New Faces, Fresh Ideas—The 2019 Winter USPA Board of Directors Meeting
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Saturday, July 20, 2024
New Faces, Fresh Ideas—The 2019 Winter USPA Board of Directors Meeting

New Faces, Fresh Ideas—The 2019 Winter USPA Board of Directors Meeting

A USPA Staff Report

Friday, March 1, 2019

Following USPA elections last fall, the USPA Board of Directors gathered for the first meeting of its three-year term February 1-3 in Dallas, Texas. The new board welcomed six new members, two of whom had previously been on the board and returned after a hiatus.

At the first meeting following board elections, the board elects its officers—president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, chairman and member-at-large—to comprise the Executive Committee. The new president, Chuck Akers, took the reins with Sherry Butcher, who served as president for the 2013-2016 term, as vice president. Additional officers are Secretary Ray Lallo, Treasurer Albert Berchtold, Chairman Randy Allison and Member-at-Large Luke Aikins.

With officers elected, the Executive Committee selected chairs for each of the board committees, and the chairs then filled their committees with other board members so that each committee could meet individually to handle the business at hand.

Competition News

Kirk Verner returned as chair for the new Competition Committee, which worked very well together last term.

The committee unanimously voted to accept the changes implemented at the 2019 International Parachuting Commission Plenary Meeting in Lille, France, earlier this year. This ensures that USPA adheres to applicable international competition rules.

The committee also made several changes to the USPA Nationals:

The committee changed the rules governing guest teams in non-open-class events at USPA Nationals to allow these teams to have up to 25 percent of the team (or one competitor, whichever is larger) as a guest without having to enter as a guest team. The committee hopes this will drive the level of competition in the lower classes while at the same time allow guests to compete on teams that may have otherwise turned them down because they were previously unable to compete for a medal. 

Following good participation at the test event at last year’s Nationals, intermediate vertical formation skydiving is now an official event starting at this year’s Nationals.

The committee made a number of changes to the mixed formation skydiving dive pool, as well as to other event rules. In addition, this year’s Nationals will include an intermediate-class MFS test event.

The canopy formation 2-way sequential open and pro-am classes will now have separate draws so that competitors can enter both classes.

For the National Collegiate Parachuting Championships, the committee decided to eliminate the classic accuracy event due to lack of participation. So with that vote and the acceptance by the full board, the longest-running event at the longest-running skydiving competition comes to an end. With the removal of that event, the committee also changed the name of the event to the National Collegiate Skydiving Championships, since sport accuracy is now the only parachuting event.

The board selected Skydive City Zephyrhills in Florida to host the 2020 USPA Nationals in all events sometime in early November. And Skydive Arizona in Eloy will host the 2020 USPA National Collegiate Skydiving Championships.

For questions regarding these or any other changes, email Director of Competition Steve Hubbard at

Safety & Training Changes

The Safety & Training Committee, again chaired by Michael Wadkins, discussed ways to improve reporting of non-fatal incidents, especially those involving students. To this end, the board instituted the following new Basic Safety Requirement: “On any student jump, the supervising instructor, or both instructors if a two-instructor jump, must submit a completed incident report to USPA within 48 hours if any automatic activation device was activated on the jump. No disciplinary action will result from this self-report.”

The board decided that, starting February 1, 2020, USPA Instructor Examiners must attend a USPA Standardization Meeting for their discipline within the last two years to be eligible to renew their examiner ratings. USPA is adding Static-Line and Instructor-Assisted Deployment Instructor Examiners to the standardization schedule in 2021, so this will not be a requirement for these examiners until January 1, 2022. IEs can register for standardization meetings at





Other Committee Business

Other meeting highlights include:

The board approved measures that will allow members to renew their ratings online along with their membership renewal, eliminating the need for the paper form for instructional rating holders. This functionality will be available only for renewing current ratings, not for initial or expired ratings. USPA plans to release this feature soon, so look for more information in the coming months!

Several board members, USPA staff and industry advisors are forming a task force for USPA to continue efforts to comply with data privacy policies for the protection and sharing of digital member information with outside sources.

Each board member may now have a link to a website or social media page dedicated to that director’s board duties added to their contact information. The links are available at and


This first meeting of the new term allowed the new board members to get their feet wet and learn more about how USPA’s board of directors operates and makes decisions. With some fresh faces along with the veterans who bring years of experience and knowledge to the board, the new term promises to be exciting and continue to move USPA and our sport forward.

The board next meets in Arlington, Virginia, July 12-14.


With the seating of the 2019-2021 USPA Board of Directors, USPA said farewell to eight departing board members:


Ron Bell

The USPA Board elected Ron Bell as Pacific Regional Director at the start of 2018 to fill the vacancy created by a resigning director. He attended two meetings and qualified to run for re-election for the 2019-2021 board term, but USPA selected him as its staff director of safety and training, and he was required to resign from the board. Though his board term was brief, his many USPA instructional ratings and his passion for training and safety allowed him to serve as an able advisor to the Safety and Training Committee.


