United States Parachute Association > Experienced Skydivers > SIM > Section 2

Section 2: Basic Safety Requirements and Waivers

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Section Summary

Skydiving is based on the Basic Safety Requirements (BSRs) that have been established as the cornerstone of a self-policing principle. The BSRs represent the industry standard generally agreed upon as necessary for an adequate level of safety. Research can be conducted to develop and document new methods and procedures within the BSRs and, when necessary, under waivers to the BSRs, to establish a justifiable basis to modify these standards. This section includes two fundamental, interrelated USPA publications: the Basic Safety Requirements and Waivers to the Basic Safety Requirements.

Who needs this section?

  • jumpers studying for license tests
  • USPA instructional rating candidates
  • drop zone staff responsible for setting policies
  • USPA officials


A. How the BSRs Affect Safety

  1. The BSRs promote practices aimed at eliminating incidents in skydiving and, by doing so, make skydiving safer and more enjoyable.
  2. The BSRs are established by evaluating incidents and identifying their root causes.
  3. Safety is accomplished by reducing the risk factors, which requires everyone involved in skydiving to:
    1. acquire knowledge and make a continuing effort to increase and improve that knowledge
    2. practice and prepare for both the expected and the unexpected
    3. evaluate the risk factors
    4. accurately evaluate personal capabilities and limitations
    5. stay alert and aware of surroundings
    6. keep options open
    7. exercise good judgment
  4. Failure to follow the BSRs may not always result in an incident, but many incidents are the result of not following these risk-reduction procedures.

B. Waivers and Changes to the BSRs

  1. Also included in this section, “Waivers to the Basic Safety Requirements” describes procedures for approving and documenting exceptions to the BSRs.
    1. Waivers provide for the responsible development of new techniques and methods.
    2. The BSRs are designed to establish safety standards for common situations; however, local circumstances may allow for greater tolerance in some cases.
    3. The purpose for filing a waiver is to document that the particular BSR has been evaluated in the individual case and that the prescribed deviation and conditions do not represent an unacceptable compromise of safety.
    4. Waiverability
      1. Each BSR is categorized for the level of authority necessary for the approval of the waiver.
      2. Each BSR requires full board approval of a waiver, except for those designated with an [S] (S&TA or Examiner), or an [E] (Executive Committee).
  2. The BSRs are changed from time to time by the USPA Board of Directors as equipment and practices develop and evolve.

2-1 Basic Safety Requirements and Waivers

Note: Every BSR requires full board approval if a waiver is requested, unless the BSR has a marginal notation of [S] or [E], which identifies its waiverability by others as indicated in Section 2-2.

A. Applicability copy link

  1. These procedures are applicable worldwide, apply to all jumps except those made under military orders, or those training personnel under military orders, and those made because of in-flight emergencies. However, USPA Licensed skydivers when jumping outside of the United States, its territories and possessions, must comply with either the USPA Basic Safety Requirements or the rules and regulations of the country where the jump is being made, but must comply with the USPA BSR when instructing student skydivers. Compliance with these procedures is mandatory and will protect the best interests of both the participants and the general public.
  2. A “skydive” is defined as the descent of a person to the surface from an aircraft in flight when he or she uses or intends to use a parachute during all or part of that descent.
  3. All persons participating in skydiving should be familiar with the Skydiver’s Information Manual and all federal, state, and local regulations and rules pertaining to skydiving.

