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In Defense of the Dark Arts

In Defense of the Dark Arts by the Fuckin' Pilot | http://blueskiesmag.com/2016/09/22/in-defense-of-the-dark-arts/ ‎
Written by The Fuckin' Pilot

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Originally printed in issue #73 (January 2016) of Blue Skies Magazine.
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Management manɪdʒm(ə)nt/ noun

1. the process of dealing with or controlling things or people.
the people managing a company or organization, regarded collectively.
plural noun: managements | synonym, managers, employers, directors, board of directors, board, directorate, executives, administrators, administration; owners, proprietors; top brass

2. archaic | trickery; deceit.
“if there has been any management in the business, it has been concealed from me”
“the workers are in dispute with the management”

Anyone who actively seeks a position in management, in my opinion, has some serious personal issues. Anyone who actively seeks a position in skydiving management is totally, off the wall, batshit crazy.

I’ve never really liked management. In fact I’ve actively hated the fuck out of most managers I’ve worked under out in the real world. I’ve been a bit luckier when it comes to management in skydiving, but I’ve also had the misfortune of working for some of the biggest fuck sticks in the sport—just as I assume any long-term professional skydivers have. I used to stand firmly at the head of the “us against them” line when it came to jumpers versus management, as I’ve seen “them” do everything from shorting jumpers’ pay (and/or just not paying them), to calling up fake wind readings when they were far from safe limits simply so the load would jump, to putting up totally un-airworthy aircraft, to forcing people into (or out of) ratings … really nasty shit, honestly. I imagine I’m not saying a damn thing a lot of you don’t already know. But …

When it comes down to it, even the most well behaved of skydivers can be difficult to deal with—I don’t think anyone will actively disagree with that. Now, if you toss in one with an attitude, a skygod, an idiot, a newbie and/or any variety of the above, mix that in with a thousand other factors I can’t even begin to list, what you have is someone that can be a bit of a problem. Put 20 of the above-listed someones in one aircraft at the same time, or in line to manifest, or in the pro shop, or eating lunch, or at the bonfire, and what you can end up with is a clusterfuck of almost epic proportions. And at the bigger DZs, that’s a seven-days-a-week proposition. It’s enough to drive just about anyone out of their minds.

So why on Earth would anyone want to take on the position of a manager, or much more specifically, a DZO in our sport?

Aviation is, by and large, a lose-lose situation, as any aircraft owner can tell you. The aircraft are maintenance hogs, cost a small fortune (if not a large one) just to park—let alone to maintain and fly—and are a huge reason why you may have heard the saying, “If it floats, flies or fucks—rent it!”

Now, add to the aircraft-headache side of things by piling on a shit-ton of responsibility with airports, land usage, noise abatement, fuel, piles of nylon in the form of parachutes, jumpsuits, goggles, altimeters, start carts—and then, of course, us. Not just fun jumpers, but staff. WOW!

It’s no wonder, then—if you’ve spent any real length of time with an operation—you can easily mark the slow and painful descent some upper management and owners make as they slide their way into a prickish hell. They become, essentially, professional babysitters for kids with really expensive toys and no self-restraint.

Yet somehow, some of them actually manage to pull it off. More than a few DZs I’ve visited over the years have been managed and/or owned by really cool people who’ve found a way to balance the craziness that is aviation—and more specifically, skydiving aviation—and happy, fun-filled lives. You can feel it the instant you walk onto a drop zone owned by one of these rare birds. Places like Perris Valley in California, Lake Elsinore, Cross Keys (2003-2006 is all I can vouch for there), Sussex (same timeframe), Start Skydiving in Ohio, Skydance in NorCal (although Ray, you know you can be a real son of a … but we love ya’.)

Owners who seem to always remember that the jumpers are why they’re there, that the staff should feel like family, and that we all got in this for the love of flight. For people lucky enough to call drop zones like these (and many others not listed) home, you may never have to suffer through a Mikey Hawkes-type existence (Skydive Las Vegas DZO, circa ’96. Worst. DZO. Ever.), and it’s my sincere wish you don’t.

If, on the other hand, you happen to be watching your local manager and/or DZO start to lose their shit, take into consideration all of the crap they have to juggle and add to that a million other things I can’t even begin to imagine. Then try and figure out if you’re one of the pains in the ass they have to deal with, and if you are: Stop it. Lend a hand. Don’t be “that guy” (or girl). And if you are a lady jumper, be a doll: Get the girls out occasionally, not only to the pilot for the extra altitude, but why not a peek for the DZO or manager that keeps the whole shit show going?

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