In an industry where the cost to play—especially for tandems—has gone clean through the roof, why is it that the only people not seeing the money are the ones doing all the work?
We’ve all heard it. “Fuel is ridiculously expensive.” “The insurance on the aircraft is killing me.” “Maintenance is outrageous.” “The airport increased the fees.” Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. It’s these reasons and many more that are given to the backbone of the sport, the instructors, when the idea of increasing the industry standard pay is broached. “No, we simply can’t afford to pay more per jump, oh and by the way, I need you to be here early to teach the first class tomorrow.” or “You should be happy you’re working at all.”
As a tandem and video guy first, I’ve worked at more than my fair share of DZs that have gotten a shitload of work out of me for the same pay instructors were getting ten or fifteen years earlier—and for easy to understand reasons. The fact is, some of it is our own damn fault because there’s always someone else willing to do the job for the same, if not less, pay in order to get his foot in the door.
Truth be told, when I was first getting started I would have done the job for free if it meant I would be a “professional skydiver.” Yet fifteen years into my career I find it difficult to believe that the job I do with close to 8,000 jumps is worth no more than it was when I had 500, or that all those years of experience aren’t more valuable than just another body willing to strap on a tandem rig.
More and more I see drop zones completely willing to allow high-end instructors and video people who do AMAZING work just walk away, in favor of the newbie who can’t keep anyone in frame on exit, or the brand new tandem instructor more scared of the jump than his student. I, like many working skydivers I know, think it’s about time we saw a bit more of what’s coming in. There is simply no way I’m willing to believe that a drop zone doing anywhere from 80 to 200 tandems on a Saturday can’t afford to pay a seasoned instructor another three or four bucks a jump, or kick down a few more to the video guy who manages to get the shot every time.
If you’re a DZO paying your tandem instructors $25 bucks a jump I have a suggestion: Pull your fucking head out of your ass! Your people are worth more than that and you damn well know it!
If you work for a DZ where this is the kind of pay you’re getting, it’s time to start looking for a place that will pay you what you’re worth, or band together as a staff and let them know that shit just won’t cut it anymore!
There are, on the other hand, a few DZs out there who know the value of a talented, hard working staff member and treat them accordingly. I applaud those wholeheartedly and hope they help spread the word that it’s time to spread the love. As a whole, professional skydivers are some of the hardest working people I’ve ever met, and in my opinion, it’s about time they started getting paid accordingly. Oh yeah, and us “Fuckin’ Pilots” wouldn’t mind a whole lot more love too!
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