B. Compliance with Federal Regulations copy link

  1. For skydives made within the U.S. and its territories and possessions, no skydive may be made in violation of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations.
  2. FAA regulations include the use of restraint systems in the aircraft by all skydivers during movement on the surface, takeoff, and landing. [FAR 91.107]

C. Medical Requirements copy link

  1. All persons engaging in skydiving must:
    1. Possess at least a current FAA Third-Class Medical Certificate; or
    2. Carry a certificate of physical and mental fitness for skydiving from a registered physician; or
    3. Agree with the USPA recommended medical statement in Section 4-3.
  2. Any skydiver acting as tandem parachutist in command must possess a current FAA Third-Class Medical or military flight or diver physicals that are required by their position or duty status by their military command authority. Alternatively, if acting as tandem parachutist in command outside the United States, its territories or possessions, a current medical certificate recognized by the civil aviation authority of the country where they will be exercising their tandem rating privileges may be substituted.
    1. A tandem parachutist in command with a medical condition that would not allow the use of their FAA medical certificate to act as a pilot in command of an aircraft may not act as a tandem parachutist in command.
    2. A tandem parachutist in command with a medical condition that would not allow the use of the privileges of their USPA accepted equivalent medical certificate may not act as a tandem parachutist in command.
  3. Any foreign national in the United States, its territories or possessions for the purpose of qualifying as a tandem parachutist in command, or to fulfill rating renewal or currency requirements, must be under the direct supervision of a tandem examiner and must possess a current FAA Third-Class Medical Certificate or a current medical certificate recognized by the civil aviation authority of the country where they will be exercising their tandem rating privileges.

D. Age Requirements copy link

  1. For skydives made within the U.S. and its territories and possessions, skydivers are to be at least 18 years of age. [E, during interim]
  2. For skydives made outside the U.S. and its territories and possessions, the minimum age is specified by the country’s (or its national airsport control’s) requirements. Such skydivers who are under 16 years of age will not be issued a USPA license.
  3. A waiver for tandem jumps may be issued to terminally ill persons under the age of 18 with manufacturer approval. The organizer of such jumps must submit a USPA Waiver Request form to the director of safety and training and the chairman of safety and training committee for approval prior to such jumps.

E. Membership copy link

USPA membership is required of any skydiver cleared for self-supervision at a USPA Group Member drop zone, except for non-resident foreign nationals that are a member of their own national aeroclub.

F. Alcohol and Drugs copy link

  1. No person may make a parachute jump, or attempt to make a jump, if that person is or appears to be under the influence of either;
    1. alcohol.
    2. any drug that affects that person's faculties in any way contrary to safety.
  2. No person may make a parachute jump, or attempt to make a jump, within 8 hours after the consumption of any alcoholic beverage.

G. Student Skydivers copy link

Note: All references to USPA instructional rating holders apply to higher rating holders in that training discipline.

