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Fast forward to the year 2050.
A historian writes ...
The United Skydivers & Parachutists Association arose as a phoenix from the demise of the United States Parachute Association. The old USPA went out of business because they had no customers.
The new USPA is an international organization of individuals that work collectively to ensure that skydiving and parachuting are not overly regulated by governments. That is it - the entire mission.
Independent companies certify instructors across the world. Commercial centers provide better instructional programs at a much lower cost. An unprecedented amount of coordination happened among various skydiving disciplines.
BASE jumping was the first discipline to grow commercial training and certification centers. BASE jumpers did what they needed to do after the first USPA cast them away. BASE jumpers coordinated with each other, taught each other and approved of each other's instructors (most of the time). They had well-used web sites and forums for free exchange of vital information. They provided detailed reports about injuries and fatalities without censorship. There were free discussions with many viewpoints - not one 'official' view that was forced fed to BASE jumpers. The sport grew and acquired government and public support. It became a worldwide spectator sport. BASE was accepted into the Olympics.
The BASE world seemed chaotic to outsiders. Who was in charge? Who made sure the instructors were qualified? This appeared so puzzling. The free enterprise nature of the discipline was the mechanism that drove standards upwards. Those companies providing the best equipment and training grew and prospered.
Student training programs developed outside of the first USPA. Ken Coleman expanded harness-hold training done previously by early jumpers like Bob Sinclair. Many years of work and frustration eventually lead to USPA adoption of this program. It became widely used but suffered from territorial rights. The old USPA stifled the growth by severely limiting training courses and certification of course directors. The old USPA did not readily recognize other countries' instructors.
Jumpers approached the FAA to recognize their certification. The FAA did and this lead to many companies certifying their instructors. The companies expanded and raised standards much faster than the old USPA could. The new commercial centers used the internet to communicate and coordinate their programs. They took their lead from the customers talking about them on jumper forums. They realized that their customers provided much better marketing than a shallow membership that had no tangible benefits.
Tandem jumping was the third discipline to establish independent training and certification. Most companies continued with their programs, even after the first USPA had a tandem training program. A proliferation of complicated rules and requirements that did not completely recognize the manufacturer's standards lead jumpers away from the USPA program. It was too complicated to even understand for most jumpers. The manufacturer's certification was recognized worldwide. The old USPA certificate was disbanded for no one wanted one.
Rob Laidlaw pioneered further education in relative work with Skydive University. SDU issued ratings. The old USPA did not fully recognize these ratings either. Jumpers flocked to SDU and their rating. It was actually the better rating. Laidlaw later added a certification for others to train more instructors. This spearheaded a tremendous growth in SDU campuses across the world.
All the Birdsuit schools met to establish a common and complete training program for jumpers learning to fly birdsuits and those that wanted to teach others how to fly birdsuits. They did this mostly via web sites, message boards and tremendous amounts of internet communication. They also had co-located boogies and competitions. The beginners to experts came together and exchanged ideas.
Other disciplines followed. Freefly schools started actually putting instructional material on their web sites, instead of just mentioning how much a training jump cost. CRW saw an expanding group because of widely disseminated information.
Each discipline realized actual skill and knowledge was the driving criteria for great instructors. Certifying officials did not care where or how jumpers learned and acquired skills. They only verified skill and knowledge with objective exams. It did not matter if one jumper took 5 years to acquire the skill another jumper took 1 month to acquire. As long as the jumper had the skill - right there during the exam - was all that mattered.
Fun jumpers benefited the most from this transition. They were no longer told 'oh you have to do this or that course before you can try that'. They just went out and had fun.
Fatality and injury rates plummeted because of the information available. New inventions helped save people's lives.
Today, each jumper has a personal GPS. It has an automatic homing and course correction mechanism that steers the parachute to the landing area in a safe way. The anti-collision controls are directed by a master computer that tracks each jumper's position in the pattern. Every jumper wears a personal transponder with a unique code. The ground proximity device automatically corrects the canopy orientation to an injury free landing. These devices are not mandated. Jumpers want them. Some jumpers will not do a jump without them.
Another invention, that helped BASE and Swooping get into the Olympics is the automatic air-bag ground. Each jumper wears a sensor that transmits position and velocity to the air-bag ground activator. If the jumper is coming in too fast or at an undesirable orientation, the air bag inflates to cushion the jumper's landing. All those hook turn and low turn injuries and fatalities disappeared with the introduction of the air-bag ground. Mike Burns runs the video of the air bag landings on Unreal TV.
The combination of all these controls is interesting to watch. A dummy was set up with the GPS, anti collision and personal transponder, as well as the latest version of the CYPRES. The dummy was thrown out to free fall to the ground. The CYPRES opened the canopy. The GPS steered it back to the DZ. The anti-collision transponder system worked the dummy into the pattern safely. The ground proximity device flared the canopy right on the money. These dummy jumps could do more dead centers in a row than the entire roster of Golden Knights had cumulatively.
On one jump the dummy had a main malfunction. The automatic cutaway, that was now part of the CYPRES, kicked in. The Collins lanyard, RSL and Skyhook took over the reserve deployment. The dummy got a DC on the reserve.
Today, the pioneering work of Robomatic produced world records in every discipline with the use of fully articulated robots. The robots are programmed to exit aircraft, fly in formation, track and the rest of the gizmos takeover the canopy control. So far, Robomatic has built 500-way flat fly 10 points jumps, 100-way 20 point freefly jumps, 350-way CRW stacks and birdsuit robots transferring between airplanes. The progress they have made will make it so no human ever has to jump again. The injury and fatality rates would go to zero. All the whuffoes would enjoy that. Government regulations would disappear. We can all go back to that ancient tradition of couch-potato-chipping - what ever that was?
Author's Note: This article is a creation of my mind. Any resemblance to real ideas, concepts, people or organizations was done on purpose.
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