A Full Agenda—The USPA Board Meets in San Diego

There are worse places to be in the middle of February than sunny San Diego, even when you spend all weekend inside a hotel. That’s where the USPA Board of Directors gathered February 17–19 for its winter meeting. Anticipating a hard-working weekend, members of the board and USPA staff who arrived early headed to Skydive San Diego in nearby Jamul on Thursday before the meeting for a few skydives. DZO Buzz Fink hosted the group, giving everyone a chance to relax and share a little bit of fun and camaraderie before the busy days ahead. And sure enough, the board got off to an early start Friday morning, settling in for three days of important USPA business.

Following are the meeting’s highlights:

Safety & Training Committee

The Safety & Training Committee tackled a full agenda, with the usual efficient time management under the leadership of Chairman Todd Spillers. USPA member Douglas Spotted Eagle presented the committee with a comprehensive plan for implementing a wingsuit instructor rating. However, recognizing that a new certification course and rating system are not to be taken lightly, the committee decided to seek additional input from the membership and other experts in the wingsuit community before revisiting the proposal at the summer board meeting.

Representatives from the Parachute Industry Association approached the committee with two separate requests:

  1. Change the minimum deployment altitude for C- and D-license holders in the Basic Safety Requirements. Rather than have 2,000 feet above ground level as the minimum container opening altitude, make 2,000 feet the minimum altitude for a fully open and flying main canopy.
  2. Change the BSRs to state that all skydives must be made in accordance with the age requirements of the manufacturer of the specific equipment used for the jump, rather than including this requirement only for tandem skydives.

After a lengthy discussion about deployment altitudes, the committee elected to leave the current language in place, citing that most jumpers are already deploying higher than the minimum altitude due to the slower openings of today’s main canopies.

However, the committee agreed to change the BSRs and extend the age requirement from just tandem equipment to include all skydiving equipment. The full board discussed the motion at great length, and when time came for a vote, the motion passed. Now, all skydives must be made in accordance with the specific manufacturer’s age requirement for each component used for the jump, including the main and reserve canopies, harness and container, automatic activation device and accessories. According to PIA, all of the U.S. equipment manufacturers that PIA represents require users of their equipment to be the age of legal majority.

Some members requested that the board extend the final signature authority for the USPA Canopy Piloting Proficiency Card to include Coach Examiners and Instructor Examiners. Previously, only Safety & Training Advisors had authority to sign the completed card. The full board passed the motion. Now, Coach Examiners, Instructor Examiners, S&TAs and any USPA Board member may authorize individuals to teach the canopy training and may sign the Canopy Piloting Proficiency Card once the training is complete.

Competition Committee

National Director Kirk Verner, the U.S. delegate to the International Parachuting Commission, returned from the early-February IPC meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with a number of changes that will affect USPA’s competition rules. The most controversial among the new rules is the change to the canopy piloting distance event, which now requires competitors to touch the water as they pass through the entry gate. The USPA Board agreed to adopt all the IPC’s rule changes for open-class competition events at USPA Nationals.

During the meeting, the organizers of the 2012 World Parachuting Championships in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, signed the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale agreement for the event confirming the composition of delegations and number of teams in each event. This paved the way for the Competition Committee to fill additional slots on the U.S. Team, which it did with 2-way canopy formation team Stuck in Lodi and freestyle team Dizzy-Dizzy OMG, both of which earned silver medals at the 2011 Nationals. Reigning world champion freefly team SoCal Converge appealed to the board for a slot on the 2012 U.S. Team after they were unable to attend last year’s Nationals. The board agreed to give SoCal Converge the second freefly slot in Dubai.

In other important U.S. Team news, the U.S. Canopy Piloting Team will now include the gold medalists in each individual event (distance, speed and accuracy), with the top overall standings determining the remainder of the team.

