded to an individual or team that displays extraordinary sportsmanship at a U.S. Nationals.
The committee reviewed the U.S. Parachute Team Trust Fund allocations and affirmed the longstanding policy that distributions should go only to open-class champions who win a spot on the U.S. Team, rather than diluting the distribution across a larger delegation. After listening to a presentation by Director of Competition Jim Hayhurst on the U.S. Parachute Team, Inc., the committee directed headquarters staff to study the feasibility of revising the USPT by-laws so that a smaller board with some outside directors (non-USPA Board members) with business backgrounds can be appointed to help land corporate sponsorships.
With headquarters staff scrambling to keep up with a flood of record claims, the committee deferred adopting any new record classes until next year, when USPA’s new membership database will be functional, improving the efficiency of processing records.
Finally, the committee moved to recognize three high-altitude records set in 1960 by Joe Kittinger as official U.S. National records. The full board unanimously approved the motion. The records will be presented to Kittinger at the 2012 National Skydiving Museum Weekend and Hall of Fame Celebration at Skydive Arizona in Eloy November 9–11.
Constitution & By-Laws Committee and Nominations & Elections Committee
With an election later this fall, the board faced a dilemma regarding qualifications for USPA Board candidates as spelled out in USPA’s Governance Manual. According to the manual, a requirement to be on the ballot is to submit a letter of intent by June 1. This year, 31 members did so. However, four of them did not meet another requirement, which states the person must be “a regular member of USPA in good standing maintaining current membership from January 1 of the year prior to the election year.” In effect, a person must have been a continuous member throughout 2011 and up to June 1, 2012. Of the four in question, one person’s membership renewal arrived the day after expiration, one had lapsed 11 days and another 27 days before renewing, and a fourth renewed in March after not being a member since 1981. All four appealed for special consideration.
After deliberation within the Constitution & By-Laws Committee and the Nominations & Elections Committee, the full board determined that the intent of the requirement was to ensure that a person had been a member for at least two cumulative years prior to the election. Accordingly, the board approved a motion changing that qualification language and applying it retroactively. Subsequently, all four members affirmed their intent to run in the election, bringing the potential number of members on the ballot to 31, assuming they meet subsequent requirements.
Membership Services Committee
Staff updated the committee on news from headquarters. USPA membership continues to show growth across the board (members, licenses and ratings). The month of July closed with 34,366 members—a little more than 200 short of USPA’s highest membership ever. The migration to a new membership database is moving forward, and staff hopes to be using the new system sometime this fall.
The committee, and subsequently the full board, approved the following USPA awards:
- King Morton will receive the 2012 USPA Lifetime Achievement Award for his service on the USPA Board of Directors from 1974–1995, including serving as USPA treasurer.
- Perry Stevens will receive the 2012 USPA Gold Medal for Meritorious Achievement for inventing the Steven’s system, now known as the reserve static line.
The weekend also included USPA’s annual General Membership Meeting on Friday evening. The highlight was the presentation of the 2011 USPA Gold Medal for Meritorious Achievement to Jeff Steinkamp, for nearly four decades of service as a nationally rated judge and as an innovator of accuracy events and scoring systems.
As the meeting came to a close, the board said goodbye and thank you to departing board members Jessie Farrington, Vic Johnson, Marylou Laughlin, Bill Wenger and B.J. Worth, who have chosen not to run for reelection.
Following this fall’s USPA Board of Directors election, the new board will convene March 22–24 in Daytona Beach, Florida, immediately preceding the Drop Zone Operators’ Conference and Parachute Industry Association Symposium.