Pilot in Command – Take Control!
Flying a parachute confidently is far safer than being timid...
I want to make every single skydiver in the world a safer skydiver and the only way to do that is to make them smarter
Canopy pilot extraordinaire Greg Windmiller is an inspiration to everyone who knows him. He has won too many national and international medals to count, yet is always humble, with a deep commitment to mentor and help those behind him. Greg has been busy making big changes over the past year, ‘retiring’ from the Golden Knights and creating his own business Superior Flight Solutions. Here we learn about his transition from the military to an owner and operator….
I was coaching so regularly on the weekends while I was in the Army that it made it an easy transition into civilian life. Life, for me, isn’t much different than when I was in the Army, but it is quite a bit busier.
While on the Golden Knights, my job during the week was to research and develop new techniques and procedures and figure out how to win. It was also to train for national and international competitions. Simply put, my job was to win medals and set records. During the weekends, when I wasn’t competing, I would book canopy courses all over the east coast. I would travel from Miami all the way to Maine because the east coast was easy to travel to. I would take a red-eye out Friday and the red-eye back Sunday if I had to fly. I never had to advertise my courses, and I didn’t need to because my courses were always full.
80% of the medal winners in the advanced division of canopy piloting at the USPA Nationals have been my students
Young in my skydiving career, I was fortunate enough to have some very good coaches. I got coaching from a lot of different people at the highest levels. From 4 way coaching with Arizona Airspeed and Pete Allum to canopy coaching with National and World Champions in Accuracy, CRW and Canopy Piloting. I would always seek out the best, and when they talked, I would not only listen to what they said but I would also listen to how they said it. I watched and listened to their mannerisms, their attitudes, and their energy. I remembered the best instructors not by what they said but by how they related it and relayed it. I wanted to be a professional coach. I strived to be the coach that could explain everything to everyone. When coaching, I focus more on the person than the situation. My goal is for every single person to leave my courses feeling as though they were the only ones in the course. As if it was a one on one course. To me, it’s more important what is going on in the head of the person while they are under canopy than what they are doing while under canopy.
ADDITIONALLY WHEN YOU BEGAN COACHING (WHILE STILL A PART OF THE GOLDEN KNIGHTS/ MILITARY) DID YOU SEE IT PROGRESSING THE WAY THAT IT HAS? DID YOU THINK YOU WOULD MAKE A CAREER OUT OF COACHING?
I started coaching around 2002 while I was on the team. I coached accuracy and basic courses teaching what I learned from my coaches while I was the team leader of the Golden Knights Accuracy team. It wasn’t until 2009 that I started coaching high-performance canopy piloting.
I didn’t even jump a crossbraced canopy myself until I had 6,000 jumps. Around 2013, I knew this was something that I could make into a career. I knew it was something that I wanted to keep doing. The success of my students speaks for itself. Since 2011, 80% of the medal winners in the advanced division of canopy piloting at the USPA Nationals have been my students. That is something I am extremely proud of.
The only challenges getting Superior Flight Solutions off the ground was branding. While in the Army, it was always “Greg Windmiller’s Canopy Courses.” When I retired, I started advertising under my company’s name, but people didn’t know Superior Flight Solutions. I had a DZ advertise my companies name for a course once. It was advertised for 2 weeks. No one signed up. They begged and begged to use my name. Finally, I agreed and said okay. The course sold out in 4 hours. 12 slots per day for 3 days straight. After the course sold out, I had them change it back to my company’s name. 4 people backed out within the hour.
My career in the military prepared me for what would be my biggest challenges. The personalities, the unpredictability of skydivers and the occasional lunatic who tries to hurt themselves. My biggest pet peeves in the sport and in coaching are people not being courteous towards others. In the courses, it is people showing up late for courses. Yeah, it may be you showing up late, but in the end, it’s actually you taking a jump away from 11 other people that came to learn and that had the courtesy to show up on time.
In the last year, the business has expanded so much with military contracts that I have hired one of my long-time students and the 2015 advanced US National canopy piloting champion, Matt Leonard. I can’t say enough good things about Matt. He is smart, energetic and talented. We talked about expanding a while ago, but letting go of liability and letting go of something I built is something that I didn’t take lightly.
My passion lies in the students and teaching. I feed off of the energy of my students and it motivates me. I love seeing the proverbial lightbulb go on and their eyes light up when they get it. Now, I get to hand some of that off to Matt while I focus on my military contracts.
My military contracts have taken off and that is what I was hoping for. I wanted to give military units an option. Before, there were only a few organizations coaching military units in free fall and canopy progression, and the organizations coaching them had no military background themselves. They had actually never done what they were teaching. Before I joined the Golden Knights, I was on a Military Free Fall team. I served seven years in a small specialty unit, and we used military free fall as a method of insertion. I was also an instructor for 4 years after that which taught soldiers how to do what I did. My background prepared me to coach military units. I had actually walked the walk and now it was time to give back.
It’s about giving back to the soldiers what I learned while I was a soldier
I designed military program years ago that I have been waiting to present. Once I retired, I got that chance. After I ran the first course, word got out, and now it is non-stop, and I love it. To me, it’s not about the money. It’s about giving back to the soldiers what I learned while I was a soldier. I make every course, military or civilian, personal. I treat every student as though they are my only student. I want to make every single skydiver in the world a safer skydiver and the only way to do that is to make them smarter.
Article by James La Barrie, originally published on Drop Zone Marketing's blog here