How to Keep a (Painless) Skydiving Logbook -- Digitally

Recording Your Personal History in the Sport: From Paper to Web to Smartphone

Each jump is unique. Make sure you record yours.
Each jump is unique. Make sure you record yours. Image Courtesy Joel Strickland (varialfreefly.com)

Your skydiving logbook is your personal history in the sport.

First and foremost, of course, it's an identifying document. It provides each new drop zone you visit with proof to back your skydiving licenses, ratings and currency. (In the absence of this proof, they will likely not allow you to jump at their facility.) It helps you organize the numeric statistics of your skydiving in an easy-to-follow format.

But, while its actual purpose is to prove -- through the written confirmation of other rated skydivers' witness to your performance -- that you have the experience you purport, it does much more. 

Arguably, your logbook's most important purpose is tracks your development as an athlete over time. It records jumps during which you experienced significant growth. It shows the multitude of ways you have changed -- as a person -- as the seasons have stretched on. As you spend years in the sport, you may someday discover that the signatures scrawled in your logbook are the last tracks left by friends who have, in the nomenclature of airsports, “gone in.” Suffice it to say, one’s logbook becomes a very poignantly personal history.

It can't do that, of course, without some key information that you're responsible to provide. In its Skydiver’s Information Manual, the United States Parachute Association gives these information requirements for a skydiver’s logbook:

Logging jumps for licenses and ratings

1. Skydives offered as evidence of qualification must have been:

a. made in accordance with the USPA requirements in effect at the time of the jump

b. legibly recorded in chronological order in an appropriate log that contains the following information:

(1) jump number

(2) date

(3) location

(4) exit altitude

(5) freefall length (time)

(6) type of jump (formation skydiving, freeflying, canopy formation, style, etc.)

(7) landing distance from the target

(8) equipment used

(9) verifying signature

2. Jumps for license and rating qualifications must be signed by another licensed skydiver, a pilot, or a USPA National or FAI Judge who witnessed the jump.

3. Jumps to meet skill requirements must be signed by a USPA Instructor, Instructor Examiner, Safety & Training Advisor, or a member of the USPA Board of Directors.”

For a new skydiver, this certainly seems like a tremendous burden of paperwork. It's not uncommon for skydivers to breathlessly log every moment of every jump for their first season or so. Then, predictably, they slump into a phoned-in summary of a day's worth (or week's worth, or boogie's worth, or training-trip's worth) of jumps on a single page. That's a shame, because the story gets lost in the shuffle -- and it's a great story. Here's how to get it down, painlessly.

- - - - - -

The Starting Point: Paper Logbooks

One's first logbook is a humble one. When a student progresses through the skydiver training program of his or her choice, the drop zone providing the training provides a thin, paper logbook in which the details of those debutante jumps are inscribed. The last page of that first logbook generally contains space for the instructor-examiner to record an A-license signoff and stamp.

It’s vital to keep records of all license and rating sign-offs even if you convert to digital recordkeeping. However, if you often travel from drop zone to drop zone (or enjoy the occasional boogie), keeping an easily misplaceable paper logbook is a serious liability. Take a scan of that signoff page and put it in a place you have online access to, anywhere you are: your email, Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.

Then you'll be ready yo transition your skydiving logging from pen-and-paper to the (for many of us, much-safer) cloud.

Continued in Part 2 >>