UNITED STATES PARACHUTE ASSOCIATION FLIES INTO THE HISTORY BOOKS -Nation’s Premier Skydiving Organization Celebrates 60 Years of High-Flying Adventure

July 01, 2006 (PRLEAP.COM) Sports News
FREDERICKSBURG, VA – This year marks the 60th Anniversary of the United States Parachute Association (USPA), the nation’s first organization dedicated to the sport of skydiving. USPA’s 31,000 members and first-time jump students make nearly three million jumps per year from some 270 USPA-affiliated drop zones located throughout the United States and the world.

USPA has designated 2006 as “The Year of the Skydiver,” in celebration of the fast-paced adrenaline sport enjoyed by more than 300,000 Americans each year.

Founded on July 10, 1946, USPA has grown by leaps and bounds over the past half century, literally elevating the sport in each of the 50 states and beyond. USPA recently celebrated its founding with a star-spangled “Salute to the Skydiver” in May 2006—the largest-ever gathering of skydiving legends and pioneers of the sport. Festivities included a dedication of USPA’s modern new headquarters in Fredericksburg, Virginia, which will be located adjacent to the country’s first National Skydiving Museum, opening in 2009.

USPA’s new state-of-the-art facilities will not only capture America’s high-flying fascination with skydiving and carry on the excitement and legacy of the sport for future generations to enjoy, but also catch the attention of thousands of visitors who can easily see the landmark buildings from the most traveled highway corridor along the East Coast.

History of USPA
Skydiving as we know it today has only been around for about half a century. The sport was initially enjoyed by only a handful of professional parachutists, including adventurous barnstormers who performed at air shows during the early 1900s.

The first parachute jump from a plane in the United States is attributed to Captain Albert Berry in 1912 over Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis, MO. He was followed the next year by Georgia “Tiny” Boradwick who became the first woman to jump. She later went on to make the first freefall, albeit unplanned. While demonstrating the capability of parachutes to save Army Air Corps pilots in combat, her static line hung up on the tail of the plane, requiring her to cut herself loose and deploy her parachute by hand.

Parachuting grew as a hobby after WWII as former soldiers strapped surplus parachutes on their backs and bravely jumped into the wild blue yonder for fun. This abundance of surplus parachute equipment from the war made civilian access to the sport easier; competitions developed and skydiving soon gained exposure and acceptance nationally, as well as internationally.

In 1946 the National Parachute Jumpers-Riggers, Inc. formed in Mineola, New York, representing an estimated 100 members. The corporation was renamed the Parachute Club of America in 1957. The first commercial skydiving centers opened in the mid-1950s, including one in Orange, Massachusetts, considered the birthplace of skydiving.

The organization renamed itself again in 1967 as the United States Parachute Association (USPA).

About USPA’s new National Skydiving Headquarters
The new 8,200 square-foot National Skydiving Headquarters was “designed by skydivers for skydivers,” says Chris Needels, executive director of USPA. “The spacious site fulfills the needs of USPA membership and growth of the sport well into the 21st century.”

The headquarters is a dream that has been many years in the making. Features include a facade of grey and blue blocks and metal symbolizing gleaming aircraft and blue sky; a high-tech Membership Service Center to respond to all queries related to membership, training and safety, and a design and production area for Parachutist, the world’s largest skydiving publication.

About The National Skydiving Museum
The National Skydiving Museum, slated to open next door to USPA headquarters in a few years, will be an expansive 30,000 square foot exhibit space. Features include a theater presentation to introduce the thrill of skydiving; exhibits of significant milestones, world records and skydiving champions and pioneers; skydiving equipment from every era of the sport; a Hall of Fame gallery of photos and trophies; computer research stations to access historical data, and an exciting hands-on training exhibit for prospective skydivers. The museum will also re-create an actual drop zone with a hangar, canopy control simulator, aircraft mock-ups and packing mats.

William H. Ottley, considered one of the best known figures in skydiving and one of the sport’s leading proponents, was a visionary founder of the National Skydiving Museum. As a politically active member of USPA for most of his 76 years, including a distinguished tenure as executive director (1978-1992), USPA experienced the greatest growth in its 60-year history.

Ottley is one of four featured skydivers at the Smithsonian. It was because of Ottley’s friendship with Michael Collins, former Apollo astronaut and curator of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, that the museum immortalized the sport in 1976 with a 4-way formation skydiving display among its dazzling array of aviation artifacts.

About USPA
The United States Parachute Association is dedicated to the promotion of safe skydiving nationwide, establishing strict safety standards, training policies and programs at more than 270 USPA-affiliated skydiving schools and centers. Each year, USPA’s 31,000 members and hundreds of thousands of first-time jump students make approximately three million jumps in the United States. The Federal Aviation Administration recognizes and supports USPA's successful leadership role in the self-regulation of skydiving.

Founded in 1946, USPA celebrates its 60th Anniversary in 2006 with a year-long “Salute to the Skydiver,” introducing the sport to first-time skydivers nationwide and commemorating its place in aviation history. Jumping from perfectly good airplanes has not only become America’s ultimate air-action sport, but also a realization of mankind’s fantasy of human flight. For more information, visit www.uspa.org or call (540) 604-9740.

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