A Welcome Winter Respite

From March 27–29, the USPA Board of Directors gathered in Daytona Beach, Florida, for the fifth meeting of its three-year term alongside the 2015 Parachute Industry Association Symposium. Since many on the board left behind frigid temperatures—and in some cases, feet of snow—it’s no surprise that they welcomed the area’s warm weather and spring-break atmosphere, even though most sat on committees with packed agendas that kept them busy indoors much of the time.

Executive Director Ed Scott presents the positive news about USPA’s growth to both the board and general members at Friday’s meeting.

With the drop of USPA President Sherry Butcher’s gavel on Friday morning, the board tackled its first order of business: filling the seat vacated by Gulf Regional Director Todd Spillers, who had resigned to pursue a career opportunity. Two members from the region attended the meeting to address the board and campaign for the position. Before voting, several board members remarked at how difficult the choice was and that USPA and the region would be well-served by either candidate. After hearing from both candidates, the board members cast their votes, choosing Danji “D.J.” Marvin to fill Spillers’ vacated seat for the rest of the term.

President Sherry Butcher (right) welcomes Gulf Regional Director D.J. Marvin to the board.

Then, as he does at the first board meeting of each year, Executive Director Ed Scott presented information on the association’s standing at the close of the previous year. Scott announced that all indicators showed that 2014 was historic: USPA issued more memberships, more new memberships, and more licenses and ratings than in any other year in the organization’s history. Moreover, Treasurer Albert Berchtold reported that the association’s finances were in the best shape ever, with USPA showing a net worth of more than $3.2 million.

Friday evening’s activities included the annual USPA General Membership Meeting, in which USPA members could learn about the current state of USPA and ask questions of board members. With few open seats at this well-attended meeting, members engaged in meaningful dialogue with their USPA representatives.

Then it was time for the various board committees to get to work on their agendas.

With a busy schedule and not a lot of time to work through the agenda, acting Safety and Training Committee Chairman Jay Stokes—who gamely stepped in for Chairman Rich Winstock, who had a family emergency—kept the group focused and working efficiently during the three committee sessions leading up to the final plenary session on Sunday. Much of the agenda focused on topics related to tandem skydiving. After discussing a rising trend in tandem skydiving accidents and their causes, the committee proposed two new Basic Safety Requirements, both of which the full board adopted and made effective immediately:

  • Any person acting as pilot in command on a tandem skydive is required to conduct system-handles checks immediately after deploying the drogue.
  • Any person making a tandem skydive may not perform a turn of more than 90 degrees below 500 feet AGL.

In other tandem-related changes, USPA will remove the solo Category D evaluation jump requirement from the Tandem Instructor Rating Course. This requirement became unnecessary several years ago when USPA approved coaches to observe and debrief static-line and instructor-assisted-deployment skydives starting with the short delays in Category C.

In other decisions related to ratings, USPA will implement a new form with the next release of the Instructional Rating Manual that will make it easier for examiner candidates to track and validate course evaluation jumps. Also, in the previous year, a working group gathered information about the process of earning a PRO rating. At this meeting, the committee discussed the working group’s findings and decided to add additional training recommendations to Section 7 of the Skydiver’s Information Manual during its next revision. The committee felt that there was not a need to develop a new examiner rating to train PRO-rating candidates.

Chaired by Western Regional Director Scott Smith, the Competition Committee adopted all of the International Parachuting Commission’s recent rule changes for artistic events, canopy formation skydiving, formation skydiving, style and accuracy, and canopy piloting, with the exception of the CP zone-accuracy wind limit. The committee also discussed the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale’s decision to relax the rules in its Sporting Code for those who wish to switch national representation. The May revision edition of the 2015 USPA Skydiver’s Competition Manual reflects these rule changes.

The full board also adopted the committee’s motion to include wingsuit flying as a national competition discipline, adding 2-way acrobatic and performance categories to the SCM. The board will consider bids for a late-2015 National Championships of Wingsuit Flying at its summer meeting and bids for the discipline’s 2016 and 2017 Nationals at its winter 2016 meeting. The committee then filled the remaining slots on the U.S. Wingsuit Flying Team that will compete at the 1st FAI World Cup of Wingsuit Performance Flying in Netheravon, U.K., in May, basing its choices on letters of interest and the results of the 2015 Paralog Performance Cup held at Skydive City Zephyrhills in Florida in March. Jason Bresson, Lori Butz, Brian Caldwell, Scott Callantine, Steve Hubbard, Kyle Lobpries, Jacob Morse, Simon Repton, Joe Ridler and Kristian Szczepitko are the members of USPA’s first wingsuit flying team, and Douglas Spotted Eagle is team manager.