  1. General [E]
    1. All student training programs must be conducted under the supervision as required by an appropriately rated USPA Instructor until the student is issued a USPA A license.
    2. A person conducting, training, or supervising student jumps must hold a USPA instructional rating according to the requirements that follow.
    3. 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 AAD was activated on the jump. No disciplinary action will result from this self-report.
    4. Instructional rating holders must give each of their students a complete gear check before boarding the aircraft and verify that their student's gear is in proper jumping configuration.
  2. First-jump course [E]
    1. All first-jump non-method-specific training must be conducted by a USPA Instructor or a USPA Coach under the supervision of a USPA Instructor.
    2. All method-specific training must be conducted by a USPA Instructor rated in the method for which the student is being trained.
  3. All students must receive training in the following areas, sufficient to jump safely [E]:
    1. equipment
    2. aircraft and exit procedures
    3. freefall procedures (except IAD and static-line jumps)
    4. deployment procedures and parachute emergencies
    5. canopy flight procedures
    6. landing procedures and emergencies
  4. Advancement criteria copy link
    1. IAD and static line [E]
      1. All jumps must be conducted by a USPA Instructor in that student’s training method.
      2. Before being cleared for freefall, all students must perform three successive jumps with practice deployments while demonstrating the ability to maintain stability and control from exit to opening.
      3. All students must be under the direct supervision of an appropriately rated instructor until completing one successful clear-and-pull.
      4. Following a successful clear-and-pull, each student must be supervised in the aircraft and in freefall by a USPA Coach or Instructor until demonstrating stability and heading control prior to and within five seconds after initiating two intentional disorienting maneuvers involving a back-to-earth presentation.
      5. All ground training must be conducted by an instructor in that student’s training method, until demonstrating stability and heading control prior to and within five seconds after initiating two intentional disorienting maneuvers involving a back-to-earth presentation.
    2. Harness-hold program copy link
      1. All students must jump with two USPA AFF rating holders until demonstrating the ability to reliably deploy in the belly-to-earth orientation at the correct altitude without assistance, except:
        1. Students who have been trained in a wind tunnel may jump with one AFF rating holder after demonstrating the following in the wind tunnel:
          • basic stability (neutral body position)
          • heading control
          • controlled forward and backward motion
          • controlled turns
          • proper response to hand signals
          • simulated altimeter checks and time awareness
          • wave-offs
          • simulated main parachute activation
        2. The wind tunnel training and tunnel flight sessions must be conducted by an AFF rating holder, or a tunnel instructor who is under the direct supervision of an AFF rating holder. All training must be documented.
      2. All students must jump with one USPA AFF rating holder, exit safely, maintain stability, and deploy at the planned altitude without assistance prior to attempting disorienting maneuvers.
      3. All students must jump under the direct supervision of an appropriately rated USPA Instructor until demonstrating stability and heading control prior to and within five seconds after initiating two intentional disorienting maneuvers involving a back-to-earth presentation.
    3. Tandem training jumps [E]
      1. Any USPA member conducting a tandem jump must have successfully completed a tandem instructor course conducted by the manufacturer of the tandem parachute system used in the parachute operation, been certified by the appropriate parachute manufacturer or tandem course provider as being properly trained on the use of the specific tandem parachute system to be used, and must hold a current USPA Tandem instructor rating.
      2. For progressive training requirements following tandem jumps, refer to “Crossover training.”
      3. Intentional back-to-earth or vertical orientations that cause tandem freefall speeds exceeding that of droguefall are prohibited.
      4. Tandem equipment instruction must be conducted by an individual approved by the tandem equipment manufacturer of that system.
      5. All student tandem skydives must be conducted in accordance with the specific manufacturer’s age requirements for the tandem system used for that jump.
      6. Use of any extendable or fixed pole camera mounts, attached or handheld by the tandem instructor or student, is prohibited.
      7. Any person acting as parachutist in command on a tandem skydive is required to conduct system-handles checks as defined by the manufacturer of the specified tandem equipment being used immediately after deploying the drogue.
      8. Any person making a tandem skydive may not perform a turn of more than 90 degrees below 500 feet AGL.
      9. Tandem instructors must have at least 200 tandem skydives before any camera device may be used, held or attached to the tandem instructor or tandem student.
  5. Crossover training [E] copy link
    1. Students may transfer after the first or subsequent jumps to another training method after demonstrating sufficient knowledge and skill in the areas of equipment, aircraft, exits, freefall maneuvers, deployment, emergency procedures, canopy control, and rules and recommendations to enter into that program at a comparable level of proficiency and training.
    2. Students previously trained in a tandem program may continue in a harness-hold program or must demonstrate a solo exit and practice deployment with stability in the IAD or static-line program prior to advancing to freefall.
    3. Students who have completed at least two tandem jumps and demonstrated the ability to reliably pull the drogue release at the correct altitude, maintain heading and a stable body position, without requiring any control or altitude prompts from the tandem instructor, may progress to single instructor AFF jumps after completion of solo ground training.
    4. Students previously trained in a harness-hold program must have exited stable without assistance or performed a stable IAD or static-line jump with a practice deployment supervised by a USPA IAD or Static-Line Instructor prior to performing freefall jumps with any non-AFF-rated USPA Instructor.
    5. Students previously trained in Categories A-C in SL, IAD and tandem programs may jump with one AFF instructor after demonstrating the AFF wind tunnel requirements.
  6. Students training for group freefall [S]
    1. Student freefall training for group freefall jumps must be conducted by either a USPA Coach or a D-license holder approved to make coach jumps by their S&TA, under the supervision of a USPA Instructor, and;
    2. The maximum group size allowed for any group skydive is four if that group includes any solo students cleared for self-supervision. The solo student must have successfully demonstrated the skills of ISP Category G. There must be at least one instructor, coach or D-license holder (that has been approved by an S&TA) for each student involved.
  7. Instruction of foreign students [E]
    1. Foreign non-resident instructional rating holders appropriately and currently rated by their national aero club may train students from that nation in the U.S., provided the instruction is conducted in accordance with the USPA Basic Safety Requirements.
    2. Appropriately and currently rated USPA instructional rating holders may assist in this training.
  8. No skydiver will simultaneously perform the duties of a USPA instructional rating holder and pilot-in-command of an aircraft in flight.
  9. All student jumps, including tandems, must be completed between official sunrise and sunset.

