Hot Topics—The Summer 2010 USPA Board Meeting

The 2009-2010 USPA Board of Directors held the fourth and final meeting of its term July 16-18 in Nashua, New Hampshire. Two drop zones in nearby Massachusetts, Jumptown and Pepperell Skydiving Center, invited USPA Board members and staff to visit their facilities throughout the weekend. Having the opportunity to jump may be the key to meeting efficiency—the board tackled several big issues during this busy but very smoothly run meeting. more »

Wave of the Future—Building an 8-Way VFS Dive Pool

with contributions from Mike Wittenburg and photos by Adam Tippie

Ten years ago, finding enough flyers capable of forming an 8-way head-down round was challenging. Multi-point formations of this size were even rarer, and most vertical formation skydiving (VFS) organizers concentrated on achieving a single point. Since then, skydiving has evolved. Freeflying and VFS are becoming more popular at drop zones around the world, and it looks like 8-way VFS may be the next challenge on the horizon. more »

Ripcord!

Turn back the clock for a moment and imagine it’s the early 1960s. The television screenwriters of the time are scrambling for something sensational to base their next show on. The genre of the day, aside from westerns, is low-budget action-adventure. The writers use a simple but sure-fire formula, in which some new-fangled technology forms the backdrop for good guys to fight bad guys. The concept worked successfully for scuba diving in “Sea Hunt,” twin-engine aircraft in “Sky King,” high-speed airboats in “The Everglades” and helicopters in “Whirlybirds.” So what’s left? Well, there’s this daring, new sport of parachuting looking for an outlet... Voilà! “Ripcord” is born. more »

The Evolution of High-Performance Parachutes

The sport has come a long way from the T-10 rounds and Para-Commanders of yesteryear. It wasn't long after the first ram-air parachutes became popular in the 1970s that high-performance canopies were created. In 1988, Parachutes de France created one of the first high-performance parachutes, the Blue Track. It was a one-of-a-kind, elliptical, ram-air parachute constructed of the first zero-porosity fabric, and it promised a new type of performance. This paved the way for an extreme form of parachuting called “swooping,” and the sport has never been the same. more »

The Secrets of D.B. Cooper, Part Three - Criminal Profile

For whatever reason, hundreds of people are convinced they know who D.B. Cooper was—or themselves admitted to being the most recognized hijacker in the world. Maybe it’s the extraordinary circumstantial evidence. Maybe it’s the desperate need for an answer. Maybe it’s a secret wish to make a difference in the world. But sometimes, no matter how hard we wish, no matter how hard we believe, we just can’t make something true. Today, the FBI has DNA from Cooper’s J.C. Penney clip-on tie that he left on the jet and partial fingerprints from the cocktail glasses he drank from while in flight. They can now quickly confirm or eliminate suspects. more »

Building Castles in the Air—An Overview of Canopy Formation

Canopy formation (CF) skydiving, also known as canopy relative work (CRW or “crew”), is a discipline of technical ability that is largely misunderstood. Some perceive the discipline as being extremely dangerous, but the small, dedicated group of jumpers who practice it are rewarded by becoming better, safer canopy pilots. CF jumpers generally channel their interest in one of two directions: recreational CF (which includes parabatics) or competition. CF is also the only remaining discipline for which USPA offers performance-based awards—the 4-Stack, 8-Stack and Canopy Crest Soloist (for docking eighth or later on a formation) Awards. more »

The Secrets of D.B. Cooper, Part Two - Evidence of Absence

A single man, an immense amount of cash, four parachutes and a jump from an airliner. Where does the largest manhunt in the United States lead when authorities don’t have a clue as to who the suspect might be? more »

The Secrets of D.B. Cooper, Part One - Notorious Flight 305

Would you jump into a mountain forest for $1,052,000? In the dark? In the rain? In November?
In 1971, one man did. Unfortunately, the cash was stolen and the aircraft was hijacked Boeing 727 with fighter jets and FBI agents in a helicopter following it.
Was he an experienced skydiver or an ordinary criminal attempting an extraordinary theft? Did he survive and escape, or perish in a forest in Washington State? Thirty-nine years later, no one knows for sure.
more »

The Safest Year—The 2009 Fatality Summary

To find a year in which there were fewer U.S. skydiving deaths than 2009, we have to go back to 1961, when there were 14. Considering that USPA membership is more than nine times what it was in 1961 (and that 2009’s members almost certainly made more than nine times the number of jumps), the 16 skydiving deaths that occurred in 2009 indicate that our sport has made real advances in safety. However, anyone who has been touched by the death of a jumper knows that a single fatality is one too many. When we consider the loss that these deaths represent—and the fact that most could have been easily prevented in ways identified years ago—it is clear that we still have a lot of room for improvement. more »

Getting Down to Work—The USPA Board of Directors 2010 Winter Meeting

The USPA Board of Directors gathered for its winter meeting February 19-21 in Phoenix. In a departure from Arizona’s usual sunny skies and arid climate, a cool rain fell outside while the directors got down to business inside, working smoothly and efficiently to complete a full agenda in near-record time. more »