The United States Parachute Association (USPA) is a voluntary non-profit membership organization of individuals who enjoy and support the sport of skydiving. The association is incorporated in New York and follows the by-laws contained in the USPA Governance Manual.
USPA’s mission is three-fold:
- 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 wouldn’t be possible without its 38,000-plus members who support the organization. These members, along with first-time jump students, make roughly 3.2 million jumps per year at more than 220 USPA-affiliated drop zones nationwide. More members mean a bigger voice when dealing with issues that have threatened the existence of skydiving. It also helps to ensure the longevity of skydiving for people to enjoy for years to come.
USPA partners with affiliated schools, clubs and centers—Group Member drop zones—that pledge to follow USPA's Basic Safety Requirements. These skydiving schools offer USPA-developed first-jump training methods, use only current USPA-rated skydiving instructors and provide USPA-required safety equipment.
USPA began in 1946 in Mineola, New York, as the National Parachute Jumpers-Riggers, Incorporated, representing an estimated 100 members. It was renamed the Parachute Club of America in 1957 and renamed itself again to the United States Parachute Association in 1967. In July 2016, USPA celebrates in 70th anniversary.
In May 2006, in conjunction with its 60th anniversary, USPA moved into its new headquarters in Fredericksburg, Virginia, where it continues to reside.
Since its founding, USPA has been dedicated first and foremost to safety. It has accomplished this primarily through the development of training programs, especially for beginning skydivers; the licensing of skydivers at increasingly higher levels of proficiency as they advance their skills and experience; and the creation of a multi-tiered rating program for skydiving instructors. All of these programs are designed to be conducted in accordance with USPA-established safety standards.
As part of its mission to promote safe skydiving, USPA has developed the Integrated Student Program (ISP). The ISP includes three basic first-jump programs. Learn more about first-jump methods here. The ISP then advances students through eight categories of progressive freefall and canopy skills, leading up to an A license, which requires a minimum of 25 jumps.
USPA's leadership begins with its members who elect a 22-member board of directors to represent their interests. Elections are conducted every three years. The board members, who live throughout the country and work without compensation, hire an executive director, who in turn hires a staff. The executive director and the staff work at USPA Headquarters in Fredericksburg, Virginia, just a short ride from the government agencies and Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
The USPA Board is comprised of eight national directors and 14 regional directors who all serve three-year terms. The regional directors are elected from the members in the USPA region where they reside; national directors are elected at-large. Twice each year, the board meets to review and develop programs, set policy and guide the organization. The headquarters staff carries out the policies of the board, administers USPA programs and provides daily management needs.
Regional directors are responsible for safety, training and membership services in their region. They appoint at least one USPA Safety & Training Advisor at each recognized skydiving location for assistance. S&TAs provide advice and training for extraordinary jumps, verify rating renewal requirements and issue license tests. They are expected to address safety problems and violations and may be called upon to investigate skydiving accidents.
Board members want member feedback about USPA programs and policies. You can contact your regional director or any board member here. For issues related to specific DZs, you can use our locator to find the appointed Safety & Training Advisor.
USPA interacts with local, state and federal government officials, including those of the FAA, U.S. Congress, state transportation departments and legislators. Much of this activity focuses on monitoring and evaluating bills and regulatory action to assess their impact on skydiving.
USPA also has programs to educate local, state and federal agencies on the success of self-regulation. By communicating with pilots, airport managers and businesses, and air traffic controllers, USPA ensures that others know about and understand skydiving’s focus on safety, including safe integration in the national airspace.
USPA represents the membership on many aviation working groups, coalitions and councils that gather in Washington, D.C. USPA involvement ensures that skydivers retain their rights and interests in using airports, airspace and government services (like air traffic control).
USPA supports and promotes skydiving competitions and skydiving records. USPA-issued skydiving licenses are recognized internationally through the International Parachuting Commission of the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, which oversees all air sports.
USPA sanctions national competitions, selects the U.S. Parachute Team for world competitions and administers the U.S. Parachute Team Trust Fund. USPA holds annual National Championships in Formation Skydiving, Vertical and Mixed Formation Skydiving, Artistic Freefying and Freestyle, Canopy Formation, Canopy Piloting, Wingsuit Flying, Freefall Style and Accuracy Landing, and Speed Skydiving, as well as the National Collegiate Parachuting Championships.
Parachutist, the official monthly publication of USPA, dates back to 1957 and is mailed to all members; it’s the world’s largest skydiving publication.
USPA also publishes several monthly e-newsletters, a variety of manuals for training, competition, ratings and governance, as well as an annual calendar, collecting the year’s best skydiving photos from the U.S. and around the world.