Apr 10, 2007, 12:00 AM
Post #1 of 4
Commercial parachuting services vs. parachuting clubs
Commercial parachuting services vs. parachuting clubs: At larger centers, mostly in the "Sun Belt" region of the United States, training in the sport is often conducted by professional instructors and coaches at commercial establishments. The advantages to the newcomer are year-round availability, larger aircraft (which translates to greater comfort, higher jump altitudes, and more frequent jumping), and staff who are very current in both their sport and their instructional skills. It is also common for instructors and newcomers to jump while strapped together (see picture). For the newcomer, this gives an added measure of safety should something go wrong.
In the other latitudes, where winter (or monsoon) gets in the way of year-round operation, commercial skydiving centers are less prevalent and much of the parachuting activity is carried on by clubs. Most clubs cannot support larger aircraft. Training may be offered (by volunteer instructors who, nevertheless, are rigorously tested and certified) only in occasional classes as demand warrants. These clubs are usually weekend only operations as the volunteers have full-time jobs during the week. The entire experience tends to be informal and surrounded by a lot of socializing.
Some observers have suggested that commercial operations cater to a "fast-food" sensibility that leaves their novice graduates with very compartmentalized skill sets that may be lacking in important peripheral areas. This is countered by the observation that students at busy commercial operations receive concentrated exposure and experience, and are thus able to improve rapidly without backtracking or developing bad habits.
The observation about participants who started learning in the club setting is that their progression can be slower due to smaller aircraft and fewer "good jumping days" (weather). They may experience some backsliding as they need to re-learn some skills after weather-enforced lay-offs. By contrast, the progression of a novice in a club usually involves learning all the ancillary skills out of necessity. Everyone at a club learns all the skills and takes on all the roles.
For example, a large aircraft must be "spotted" (directed to fly over the optimum exit point) by an experienced jumper who is usually a parachute-center staffer. Having experienced staff perform this duty ensures that everybody leaves the aircraft within range of the landing zone. Nobody needs to hike or take a taxi back to the dropzone because their jumprun was spotted by a novice. The downside is that the novices never learn the skill of reading the winds, the terrain and the aircraft movement, and of directing the aircraft where it should go. They remain dependent on the "pro."
At clubs, the aircraft are smaller, and everybody is a friend. A bad spot is an excuse for some teasing, but it doesn't interrupt the smooth flow of a moneymaking operation. Therefore, most people who join parachuting clubs are taught spotting skills very early in their careers. Similar contrasts apply to parachute packing, equipment maintenance and other skills of a well-rounded skydiver.
The answer to both sets of critics is that they are correct as far as they go. The perceived shortcomings of each learning environment are ameliorated by the fact that most skydivers eventually partake of both settings. Club members often visit larger centers for holidays and events and for some concentrated exposure to the latest techniques. People who learned at commercial centers often make friends with visiting club jumpers and then visit them at their home dropzones -- or start their own clubs.
dunno, but it's pretty spot-on with a lot of it. It freaks me out that some people don't know how to spot
I know how to spot my wingsuit. I live in fear of the day that I'm asked to JM a Grand Caravan load and put the first group out 2.5 miles past the pit
I learned my lesson about "trusting the spot" at my first dz, we let a newbie spot and then dove out after him. When I looked down and saw highway, I said "oh hell no" and pulled at 9,000. Nobody else noticed until about 4,000' apparently
(This post was edited by grue on Apr 10, 2007, 8:54 AM)