What You MIssed At The PIA Symposium 2019

Friday, February 22, 2019

Did that life do that pesky thing where it got in the way and thwarted your ambitions of attending this year’s PIA symposium? No matter the reason, whether your travel plans didn’t pan out or you just couldn’t get the time off, fear not. Here are the highlights of what you missed at the 2019 PIA Symposium!


A New DZ To Host Nationals

Early in the week, Skydive City in Zephyrhills, FL did something remarkable: they won the bid to host the USPA National Championships in 2020. This is pretty darn remarkable when you consider who they were up against: Skydive AZ, Skydive Perris and Skydive Chicago. If you don’t know who DZO’s Susan Stark and Joannie Murphy are, you soon will. These ladies are sharp and serious about taking Skydive City to another level.

We anticipate that the 2020 US Nationals is going to be good!

Are you a DZ using Burble? Register your DZ with Sigma to allow Burble integration at your dropzone.
Are you a DZ using Burble? Register your DZ with Sigma to allow Burble integration at your dropzone.
Pat Thomas Awarded the USPA Lifetime Achievement Award

At a banquet held during the PIA Symposium, Pat Thomas graciously received her USPA Lifetime Achievement Award. For almost 30 years, Pat Thomas and her company Sun Path Products have been major supporters of competitive skydiving. In addition to this legacy of endorsement and sponsorship for competitors and teams in all disciplines, Pat Thomas also headed the team that organized nine Parachute Industry Association Symposiums! Her tremendous support of USPA, its board meetings and DZO conferences, and the sport skydiving community made her a unanimous selection for the USPA Lifetime Achievement Award.

Photo courtesy of Elliot Byrd of Byrd's Eye Photography
Photo courtesy of Elliot Byrd of Byrd’s Eye Photography
Bill Coe Honored with the PIA Don Beck Award

Bill Coe, founder of Performance Designs, was awarded with the Don Beck Memorial Achievement Award. As the highest PIA award, this award is granted to individuals for parachute or skydiving achievements that have stood the test of time. Bill Coe was recognized for the consistent, and continuing, parachuting advancements and improvements to Ram-air canopies that have helped our industry make such great strides.

Photo courtesy of Elliot Byrd of Byrd's Eye Photography
Photo courtesy of Elliot Byrd of Byrd’s Eye Photography
Melanie Curtis and Sandy Reid Awarded the PIA Mentor Award

During the closing banquet, the newly established PIA Mentor Award was given to Melanie Curtis and Sandy Reid. Melanie Curtis (coach, speaker, and author) and Sandy Reid (mastermind of Rigging Innovations) were each recognized for their contribution to the knowledge and skill sets of others in the parachuting industry.

Mark Baur Awarded the USPA Gold Medal for Meritorious Service

Mark Baur was presented with the USPA Gold Medal forMeritorius Service “For his contributions and innovations in parachute rigging and equipment, and for many years of teaching and mentoring riggers and skydiving instructors to improve the skill levels of all involved.”

Photo courtesy of Elliot Byrd of Byrd's Eye Photography
Photo courtesy of Elliot Byrd of Byrd’s Eye Photography


Sigma and Burble Integration

Sigma and Burble were the talk of the PIA after publicly announcing their integration. The buzz is well deserved.

With the integration, drop zones and other organizations can issue Merits for accomplishments like ratings, for continuing education and completed coursework (think canopy courses or rigger’s continuing education), and for jumper’s most recently completed skydives. Jumpers can then grant the Burble dropzones they frequent access to view their Merits on Sig.ma and enable an auto-update feature. Each time the jumper checks in, their current information will auto-populate into their jumper profile. Dropzone access to real-time updates of credentials removes the underlying, but persistent, worry of finding out “too late” that an unvetted instructor or jumper was skydiving.

With a streamlined check-in process for drop zones currently using Burble software and readily accessible, verifiable credential system auto-updated into each jumper detail in DZM, the integration promises to make life easier for jumpers, drop zone operators, and drop zone staff alike.  


