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The U.S. Parachute Association reports that the breathtaking sport of skydiving continued to grow in 2011 and is poised to thrill even more jumpers throughout Leap Year 2012.
Last year, more than a half million people took the leap for the first time at some 200 USPA-affiliated skydiving centers across the country. Whether to cross an item off their bucket lists or discover a new hobby and passion, first-timers took the life-changing leap and experienced the thrill of a lifetime.
In addition to first-jumpers, USPA also reports an upsurge in experienced skydivers of all ages. First-timers and licensed skydivers together made more than 3.1 million jumps in 2011. At year’s end, USPA boasted membership of 33,515 – its highest since January 2002, shortly after the 9-11 attacks wreaked havoc on the aviation industry.
Even with skydiving clearly on the rise, accident numbers continue to remain low. In 2011, 25 people died skydiving in the U.S. – one out of every 125,000 jumps. Additionally, the five-year average of skydiving fatalities shows a steady decline, with an average of 22 per year over the last five years compared to 25 per year from 2002 to 2006 and 35 per year from 1997 to 2001.
Skydiving continues to improve its safety record due largely to safer equipment and better training. Student accidents are a small percentage of the total; most injuries and fatalities involve experienced skydivers attempting advanced maneuvers. USPA continues to make the sport safer by developing additional training programs and conducting its annual Safety Day - scheduled for March 10 this year – where drop zones across the country hold safety seminars and refresher training.
“We’re constantly striving to reduce the risk and increase the level of safety, especially for students,” said USPA Executive Director Ed Scott. “The sport’s continued growth attests to this improved safety and the indescribable life-altering experience of jumping out of a plane. With Leap Year upon us, what better time to take that leap?”