The board awarded the 2013 National Skydiving Championships to Skydive Chicago in Ottawa, Illinois; the 2013 Canopy Piloting National Championships to Skydive City in Zephyrhills, Florida; and the 2013 National Collegiate Parachuting Championships to Skydive Lake Wales in Florida.

The USPA Nationals will now include the canopy formation pro-am as a class of the 2-way event. The pro-am will be an official competition event, rather than a test event. The board also decided to award women’s 4-way gold medals to the top-ranking all-female team in the open class of 4-way formation skydiving. In addition, the board adopted the judging procedures for formation skydiving, vertical formation skydiving and canopy formation that were tested at the 2011 Nationals, with one caveat: If a single-round draw in an open-class event suggests the possibility of a world record, judges will use FAI rules to score the entire round for all teams to ensure that the FAI will recognize any records.

Following a presentation by USPA member Stephen Vogdes, the board established a new category for state and national records: vertical formation skydiving, largest upright formation.

Some of the most welcome news of the meeting came when Competition Committee Chairman Scott Smith announced that this year’s total allocation from the U.S. Team Trust Fund would be enough to completely cover the 750 euro (approximately $1,000) entry fee for all 60 team members at the 2012 World Championships in Dubai. The board also voted to allocate additional funds from the trust fund to cover entry fees for team leadership (head of delegation, team managers and coaches). This is a first for the trust fund in its 25-plus-year existence. Many deserve credit, starting with the architect of the fund, former USPA Board member Mike Truffer, and all the members who have donated so generously over the years, as well as a special thanks to USPA Treasurer Lee Schlichtemeier for his skillful fund management.

Membership Services Committee

The Membership Services Committee received an update from headquarters staff on USPA’s move to new membership software. If all goes well, USPA should be on the new system by this spring. The new software will provide a tremendous improvement for both members and staff.

Committee members also received a report from staff on third-party liability insurance claims. Review of the 2011 insurance claims reiterates that skydivers need to improve their canopy flying skills. More than 75 percent of the claims the insurance company paid involved skydivers’ striking objects (parked planes and cars) on landing. The committee supports the board’s continued emphasis on canopy training.

The committee noted that the deadline to submit nominations for USPA’s Lifetime Achievement Award and Gold Medal for Meritorious Achievement is June 1. Members can review submission guidelines in Skydiver’s Information Manual Section 8-1.3, USPA Service Awards.

The board also voted to change the minimum license required for USPA Wings and Badges awards from a D license to a C license.

Group Member Committee

Based on staff suggestions and the input from many Group Member DZs, the Group Membership Committee decided to change the renewal cycle for domestic Group Members, moving the renewal deadline from December 31 to March 31. This change will give DZs more time to provide aircraft information for their upcoming seasons.

The committee also agreed to staff’s suggestion to update the Group Member Manual and decided to move the “Skydiving Service Code of Conduct” from the Group Member Pledge to the manual.

Additional News

Despite the lack of any seismic activity in quake-prone San Diego, the board approved a shift in one of USPA’s 14 regional boundaries. The board moved Arizona from the Western Region, which now includes only Southern California and southern Nevada, to the Mountain Region, where it joins Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and part of Idaho. National Director and Skydive Arizona DZO Larry Hill proposed the boundary change, reasoning that Arizona’s 913 members didn’t have a large enough voice in the region compared to the nearly 2,700 members in Southern California. Hill claimed support from Arizona members, as well as members throughout the Mountain Region, and a majority of the board approved the move, which will take effect this spring, prior to the start of the 2012 board election process.

The Nominations & Elections and Constitution & By-Laws Committees spent most of their time reviewing headquarters’ suggested changes to the election process for the board of directors, mostly involving internal staff procedures. The full board unanimously accepted the changes.

The full board hurried to squeeze in all its important business Sunday afternoon before board members rushed to catch flights, many back to colder climates. The board made the most of a very full weekend in San Diego—mostly inside the meeting rooms, with just an occasional break to enjoy the Southern California winter. The next board meeting is scheduled for August 3–5 in Minneapolis.


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