You’ve fallen in love with the sport and want to make it your life. What opportunities are there to work on a dropzone or within skydiving?
This new series will help 🙂
“It must be great working in skydiving” is one of the main things people always say to me, along with “You have an amazing job”. Sometimes I reply, “Absolutely” and sometimes my answer is “You’ve no idea!” 😉 It’s kind of a love-hate relationship.
Then I got to thinking how I arrived in this job and how I see working in skydiving. I have done pretty well every job there is on a DZ. I can fly the jump plane, take tandems, instruct AFF, dispatch Static line, FS Coach, DZ Control, manifest, reception, clean the toilets and drive buses. As manager of Skydive Hibaldstow, one of the biggest DZs in the UK, I enjoy working in any area there is to be done. Hell, I even got my Food and Hygiene certificate to be able to cook food! There are many other ways you can work in skydiving including coaching and Load Organising. The list is long, you just need to find your niche and become great at it.
My journey started back in 1989 with a static line jump, round parachutes in those days or the old front and back system as it was called. Wind speed limits of 9 knots and hours and hours of waiting! We didn’t have mobile weather apps back then and just rocked up and waited from Friday night to Sunday night for the chance to jump. I was a really keen footballer, been playing since primary school, weekend soccer was the norm but as soon as I did my first jump, along with my younger brother and sister out of a Cessna 206, I was hooked and never played another full game of football in my life.
Every weekend was now spent at the skydiving centre, every penny on a jump and before long I too was asking the same questions to the staff, as the thought of a life skydiving and earning a living from it seemed so much more glamorous than the job I was in, printing.
As I looked into it, there were so many different areas to work in, and because I was a newbie a lot of the options were quite a way out of my reach for now. But being the determined kind, I didn’t care where I started, as long as I was part of what was going on. Ultimately my goal was to be an instructor, it had to be! Those were the people I looked up to at the time and even now I’m still friends with so many of them as ultimately they changed my life and helped me get to where I am now. Dave Emerson was my first CI (Chief Instructor) and he was so cool. Loads of experience and loads of incredible stories, you just couldn’t not want to be him!
So where did I start working? The DZ had a bar as does any reputable DZ, it’s a must and a mecca for end of day stories of shenanigans which back then were allowed on a daily basis and the end of day stories were amazing. One day, we had no bar-person so I volunteered. That was me then, the barman! My first job in skydiving. But it was also a great way to meet and get to know everyone. Hear their stories and how their ‘job’ for the day had gone. It also showed how dedicated I was to join the ‘gang’ and showed I wanted to get better and be part of this for a long time.
As I said earlier, there are so many areas to work in skydiving. You don’t even need to be a skydiver for a few of them but every area is important and like most business environments, none can work without the other.
From joining ‘the gang’ as a barman, I then progressed from there to being part of the ground crew, helping refuel aircraft, driving vehicles, then learning DZ control, getting my packing certificate and how to manifest. Any areas I could get involved in to make myself a valued member of staff and now getting paid to do what I loved!
Dave Wood really then pushed me into instructing. Amazing guy, firm but fair and a great mentor. Nothing got past him but so much of his teaching was a great inspiration to me as was Mick Raftery. These guys, along with their instructors, showed me that teaching was really what I wanted to do. Being able to take someone from never jumping to jumping for themselves is a massive thrill, even now and even after all these years I am still meeting people I taught on courses, still jumping and loving it.
Working in skydiving can be as diverse as you want it to be. Having the experience can take you anywhere in the world to work and so many people do this. It can be so rewarding but like any job it can be stressful. Long days throughout the summer, always trying to keep smiling even if for the millionth time you’ve heard the same joke from your colleagues as the banter flows with customers but ultimately you have to remember, although this is your job you’re bringing an amazing experience to those that have never experienced your world. I hear instructors sometimes moan but this is an ‘amazing job’ and really is a hobby that you are now being paid for. Just don’t let your hobby get you down because I can guarantee it is better than being in an office.
Every time I watch the aircraft take off and I’m outside burning under the summer sun or even freezing on a winter’s day, the life working in skydiving is rewarding and something I wouldn’t change.
If working in skydiving is something you want to do, then just as I did, start to get involved. Ask questions and see if it is something you think would be for you. I’ve never regretted working in skydiving. You meet so many people, laugh like you have never done before and see some amazing things. You just need to take the plunge.
Working in the Sport series
Read more detail about careers in the sport with the other articles in the series… and keep checking back, we’re adding articles all the time…