Video Camera Company, Revl made a big splash with a new automatic tandem video editing, delivery and after sales system. TheRevl editing platform utilizes artificial intelligence video editing and delivers video directly to customers viacloud, email, and mobile apps.

Photo courtesy of Elliot Byrd of Byrd's Eye Photography
Photo courtesy of Elliot Byrd of Byrd’s Eye Photography
STAR Awards

The Skydiving Technology Advancement Roundup (or STAR Awards for short) is a newly minted technology development contest. The STAR Awards were a collaborative effort of Sigma and the USPA to spotlight contemporary software that is benefiting the skydiving industry. The STAR awards featured three primary categories: Drop Zone Tools, Jumper Experience, and Safety and Training. Winners for each category, respectively, are as follows. Big Picture, Spot Assist for Drop Zone Tools. Color Alti, Freefall Data Systems LLC for Jumper Experience. SkydiVR, Freefall Club for Safety and Training. In support of these innovations, Sig.ma awarded each winner $1500.


As always, Exhibition Hall was hot with new releases from well-known skydiving manufacturers.

Rigging Innovations

Rigging Innovations showcased their new MARD the MOJO. New orders of the CURV and CPX harness/container systems have the MOJO option. Jumper’s will be pleased to know, for previously purchased CURV and CPX harness/containers, retrofit kits are available without any modification to harness or container.

Photo courtesy of Elliot Byrd of Byrd's Eye Photography Photo courtesy of Elliot Byrd of Byrd's Eye Photography
Photo courtesy of Elliot Byrd of Byrd’s Eye Photography


PD brought the Florida Vibe to Texas with a cool cabana set up complete with matching flamingo print button up tops. Their time and effort were noticed, and they walked away from the PIA symposium with the “Best Booth Award.”

Within the booth, PD presented several prototype items. One of which, the XJ-84, is actually a return to one of the 9-cell hybrid prototypes from 2011 that morphed into the full sail peregrine. Because these early iterations opened well on terminal deployments, the project has been reopened to see where it will lead.

The XR-150 was another of the prototype item on display. The XR-150 is a 9-cell canopy with a Schuman planform design, inflated stabilizers, and 3 cross braced cells in the center. The goal of this product is to revolutionize what jumpers think they can do with their canopies and what they will come to expect from every canopy in the future.

The third prototype item in the PD booth was an RDS redesign. The re-engineered RDS slider for the Valkyrie brought the rings inside the perimeter tapes. The change in geometry greatly improved the opening performance of the RDS and has made the rings easier to disassemble and reassemble.

Sun Path

At PIA 2019, Tom Parker, chief engineer, for Sun Path Products Inc. proudly presented a new rig design for the Javelin Odyssey. Sun Path is now offering dynamic corners as an option for every new Javelin Odyssey. Popular with wingsuiters and canopy pilots, dynamic corners unfold the bottom of the main pack tray. This also allows for customization and increased personalization. Years of testing with the PD factory team has shown the new rig design to perform amazingly in all skydiving disciplines.

Sun Path Products also presented a few things that are still in research and development: a container with wrap around corners on the bottom of the main tray, providing more bridle protection from the main pin to the BOC, and new back and lateral padding. The new back pad uses an ergonomic design where the depth of the padding tapers to contour to the curve of the back. The developing lateral system is a marriage of the cut in and the SLS system with a stiffener built into the lateral to add comfort and rig stabilization.

Cookie Composites

Looking to sport a stylish, sturdy headpiece on your noggin? Cookie chose the PIA Symposium 2019 as the stage to present the newest model in their inventory. Only 3.5 ounces heavier, the G4 sports an impact rating and options for visor tint customizations.


UPT showcased their Mutant harness, an entirely purpose-built swoop harness and container system. Though, the Mutant has been public since 2017, PIA attendees were able to do something few have the opportunity to do—try on and experience the feel and release sequence of the harness.

UPT also created a real Texas shout-out in the form of an entirely leather container system. The rig was constructed of two different types of leather. The main flap and alternating panels featured an intricately stitched and detailed design. The rig sported lasered logos and metal studs along the side. While built to spec, this leather beauty serves its aesthetic purpose best safely on the ground.


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