H. Winds copy link

Maximum ground winds

  1. For all solo students
    1. 14 mph for ram-air canopies
    2. 10 mph for round reserves
  2. For licensed skydivers are unlimited

I. Minimum Opening Altitudes copy link

Minimum container opening altitudes above the ground for skydivers are:

  1. Tandem jumps–5,000 feet AGL [E]
  2. All students and A-license holders–3,000 feet AGL [E]
  3. B-license holders–2,500 feet AGL [E]
  4. C- and D-license holders–2,500 feet AGL [S] (waiverable to no lower than 2,000 feet AGL)

J. Drop Zone Requirements copy link

  1. Areas used for skydiving should be unobstructed, with the following minimum radial distances to the nearest hazard:
    1. solo students and A-license holders—330 feet
    2. B- and C-license holders and all tandem skydives—165 feet
    3. D-license holders—40 feet
  2. Hazards are defined as telephone and power lines, towers, buildings, bodies of water, highways, vehicles, and clusters of trees covering more than 32,292 square feet. However, clusters of trees must not be greater than 10% of the designated landing area.
  3. Waivers to landing areas that do not meet the minimum radial distance to the nearest hazard requirement, as prescribed in 2-1.J.1, may be approved by the Regional Director and the USPA Director of Safety and Training. These areas may be non-circular and similar in square footage to those prescribed in section 2-1.J.1
  4. Manned ground-to-air communications (e.g., radios, panels, smoke, lights) are to be present on the drop zone during skydiving operations.

K. Pre-jump Requirements copy link

The appropriate altitude and surface winds are to be determined prior to conducting any skydive.

L. Extraordinary Skydives copy link

  1. Night, water, and demonstration jumps are to be performed only with the advice of the appropriate USPA S&TA, Examiner, or Regional Director.
  2. Pre-planned breakaway jumps are to be made by only class C- and D-license holders using FAA TSO’ed equipment. [E]
  3. Demonstration jumps into Level 2 areas require a D license with a USPA PRO Rating for all jumpers, including both tandem jump participants. [E]
  4. Contact canopy formation activity is prohibited on tandem jumps. [E]
  5. Tandem jumps into stadiums are prohibited. [E]
  6. Any person performing a wingsuit jump must have at least 200 skydives, and hold a current skydiving license. [E]
  7. Freefall within 500 feet vertically or horizontally of any student under parachute, including tandem students, is prohibited. (This requirement excludes scenarios where— during a training jump—a student’s instructor(s) and videographer may be within this distance.) Freefall within 500 feet vertically or horizontally of any licensed skydiver under canopy requires prior planning and agreement between the canopy pilot and the skydiver in freefall.

