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377's Reviews (5 reviews)

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Perris has it ALL.


Skydive Perris Rated 5 by: 377 on 2006-09-23

Pros: Very active DZ, lots of talent, great aircraft and facilities
Cons: Dusty, remote location

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Want a tunnel? Want training from world champions? Want a jet jump? Want to stay a while without spending all your $$ on lodging? It's ALL here. The dust is a hassle but it all shakes out in freefall and opening. The Conatsers (DZ owners) make BIG investments (tunnel, jet, reinforced runway for heavy jumpships)and take substantial business risks. In doing so they advance skydiving for the benefit of all of us. Who else would undertake the incredible expense and hassle of buying a DC 9-21 passenger jet and getting the FAA to approve it for jumping? They do most things right and put a lot of thought into the operation of the DZ. You can always find something to gripe about at any DZ, but when you look at all that Perris offers, and its reasonable pricing, you gotta admit that it is one hell of a great DZ. There is a reason that people travel thousands of miles to spend a week at Perris: it has it ALL.
(Review ID:3422)


Bill's way, Regardless of USPA


Parachute Center Rated 5 by: 377 on 2006-09-11

Pros: Laid back, friendly, and plenty of lift capacity
Cons: Highway next to DZ (easy to avoid though)

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UPDATE SEPT 2006

Still a great DZ, great people, great planes and great prices. We all owe Bill Dause some thanks for keeping his prices low for YEARS (I used to jump for $5 at Pope Valley). As far as I know he has the lowest prices for tandems and up jumpers anywhere. Most places gouge tandems since most of them never come back, but not Bill. It sure isn't cheap running large turboprop aircraft and fuel prices have skyrocketed, yet Bill keeps jump prices very reasonable for all types of jumpers. I have always thought that he was motivated more by the joy of sharing the experience of skydiving than by money, and his consistently low prices prove it. I have sent many tandems his way just to support a DZ that has given such great prices to everyone for years. Bill is also to be credited for still offering the least expensive path to an A license: the old tried and true S/L (static line) training. It doesn't generate much revenue, but it gives a poor skydiver who cannot afford AFF a chance at entering the sport.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Bill Dause is a seasoned DZO (used to run pope Valley)and probably has more jumps (24,000??) than any other DZO, so he knows the business from both ends. Last I heard his DZ was not USPA affiliated, but that doesnt bother me a bit. I don't care if anyone checks my reserve date. It is well run and has a very friendly atmosphere. Bill often offers to jump with novices and can tell you a lot about how to improve your freefall skills.

His wife Kathy runs manifest and she is as nice a person as you will ever find. Bill got lucky when he met her. The DZ is located near a busy highway, but the highway runs at right angles to the normal upwind approach and is easily avoided. The only thing I dont like is that Bill sometimes jumpmasters static line students with him flying the plane and doing the jumpmastering. Too few resources in my opinion. Very few students do S/L these days so it may be a moot point. Their Beech 99 (like a giant King Air) is a great jumpship and they have others if that gets too busy. Prices are always reasonable and you get the feeling that Bill runs the DZ cause he likes the life not because he wants to squeeze every penny out of the customers. In fact, I think he has the lowest tandem jump prices in the whole US. Give it a visit, you'll be back for sure. Don't do anything real stupid or unsafe as Bill has been known to tell some folks not to come back again.

(Review ID:1580)


Skydive Monterey Bay


Skydive Monterey Bay Rated 5 by: 377 on 2006-07-17

Pros: Views! Great acft. Very well run. Safe landing area.
Cons: Can get windy and overcast/foggy at times

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UPDATE MARCH 09
9 minutes to 18K for $28. The King Air 200 is a rocket ship, seriously. Nice folks, spectacular views, hazard free landing area. Lots of tandems, but with the plane making such quick turnarounds you will get to jump. First time I ever had my reserve packing card checked at SMB. New boss! Even checked to see if my USPA membership was current. Thankfully, it all was cool. Reserve was still in date by a few days, whew!

