The United States Parachute Association once again hosted the Dropzone Operators Conference in conjunction with the Board of Directors meeting and alongside the Parachute Industry Association’s biennial symposium in Daytona Beach, FL on Monday March 29th. It was very exciting to attend and see so many familiar faces (I had not attended since 2009 in Reno, NV) and many new faces.

A reception was held Sunday night. I had the pleasure of speaking with “the movers and shakers” of the industry along with brand new Dropzone Owners. It was exciting to run down the benefits of DiverDriver.com and the concept of how the new Jump Pilot can use the website.

Many thanks go directly to Randy Ottinger, Director of Government Relations for USPA who initially suggested I attend. Thanks also go to USPA Executive Director Ed Scott and USPA President Sherry Butcher. Your hospitality is much appreciated and I look forward to many years of working collaboratively on issues affecting flight operations at our many (AND GROWING) dropzones.

As I reported to you before, USPA has asked and I have donated guidance on jump plane formation flying from this website. It has been incorporated into USPA’s material available to all. At the beginning of the conference Randy Ottinger kindly acknowledged this contribution. The rest of the day was packed with very informative speakers and conference sponsors. Of looming concern is the deadline in 2020 for ADS-B installations on all aircraft utilizing the National Airspace System. Cost has been coming down in recent years. The concern is that operators will wait so long for price to decrease that when they act to install there will be no capacity left with the avionics shops available in the USA. Those who have and have used ADS-B so far have very positive things to say on improving situational awareness. Whether there is a deadline coming or not you can start taking advantage of ADS-B “in” today. The mandate for ADS-B “out” comes in 2020 and is unlikely to shift as the FAA is keenly interested in cutting costs by reducing ground based radar sites.

Following the ADS-B presentation, Bryan Burke from Skydive Arizona spoke on “The Next Generation of Risk”. He spoke of how the sport has evolved and what trends we have seen in past decades with fatalities. How does this effect you as the DiverDriver? If you are not a jumper already you my have difficulty conceptualizing the needs of jumpers in different skydiving disciplines. There are more disciplines now than every before in skydiving and “mixing traffic” can be daunting. SDA has taken time to try and address these special concerns especially with regards to wingsuit and angle/tracking jumps.

After a short break we returned to the hall to hear Rich Grimm speak about emergency preparedness. Now, this is not exactly the purview of the jump pilot to take action if they see someone hurt or witness and accident. But your nature as human being wanting to solve problems will drive you to act. So, get some training and read through Rich’s great material. Frist, don’t panic. Nothing worse than people running around yelling and screaming at each other. Use radios or go TO the person you need to talk to. Be clear, and direct. Be clear and direct if you have the need to contact emergency responders. They will need information so they can send the appropriate response. And most importantly to you as a DiverDriver was a discussion on whether or not to suspend jump operations if there is a serious injury.

Next up was a talk from Tom “Mr. Everest” Noonan on the goings on with  tandem jumping and safety. How does this effect you? Well near the end of his discussion Tom displayed a photo of a Caravan in nose down vertical descent near background of a tandem in drogue fall. That photo has been feature here last year when I spoke out about “The money shot”. It’s not worth it. You don’t get down faster. It is only harder on your aircraft and reduces your safety margins with the passengers who trust you.

Well it was a fantastic time and way more than I could ever type out fully here. Just know that I highly recommend attending the Dropzone Operators Conference in two years along with the PIA symposium. Cross pollinating helps all improve the safety of the sport we love and the industry we work in.