Additionally, the full board approved the committee’s motion to eliminate the style event after the 2016 USPA National Championships and to select U.S. Teams for future world style and accuracy competitions based only on accuracy landing results. The committee also decided not to hold a competition sport accuracy demonstration event in conjunction with the USPA National Parachuting Championships at Skydive Paraclete XP in Raeford, North Carolina, in June, but invited the host to hold a test event if it wished.

The committee discussed and the full board approved the following bids for the 2016 USPA National Championships:

  • Canopy Piloting: Skydive City Zephyrhills in Florida, April 6–9
  • Style and Accuracy and Canopy Formation Skydiving: Skydive Lake Wales in Florida, May 27 to June 2
  • Formation Skydiving and Artistic Events: Skydive Arizona in Eloy, October 20–27
  • Collegiates (all events): Skydive Arizona in Eloy, December 28, 2016, to January 2, 2017

In world competition news, the committee discussed team selection for upcoming international events and how to solicit competitors interested in attending the 1st FAI World Indoor Skydiving Championships this October in Prague, Czech Republic.

In records news, the board adopted the committee’s motion to add national night records to the large-single-point and large-sequential FS and CF categories after hearing a presentation by USPA member Steve Woodford. The committee did not include night records in the state records program due to safety concerns.

Finally, the committee discussed a fundamental disagreement between USPA and the National Aeronautic Association in the handling of the three world altitude record claims by Alan Eustace and the StratEx team, leading the board to unanimously declare that USPA would immediately begin forwarding all record claims straight to the FAI instead of through the NAA. The board also called for USPA to issue FAI sporting licenses beginning in 2016.

The Group Membership Committee, chaired by Mideastern Regional Director Randy Allison, received an in-depth staff briefing on the status of several airport access issues and on USPA’s collaboration with the Federal Aviation Administration to update inspector guidance. The committee also discussed USPA’s Beyond the First Jump program that seeks to increase student-retention rates and addressed the importance of DZ participation in the effort. At a future meeting, the board will review the Training Center designation for drop zones and will discuss whether USPA should continue to use it. And finally, to help USPA’s aim of supporting the formation of more college skydiving clubs, the full board passed the committee’s motion to waive Group Member dues for those clubs.

The board passed two motions put forth by the Constitution and Bylaws Committee, chaired by National Director Mike Mullins. First, to align with current state law, the board changed the bylaw that outlines how to remove a board member and changed the section name from “Impeachment Procedures” to “Removal From the Board of Directors.” The second change removed in entirety the section pertaining to meeting absences of board members, which was necessary to avoid incongruity with the new removal procedures.

The Finance and Budget Committee, chaired by USPA Treasurer Albert Berchtold, reviewed the association’s 2014 finances and investments performance and reported that the association is doing very well financially. The committee reviewed and approved the 2013 consolidated audit of USPA and related entities, which had found no material concerns. Finally, the committee approved the operations budget for 2015.

The Executive Committee, composed of the association’s officers and chaired by President Butcher, reviewed the ongoing business of the board and staff. Vested with the responsibility of approving use of the Airport Access and Defense Fund, the committee discussed a proposal to assist DZs in the state of Washington that are fighting illegal state use-taxes on skydiving businesses. The Washington Department of Revenue is choosing to ignore an opinion letter from the U.S. Department of Transportation declaring that the federal government preempts state and local use-taxes on skydiving. Ultimately, the committee and the board voted to use AAD funds to match DZs’ efforts to challenge the state taxation should the issue go to court.

The legendary Joseph Kittinger, who jumped from a balloon at more than 102,000 feet in 1960, shows off the honorary D license that USPA’s board presented him at the General Membership meeting.

On Sunday, following three days of productive meetings to address some of the important issues facing USPA and its members, the board adjourned. Many stayed in Daytona to not only enjoy a few more days of sunshine, but also to learn more about skydiving and skydivers at the seminars and in the expo hall of the PIA Symposium. The USPA Board of Directors will hold its next meeting July 24–26 in Hartford, Connecticut. All USPA members are welcome to attend.


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