M. Parachute Equipment copy link

  1. FAA regulations [FAR 105.19] require that when performing night jumps, each skydiver must display a light that is visible for at least three statute miles from the time the jumper is under an open parachute until landing.
  2. All students are to be equipped with the following equipment until they have obtained a USPA A license:
    1. a rigid helmet (except tandem students)
    2. a piggyback harness-and-container system that includes a single-point riser release and a reserve static line
    3. a visually accessible altimeter (except tandem students)
    4. a functional automatic activation device that meets the manufacturer’s recommended service schedule
    5. a ram-air main canopy suitable for student use
    6. a steerable reserve canopy appropriate to the student’s weight
    7. for freefall, a ripcord-activated, spring-loaded, pilot-chute-equipped main parachute or a bottom- of-container (BOC) throw-out pilot chute
  3. Students must receive additional ground instruction in emergency procedures and deployment-specific information before jumping any unfamiliar system.
  4. All instructional rating holders must have a visibly accessible altimeter when conducting student jumps.
  5. All skydivers wearing a round main or reserve canopy and all solo students must wear flotation gear when the intended exit, opening, or landing point is within one mile of an open body of water (an open body of water is defined as one in which a skydiver could drown). [S]

N. Special Altitude equipment and Supplementary Oxygen copy link

Supplementary oxygen available on the aircraft is mandatory on skydives made from higher than 15,000 feet (MSL).

2-2 Waivers to the Basic Safety Requirements copy link

A. Why BSRs may need to be waived

  1. The Basic Safety Requirements represent commonly accepted standards necessary to promote safety in average conditions.
  2. Since these standards may be an unnecessary burden in some individual circumstances, USPA provides procedures to document exceptions, known as waivers to the BSRs.
  3. These waivers also provide for the responsible research and development of improved techniques and methods.

B. Classification of Waivers

  1. Waivers to the Basic Safety Requirements are filed at three levels:
    1. the USPA S&TA or USPA Examiner
    2. the Executive Committee of USPA
    3. full Board of Directors of USPA
  2. Neither USPA Headquarters nor any other person or group of persons except those here stated has the authorization to file a waiver to any BSR.
  3. Each BSR is waiverable only by the full board, except for those BSRs designated as being waiverable by:
    1. S&TA or Examiner only [S]
    2. Executive Committee of the USPA Board only [E]

C. Procedures for Filing Waivers copy link

  1. Waivers are to be filed only when the person(s) filing the waiver is assured that there will be no compromise of safety.
  2. Inspections
    1. The person(s) filing the waiver should make periodic inspections to ensure that safety is not being compromised and to determine if the waiver should be rescinded.
    2. In the case of waivers by the Executive Committee, the Regional Director will perform these inspections and make recommendations to the Board.
  3. Form of waiver
    1. Any waiver filed by an S&TA or Examiner except for the deployment altitude exception in 2-1 I.4. will be in writing on the waiver form available for download at uspa.org.
    2. A copy of the waiver will be sent to both the USPA Regional Director and USPA Headquarters.
    3. The S&TA may waive the minimum deployment altitude for C and D license holders from 2,500 feet down to 2,000 feet for a jump or a series of jumps if necessary.
    4. The deployment altitude waiver does not require any written notification to USPA Headquarters or the Regional Director, however the S&TA should make a note of the waiver for his own records.
  4. S&TAs are not to file waivers for skydiving activities outside their assigned area.
  5. If there is a conflict between an S&TA and an Examiner as to whether a waiver should be filed, the decision of the S&TA will be final.
  6. The Executive Committee or full Board of Directors will not approve a waiver without consulting and notifying the local S&TA or USPA Regional Director.
  7. Any waivers filed by S&TAs or Examiners must specify a location with a copy to USPA Headquarters and the USPA Regional Director for that location.
  8. The waiver will remain in place permanently unless the drop zone changes ownership or location, or the S&TA or Regional Director rescinds the waiver.

D. Filing of Waivers

  1. Persons filing waivers will maintain permanent records of all waivers filed by themselves.
    1. The S&TA and Regional Director will maintain permanent records of all waivers filed for skydiving activities within their area.
    2. The records will be kept in such a manner as to indicate those waivers currently in effect and those that have been rescinded.
  2. USPA Headquarters will maintain a permanent record of all waivers.