UPDATE OCT 07
Still a great DZ. I can be absent for a long time but the staff remembers my name and treats me really well. I have to laugh at SMB's website pitch for the scenic aerial tour included with tandems at "no extra charge". You better look really quick because that Nardi's King Kong King Air will have you on jump run in less than seven minutes. I hear the new King Air 200 is even a faster climber. The incredible climb abilty of the new plane should cut down wait times for tandems, a source of frequent SMB blog grumbling on Yelp and other sites. SMB ought to consider some new ways to deal with impatient tandem jumpers, maybe let them roam in town subject to a 30 minute cell call to show up at the DZ. Up jumpers know that waiting to load is just sometimes part of the game, but tandem customers get really torqued and then gripe on various review blogs.
UPDATE MAY 07
Showed up after a long absence and was warmly greeted by Dail, the DZ mgr. Dropped of some gear for Mako (DZ rigger) to work on and suited up for a late afternoon jump. This DZ does great job of integrating tandems and up jumpers. You aren't made to feel like you are excess $22 baggage standing in the way of profitable $200 tandems. The modified (higher HP engines) King Air climbs unbelievably fast so even though only one plane is flying, it feels like they have a couple operating. Not much waiting. View of the ocean from 15.3K was incredible (they are always generous with altitude here). Great location and friendly helpful staff. Sunset always packs smooth openings for me. Treating up jumpers well has its benefits for the DZ. I have sent quite a few people there for tandems and even a few AFFs because I like the staff and the whole operation. I know my friends will have a good experience here. Be careful on the road to the DZ (Reservation road). Radar cops were nailing speeders the day I went.
UPDATE JULY 06
Greg Nardi and his wife now apparently own and run SMB. The Twin Otter went to Taft, but before you get upset by that departure, it has been replaced by a King Air that is an Absolutely Spectacular climber. I have been in Mike Mullins rocket ship King Air, but believe me, this one actually climbs faster. Seemed like about six minutes from lift off to exit. When I visited last weekend it was a hummin tandem scene, but the staff was friendly and accomodating to me and another couple of fun jumpers who showed up. Dayle is now the DZ manager and she was a pleasure to deal with. The same old local climate situation exists which means if the coast looks fogged out don't dispair, there may be a clear area over the SMB DZ as there was the day I visited. I had a great time. With Nardi's hot rod King Air flying, loads cycle really fast so I didnt have to wait long at all even though the place was full of tandem passengers. The landing area is hazard free and big. Winds were about 15 kts out of the NW, but steady so it wasnt a problem. Even though it's primarily a tandem operation, SMB provides a good value for up jumpers. They are sure not stingy with altitude. I read 15,400 ft on exit! Give it a visit. I am sure coming back.
UPDATE Sept 05
SMB now has added Greg Nardi's King Air to its fleet. This plane reportedly is the fastest climbing King Air jumpship anywhere, even faster than Mike Mullins' rocket. Gotta check this out. The Twin Otter is not used much any more although it is still on site. I recently dealt with the SMB rigger Tom and he is first rate. Really knows gear A-Z, not just a reserve packer.
Old review: This is a first rate DZ which is run by seasoned skydiving pros. Their Twin Otter is a fast climber and seems to be very well maintained. They also have a big Cessna (206?) for weekday use. The views from altitude are unbelievable, just flat out spectacular. The landing area is about 1/4 mile from the DZ HQ and is hazard free. A very good place to learn skydiving from real pros. They make their living off tandems, of course, but they also pay attention to keeping fun jumpers happy. I have seen them send as few as six jumpers up in the Twin Otter on a slow day just so they wouldn't have to wait for more tandem cutomers to jump. They often give substantial extra altitude and also run specials on holidays (like $15 to 15K). There is a very good cafe within walking distance and the town of Marina is a 5 minute drive. They really emphasize safety and have occasionally kicked out jumpers who repeatedly do stupid things. They religiously check reserve dates so be sure yours is current. The rigger is top notch and is very reliable. If he says your reserve will be ready on a certain date it will. SMB is one of my favorite DZs. The weather is better than typical coastal stuff. Last Sunday it was foggy north and south of the DZ but beautiful clear blue skies above it. That happens a lot, so call. Even if you see fog along the coast, SMB is often clear and sunny. Summer afternoons can bring winds, but they die down towards evenings and rarely exceed 18 mph. Sunset views are superb, great photos can be taken with the coast in the background and the sunset out to the West. This is a great DZ, give it a visit.

(Review ID:988)


Time warps exist! DZ from the 60s is here in 2006!


Skydive Kentucky - Elizabethtown Rated 5 by: 377 on 2006-07-01

Pros: Laid back, sweet little DZ with DH Beaver!
Cons: none really, could use better bathrooms, but its OK

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Remember the good old days? Well, you can escape those shrieking turboprops and step back in time at GCSPC. I jumped in the 60s and let me tell you, this place still has the non commercial laid back vibe that I thought was long gone from any DZ in the 21st century. The main lift is a DH Beaver which is a gorgeous classic radial engined bush plane and runs strong and sweet. A Cessna 180 hauls S/L jumpers. Prices are good, shade trees abound, yet the LZ is pretty much hazard free. People are friendly and the location is scenic KY countryside near Bardstown (it's not really in Greene County). No loudpeakers, no "corporate" vibe, just nice people who have been in the sport forever and want to share the joy.
(Review ID:3222)


A great Bay Area dropzone


Bay Area Skydiving Rated 5 by: 377 on 2004-09-16

Pros: Great vibe, huge landing areas, easy drive from SF
Cons: No running water, can be windy,

