Imagine a place that captures all of our sport’s exciting and dynamic history, where jumpers and non-jumpers alike can see the evolution of skydiving and the many facets of its rich and storied past. That’s the dream of the International Skydiving Museum and Hall of Fame, which the late USPA Executive Director Emeritus William H. Ottley conceived decades ago. The museum organization has always had its own board of trustees, distinctly separate from USPA and its board of directors. A 501(c)3 charitable organization first chartered in 1972, the museum has endured a variety of name changes and even changes to its design and planned location. It was originally called the American Museum of Sport Parachuting and Air Safety, then the simpler National Skydiving Museum before taking its current name. In keeping with Ottley’s dream, original plans called for the museum to be constructed adjacent to USPA’s headquarters building in Fredericksburg, Virginia. In fact, when USPA purchased its one acre, the museum simultaneously purchased an adjoining four acres. USPA even designed its building so as to share a common entryway atrium with the planned 20,000-square-foot museum.
The museum has since changed locations, and design plans for the museum and its skydiving Hall of Fame are now firm and incorporate a planned iFly wind tunnel at a location in the north-Orlando area. Fundraising is well underway and picking up steam, with more than one-third of the projected $14 million raised or committed. The planning and design incorporate state-of-the-art immersive technology to virtually put visitors on the airplane and in the air with skydivers. The museum’s collection is burgeoning, too, with donated films, books and historic parachute equipment and components catalogued and in climate-controlled storage waiting for eventual display.
USPA has always been supportive of the museum idea, starting with a $25,000 donation to the museum in 1999. After moving to Fredericksburg, USPA provided in-kind support by way of museum office space and free and discounted ad space in Parachutist magazine. The donated office space ended in 2013 when the museum moved its office to Florida, but the free and discounted ad space continues. To date, the cash and in-kind donations total $87,000. At the recent USPA Board meeting, the museum’s trustees pitched a new program to USPA. As an international museum, the trustees plan to solicit long-term support from the many skydiving associations in other countries—think the British Parachute Association and the Australian Parachute Federation. But first, the museum offered USPA sole status as Host Country Affiliate if USPA could commit to long-term support. USPA’s board agreed, and the association will donate $25,000 per year to the museum over the next six years—that’s about 63 cents per member per year. With the previous cash and in-kind support and the continuing discounted Parachutist ad rates, the $150,000 over the next six years will bring the total to $296,200 in cash and in-kind support from USPA.
In return, and in addition to sole Host Country Affiliate status, the museum will display USPA members’ competition results, skydiving records and national and international awards and honors. Within the museum, USPA will be able to promote its affiliated Group Member drop zones on an interactive map. Finally, USPA members will receive discounted admission fees and a discount on items in the museum store.
Whether you have already donated to the museum or not, check out its website and plan to attend its upcoming Hall of Fame weekend November 1-4 at Zephyrhills, Florida, where you can meet and talk to skydiving’s pioneers and current celebrities. Let’s continue to support the museum; it’s our history and we need to preserve it and share it.