21 Feb 2024

Interview with Alberto Martin Paracuellos, new President of the FAI Skydiving Commission

Alberto Martin Paracuellos, a 61-year-old Spaniard, was elected President of the FAI Skydiving Commission (ISC) earlier this month. He succeeds Gillian Rayner who stepped down at the end of her term.

Alberto is a highly respected figure in the skydiving community. He has been extensively involved in various capacities, including as a Formation Skydiving competitor, an instructor, and official within the FAI as ISC Delegate, Vice President, and Committee Member. He has also served as the President of the Spanish Parachuting Committee.

His skydiving experience is truly remarkable, with an impressive tally of 7288 jumps to his name. Notably, he holds an AFF (Accelerated Free Fall) Instructor certification and has conducted over 3500 AFF jumps with students. His dedication and skill in the sport also led him to compete in the FAI World Cup and European Championships in Evora, Portugal, in 1998. During this event, his team secured the bronze medal in 8-way Formation Skydiving, marking a historic moment as it was the first FAI skydiving medal ever won by Spain.

Alberto primarily resides in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, but also frequently travels to Empuriabrava, home to one of Europe’s biggest drop zones.

We asked Alberto to share his thoughts and lay out his vision as the new President of the ISC.

How did you discover the world of air sports and skydiving? And what inspired you to become an AFF instructor for so many students?

I had an interest in parachuting from a very early age. I saw a demo jump when I was around 10 years old and since then I wanted to jump. I was living in Mallorca, there was no club at all at the time, and in Spain there were only three small clubs operating weekends from small planes - Empuriabrava had just started. I ended up organising a club in Mallorca and renting planes to be able to jump, it was very interesting, and I learned a lot in a very short period of time.

I realised that to be able to jump there were other things that needed to be done and I got involved in my regional federation, then my national federation and then the IPC, now known as the FAI Skydiving Commission (ISC).

I have always loved teaching and when AFF was introduced in Spain I was eager to get the licence and start jumping with students, so I combined jumping and organising.

You have had a long-standing involvement with the FAI Skydiving Commission. What motivated you - and keeps motivates you - to become actively engaged in the Commission?

I was asked to be the delegate for Spain in 1998 and from the first moment I realised how important the ISC was for our sport and for its development.

At first, I was learning much more than helping but slowly I began to learn and was happy to be able to contribute. I have been a member of the Technical & Safety Committee, Canopy Piloting and Indoor Committees and it has been great working with people from all over the world with the same interests and passion as myself.

The ISC is a great organisation full of volunteers from all over the world. It is a privilege to have the confidence of the delegates to be the President and to be able to work for our community.

What do you hope to accomplish during your term as ISC President?

The ISC is a very well-structured organisation that has been functioning like clockwork for decades. We need to continue in that line, making sure that the day-by-day operation continues to run flawlessly and that the Competition Committees have the support they need to continue developing each discipline.

Our sport has very different disciplines that range from Freefall team events such as Formation Skydiving, Artistic Events, Wingsuit Acro, then individual Speed Skydiving, Style, then Canopy Formation, Accuracy Landing, Parachute-Ski and Canopy Piloting, not forgetting the Indoor Skydiving events held in the Wind tunnels. On top of that we have other Committees and working groups taking care of our Finances, Media, Rules and Regulations, Judging, Skydiving for Disabled, Technical and Safety.

As you can see, it is a huge community that needs to continue their work. I would like to be able to strengthen this structure so that our experts can continue working for our organisations and our competitors, bringing more people into the system and helping our sport to grow.

Which challenges do you anticipate facing and how do you plan to address them?

Our biggest challenge is going to be the finances. We have managed our finances very efficiently and over the years we have been able to save some funds as any other organisation would. But regardless of how healthy the ISC accounts may be, our competitors and organisers are continuously struggling to keep the planes flying and the competitions happening. We will have to adapt to the increase in costs so that the competitors do not suffer and that competitions continue to happen and grow in participation.

You used to compete in formation skydiving events. What are your hopes for skydiving competitions and competitors in the mid to long term future?

Competitions are our main reason to exist and so competitors are our biggest concern. We are responsible for the World Championships and World Cups and we have a good bidding procedure in place, so we must continue to assist organisers to ensure that our events are run according to the standards we require. Always making events better and better.

As ISC President, how do you envision your role in fostering collaboration and mutual benefit with other FAI Air Sport Commissions?

I strongly believe that the bigger we are, the stronger we are, and that is not only for the skydiving community. FAI includes all air sports and we are part of that organisation.

I hope to continue the work done by my predecessors and that ISC continues to contribute to the growth of FAI. I hope and wish to see ISC back on the World Games in future editions and I am happy for the FAI Aeromodelling Commission (CIAM) and that they will feature in the World Games in Chengdu 2025 leaving the door open for ISC to return.

In what ways do you anticipate global sports and societal developments might impact air sports, and in particular skydiving and ISC?

The world will bring ISC new challenges in the future for sure, but with a strong organisation I am sure we will be able to adapt and continue jumping as we have always done.