Steve Helffrich

Steve Helffrich gained election to the board’s 2013-2015 term as the Southern Regional Director, and he served on the Constitution and Bylaws, Nominations and Elections and Group Membership Committees. After his re-election for the 2016-2018 term, he became chairman of the Membership Services Committee, where he was a strong advocate for programs that best served USPA members and ensured that USPA honored deserving skydivers with the USPA Lifetime Achievement Award and Gold Medal for Meritorious Service. That term, the board elected him vice president, placing him on the Executive Committee. He also served on the Governance and Group Membership Committees.


Shawn Hill

Members in the Mountain Region elected USPA lifetime member Shawn Hill to the 2016-2018 board as their regional director. As co-owner and manager of one of the world’s busiest drop zones—Skydive Arizona in Eloy—as well as an airline transport pilot and an FAA-certified aircraft mechanic, Hill brought deep knowledge and experience to the board from the drop zone and aircraft sides of the sport. His interactions with thousands of USPA members over the years also gave him insight as he served on the Membership Services Committee. Since Skydive Arizona hosted scores of national and collegiate competitions over the years, Hill shared the experience he gained at those events as an advisor to the Competition Committee. “It has been an honor serving the organization that has shaped my life,” said Hill. “I have learned a great deal from my experience on the board and hope to use this knowledge to continue supporting our organization in the future!”


Al King

Al King is one of only two individuals who first served on the USPA staff before the membership elected him to the board. From 1978 through 1985 he was USPA Deputy Executive Director—a catch-all title for lots of jobs—where he was instrumental in establishing the revolutionary AFF program as a legitimate USPA training program. He was elected to the board as the Northeast Regional Director for the 2013-2015 term and was re-elected for the 2016-2018 term. He was on the Finance and Budget and Group Membership Committees for both terms and the Safety and Training Committee for the last term. In this last term, the board elected him chairman of the board, making him a member of the Executive Committee, where his historical knowledge and diplomacy earned admirers. In 2017, when USPA began to consider a $10,000 donation to fight the idea of air traffic control privatization, King suggested that USPA double down and donate $20,000, which the board approved. USPA helped general aviation win that fight and garnered the admiration of many general aviation organizations. “I am proud of never having missed a meeting, conference call or vote while serving as Regional Director or on the Executive, Safety and Training, Group Membership and Finance and Budget Committees,” he said. “Of course, that is what is expected.”


Tom Noonan

Tom Noonan was elected to the 2009-2010 board as Southeast Regional Director, serving on the Safety and Training and Finance and Budget Committees. He took a break and then returned to the 2013-2015 board as a National Director, winning board election to the Executive Committee as the member at large. He also won re-election to the 2016-2018 board. Noonan focused on safety and was among those who championed the 200-jumps-before-wingsuiting Basic Safety Requirement, increasing the minimum opening altitude for D-licensed skydivers from 2,000 to 2,500 feet and instituting new tandem-related BSRs. Noonan also pushed for mandatory standardization meetings for all examiners. “With respect to tandem jumping, I am pleased to see that the incident rates related to things like aggressive low turns under canopy have dramatically decreased,” he said.


Chris Nunn

Chris Nunn, a U.S. Army veteran, was elected to the 2016-2018 board as Mideastern Regional Director, representing skydivers in Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia and lower Michigan. He served on the Group Membership Committee and the Safety and Training Committee, where he put the knowledge gained from his 10,500-plus jumps; coach, static-line, IAD and tandem instructor examiner ratings; AFF instructor rating; and master’s degree in project management to good use. Notably, Nunn applied his leadership skills to help restore good relations and goodwill between squabbling members and DZs in his region.


Jay Stokes

National Director Jay Stokes spent 12 years over five terms (three two-year terms and two three-year terms) on the board, serving the entire time on the Executive Committee. He first won election for the 2007-2008 term, and the board immediately elected him vice president. In subsequent years, the board elected him president three times (for the 2009-2010, 2011-2012 and 2016-2018 terms) and chairman once (2013-2015 term). Despite a busy schedule as a full-time instructor and an active examiner, Stokes was accessible to any member who had a complaint or just wanted a conversation. Holding every possible USPA rating, he also worked hard to ensure that USPA’s rating system and instructional programs are of the highest quality.


Tony Thacker

Gaining election as the Mid-Atlantic Regional Director for the 2003-2004 board term, Tony Thacker continued the Thacker legacy by succeeding his father, Gene Paul Thacker, whose nine terms on the board ended in 2002. Tony Thacker earned re-election for the 2005-2006 term, but then took an absence from the board before again becoming regional director for the 2011-2012, 2013-2015 and 2016-2018 board terms. During those terms he chaired the Membership Services Committee and served on the Safety and Training and Finance and Budget Committees.



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