A long while back I wrote an article entitled “ Show me the Money” in which I vented over horrible pay for those of us working in the industry. It was fueled by a terrible lack of sufficient pay not only for the pilots, of which I was (and am) a full-time one, to the jump staff, to the packers and on down the line.
The pay hasn’t improved much since those words were put down on paper—which is bad enough—but there have been a few unexpected changes I’ve noticed as a result of it, and none I consider very good.
First off, you still have some greedy-as-fuck owners out there willing to continue using tired and sometimes sub-standard equipment long after it should have been turned into car covers. They are the same guys willing to put their instructors and customers in harm’s way by sending loads in high winds, rain, turbulence, fog and any other variety of shit instead of taking the responsible action of rebooking students as a precaution. The thing is, none of this is new.
What does seem to be new is the way some of the jump staff now react to it. When I was starting out, if a staff member found him or herself in over his head and way beyond his ability level, a voice of reason—usually in the form of a much more experienced instructor—would either tell the guy to stand down for safety’s sake or at the very least take them under his wing and try to help bring him up to speed. I don’t see that so much anymore.
What I see now, and hear from friends near and far, is not only the lack of assistance from the “salty old dogs” who know what’s what, but the salty fuckers themselves pushing hard to keep going simply for money’s sake. Either that, or even worse in my opinion, no salty old fuckers at all. That, and a crop of new tandem instructors and camera flyers in the industry who are poorly trained and woefully unequipped to deal with shit when it gets out of hand.
Speaking to a good friend of mine working “Down Under” the other day, he told me of a series of jumps that sound a lot like more than a few that I’ve been on. Pouring rain, tandem student pelted to fuck and back, and landing at the DZ looking like he was attacked by a case of Chicken Pox laced with AIDS. An owner pushing to continue the jumping “or else,” a few experienced jumpers who needed the money and the job saying “fuck it,” and a couple of new, poorly trained meek fucking TI’s not willing to stand up for themselves. Sounds like a recipe for disaster if there ever was one.
He told me how disgusted he was after discovering not one of the other experienced staff was willing to help stand up to the DZO about the conditions, and that the low-time TI’s were so poorly trained they probably shouldn’t have been taking students even in the best of conditions. Yet what’s a working skydiver to do?
I have more than a few close friends out there trying not only to support themselves but families as well who simply don’t have the ability to walk away anymore. Gone for many of us are the days when we could simply stroll away from a fucked-up DZO and move on to greener pastures because let’s face it, there aren’t too many pastures left!
The fact that tandem safety records are amazing to this day does not for one second change the fact that there’s a whole fuck ton of good luck happening out there. There’s not a single camera flyer reading this who doesn’t have video of more close calls than he can count. More students having a shit time in fucked conditions, more holy crap moments with drogues all over hell and gone, students geared up all wrong, FUCKED EXIT AFTER FUCKED EXIT …
Money is great, and so is making a living, but putting that student through a rain storm is more than likely going to cost you money down the road when he decides never to jump again. That future 4-way champ will never see an AFF course if her green instructor put her in a harness that was so old and so poorly fitted that she couldn’t enjoy the ride for the pain she was in, and the brand new tandem instructor will more than likely hang it up as soon as he gets the shit scared out of him after having been forced to jump in fucked-up conditions.
How about DZOs, instructors, camera flyers and all start sticking to the safety standards that are supposed to be the STANDARD, not the exception, and make sure that there’s a future for our sport past the next damn load.
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