Published: May 20, 2017
What Does It Mean To Be A USPA Dropzone?
When you start looking for a dropzone from which to make that first, life-changing jump, you're presented with loads and loads of options. One of the first things you learn when you start doing your research is about the existence of an organization called the United States Parachute Association, or USPA. The website is gorgeous, but not super-clear on what the USPA is, means and does--so we decided it'd be a good idea to tell you all about it. Suffice it to say: These are the good guys. You want to make sure your skydives are done under their watch.
It helps to start the story back in the bad old days. Back when sport skydiving was a brand-new thing, skydiving was, like, a certifiably crazy thing to do. People were jumping decommissioned military skydiving gear that had been modified for funsies; they were regularly teaching new skydivers to jump when they had fewer than 20 jumps themselves; they were jumping out of random aircraft into random parks and open fields, without giving anybody a heads-up beforehand. It was madness.
When the sport started gathering steam, the little group that would later become the USPA got together way back in 1946 (in Mineola, New York) to set some standards for safety, training and equipment. This jolly band called themselves "The National Parachute Jumpers-Riggers, Incorporated," and it represented about a hundred members. The NPJRI (not the, like, smoothest acronym) was renamed the "Parachute Club of America" in 1957. In 1967, it renamed itself again to the United States Parachute Association. The USPA celebrated its 70th birthday in July of 2016 (and yes, there are folks still alive who have been jumping that long. We wish they were our grandma and paw).
At any rate: It worked! Skydiving is safer now than it has ever been before, and that's mostly due to the tireless efforts of the USPA to clean up sketch wheresoever it is found lurking.
Essentially (and in its own words), "The United States Parachute Association (USPA) is a voluntary non-profit membership organization of individuals who enjoy and support the sport of skydiving." It has about 40,000 members at date of publication, and it supports a lot of jumping: roughly 3.2 million jumps per year at more than 220 USPA-affiliated drop zones nationwide.
To that end, the USPA follows a threefold mission:
to promote safe skydiving through training, licensing and instructor qualification programs
to ensure skydiving's rightful place on airports and in the airspace system
to promote competition and record-setting programs
USPA established the Group Member Program as a way for skydiving schools, clubs and centers to follow that mission bullet point number one. It allows individual dropzones to enjoy the political lifting power and cooperative benefits of the USPA, but only if they swear to uphold (and agree to be audited regarding) the USPA's strict safety standards.
Dropzones in the U.S. that affiliate with the USPA are known as "USPA Group Member" DZs. When a dropzone describes itself as a "USPA Group Member," it means that they've pledged to comply with the USPA's Basic Safety Requirements, to use current, very-comprehensively-trained USPA instructors, provide USPA-required safety equipment and use the USPA-developed instruction methods that have ushered thousands of new sport skydivers into the sky in the safest possible way. Group Members designated as "Training Centers" provide instruction, equipment and training to become a licensed skydiver. Dropzones in other countries are known as "USPA Foreign Affiliate" DZs, and they pledge to have at least one current USPA rated instructor on staff.
We skydivers love the competitions, community, information-sharing and publications that the USPA makes part of its mission--but as a brand-new skydiver, you should hook up with the USPA for one central reason: Safety. Since its original founding in the 40's, the USPA dedicated itself first and foremost to optimizing the safety of skydiving. When you're looking for a place to make your first tandem skydive, you can do no better than to find a proud USPA member dropzone that's just as dedicated to that mission--because the greatest gift of safety is the ability to taste upstream sunshine again and again and again.
Ozarks Skydive Center is proud to be a USPA member. Make your Reservation today!