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Update Sept 2012

Byron still rocks. It is one of the few DZs that runs a thriving tandem business but still treats up jumpers extremely well. Clay, the DZO, wants everyone to have a good experience at his DZ whether they are a tandem passenger, AFF, newbie, expert or whatever. His jump pricing is very fair and in fact its hard to see how he can afford to offer such low prices when running a King Air turbine jumpship. Jamie who runs manifest is tops. She keeps things moving, gives plenty of announcements and is a real asset to the DZ operation. Byron is famous for its good vibe (Byron Love) and its alive and well. There are a huge number of safe outs here if you have to land off DZ, but it very rarely happens. The current pilot watches wind changes and makes his jump runs right where he should to put you back on the DZ for your landing. Even when winds are high everyone, even the AFF students, seems to end up right back where they should.
The DZ benefits from having a DZO who is a very active jumper. Nothing escapes Clay's attention as he is on site and jumping every day they are open. The result is that things are run well. Byron is a great place to do a tandem or to learn how to skydive as an AFF student. I recommend it often as I know the person I refer will have a good time and be dealing with good safe gear and highly skilled professional instructors.




Update Oct 2011,

I really like the DZ. Clay, the DZO, somehow manages to run a thriving tandem business yet offer a very inviting and accomodating atmosphere for up jumpers.

The primary jumpship is a twin turboprop King Air and the pilot who was flying in October is great, a young guy who really understands how to fly a jumpship. The King Air is a strong climber and it can kep the jump flow going even when a lot of tandems show up.

The landing area is huge. Landing out isnt a huge deal either, LOTS of empty fields all around. That is a good safety feature of this DZ.

The vibe is good. Tandems are not treated like lepers, they get a warm welcome from the up jumpers and the more promising ones are encouraged to take up AFF. There are some jumpers with mad skills here and most are willing to help newbies learn the basics.

I've referred a lot of tandems here just because they treat us up jumpers so well. Low jump prices, cheap snacks, friendly and skilled manifest.

It can get windy, but with a good spot and a decent canopy loading you can always make it to the landing area OK. I've see VERY few out landings, even by newbies with huge canopies.

This DZ has more of a family feel than most DZs that do a lot of tandems. They work hard at Byron to give up jumpers a good time even though we dont bring them the profit margines that the tandems do.

If you are considering doing a tandem jump or AFF this is a great place to do it. They are safety conscious, have top notch instructors and dont treat customers like cattle.

Clay, the DZO, is a very active jumper himself so he stays in touch with how things are working for jumpers. He jumps a tiny canopy and does some pretty amazing swoops too. The landing area is right next to the main building so friends and family can watch up close without a long hike or van ride.

I've been coming here for over a decade. I like it a lot. If you've never been here before give it a try. If you live in the Bay Area its your closest DZ and its also a great one.

Blue skies,
Mark

Updated review, 9/25/09.

I started jumping here again after Clay lowered the price of a jump to an astounding $17. With a new PAC 750 doing the lifting I don't see how he makes a dime on up jumpers at that price. Even if it pops back up a few bucks I'll likely keep coming. I have sent a few tandems his way to express my gratitude for the cheap up jumper prices.

I like the PAC 750 mainly because of all the windows. I love plane rides and the scenery makes it a lot more enjoyable when you are seated away from the door.

I hadn't been out there in ages and I didnt get any hassles, just a USPA card/license check and a peek at my reserve data card.

I only know one of the current DZ regulars, but most people I ran into were open and friendly. The vibe seemed good to me. The packer, a Russian? guy named Ed, who speaks almost no English, packed some very smooth openings for me and seemed to really appreciate my tips.

Byron has no running water but aside from having to use porta potties, you really don't notice. There are a LOT of safe places to land out, but I've never had to use them.

I like Lodi and Monterey, but Byron is a lot closer from the SF Peninsula. It has a lot of tandems but you don't get the tandem mill feeling at all.

I have read recent reviews about the dispute(and its resolution). I think that the outcome says good things about the jumper who felt he was being hassled and the DZ that was willing to discuss it constructively.

I am grateful there are any DZOs. Can you imagine leasing or buying a million dollar plane and trying to support it and your other considerable overhead with jump prices at or even below $20? That's why you never see DZOs driving new Ferraris.

Give Byron (Bay Area Skydiving) a try. I think you'll be as pleased as I was.

Peace,
Mark

******************************************Byron is located just on the East side of the Altamont pass, in windmill country.
It has a big hanger for indoor packing and a HUGE hazard free landing area. People are generally very friendly and Sky God attitudes are not encouraged. It can get windy in the afternoons, but that is true for most DZs in the SF Bay Area. The King Air is a good climber and seesm well maintained. One caution for new to the DZ jumpers is be sure to stay clear of the runway line when descending under canopy. The airport is not busy and its easy to forget that planes other than the jumpship may want to use the runway and don't want to fly through canopies on appraoch or departure. Byron has lots of freeflyers, but all types are welcomed. The lack of running water means outhouses and no real food or hand washing facilities, so bring a picnic lunch and some handiwipes. There is a surprising amount of small wildlife to keep the kids occupied. My kids have always found lizards, snakes and other creatures in the gullies. The nearby town is nothing to write home about, but you can get a meal and some groceries. The Byron Boogie in the Fall is a must go event.

(Review ID:1814)