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  1. I have visited Cape Town on two occasions in the last two years. As a skydiver, I wanted to do a couple of jumps, as the views are supposedly iconic. However, it didn't happen, even after three trips to the DZ and numerous phone calls. Here's why ... This is a small, bush drop zone, with very basic facilities. It is essentially a mom 'n pop, one-horse DZ run on a shoestring budget to capture the passing tourist tandem trade. There is no club scene for fun jumpers. One of my visits was on a Saturday with near-perfect jumping conditions. On this day, twelve loads, all tandems, had gone up - with NO fun jumpers present! No prizes for guessing why. It baffles me that a city the size of Cape Town seemingly cannot sustain a skydiving scene, as South Africa has other, very busy, skydiving clubs. But there you are. If you are a visiting skydiver, you may get a jump, but if you do, it will be because the owner has decided to grant you a favor. You might have more luck if you turned up as a group of jumpers as that will make it financially more viable for the DZO. One more thing: wind blowing off the Atlantic Ocean frequently suspends operations - be warned.
  2. Paracentrum Texel is a well-established, family-run business on the Dutch island of Texel. It has two Caravans and a flock of C206s for pleasure flights which can be adapted for skydiving when it gets really busy. It has two landing areas, neither of which are great: one is for experienced jumpers and is in front of the main building, which houses the shop, packing area, rigging area, classroom, etc. This is awkward, particularly due to the frequently high winds and the turbulence which comes off the buildings. The student landing area is miles away on the far side of the main runway. Hazards include ditches and a motor-cross track. Tandems are clearly the mainstay, with a small local fun-jumper community. The centre also hosts skydiving competitions. The owner is a friendly guy and the operation is slick and well-run. Club gear is in good condition and there is plenty of it. There is a large and often transient staff, who might stay for a season or two and then move on. The views from altitude have to be seen to be believed; the island is situated in the north sea and is very pretty. However, there are negatives. The Dutch instructors and staff can be quite distant and aloof, even sullen and unfriendly. This may be cultural, as they seemed more friendly with Dutch jumpers. They often drink in a nearby hotel, but are very cliquey and won't engage with visiting jumpers. Luckily there were a couple of foreign instructors to help explain the slightly confusing manifest system and provide DZ briefs, etc. One of the DZ controllers was arguably the most pugnacious and unpleasant staff member I've met; a surly, aggressive type who thinks nothing of physically pushing people out of his way. Weather is also a problem: the island is prone to high wind, rain and cloud due to its location. Be aware that food, drink and accommodation are expensive on Texel and budget accordingly. A jump at altitude with gear hire will cost 41.50 Euros, which isn't cheap, so bring your own gear if possible. Having said that, this is a good DZ and certainly worth a visit.
  3. This is a small club operating either a C182 or C206, depending on availability. Guest jump aircraft are sometimes brought in. There is little other aviation activity unless the airfield is hosting an air show. This means parachutists are not inconvenienced unduly by holds. The skydiving operation is small and caters to a modest local jumping community within the province of Groningen and visiting tandem students. The airfield is located in the district of Scheemda in the north-east corner of Holland. I found the locals friendly enough, although the hire kit wasn't great: old 290 PISA Skymasters with round reserves and ripcord deployment instead of BOC. The jump planes, being what they are, are slow and you might not make it to 12,000 feet: on one load I was chucked out at 4 grand and on another load, at 7 grand, as the 182 was struggling. Training was by the static line route. The landing area is huge and flat, although skydivers are encouraged to land in a smaller area in front of the hangars. Views are of the nearby lake and pretty Dutch countryside - very scenic. If you find yourself in the area, pay a visit. As far as skydiving goes, this is very much a pleasant sleepy hollow.
  4. StraightEdge


    I am surprised that not more jumpers use the Vortex II container/harness system. There are about five at my DZ, but I have met jumpers from other DZs who have never heard of it. Too, I have met jumpers who are prejudiced against it because they say it copies the Javelin Odyssey, or that it is made in South Africa. My first container was a Vortex II made to my specifications, and it proved to be a comfortable, durable and good-looking item of gear. I have since obtained a smaller Vortex II that was going for a great price and I love it! This container benefits from sound, TSO'd construction and comes in cheaper than the big names, with a shorter delivery time. Various mods and options are available. A great first container for those who want to buy new and can't afford to order from the market leaders.
  5. For those of you looking for a budget square canopy, look no further. The ZP.EXE from Parachute Systems is a sound buy, especially given the state of the world's economy. I downsized from a Pilot 168 to a ZP.EXE 150. Quite a difference: the Pilot is a more docile canopy with greater glide - a great canopy for the newly-qualified jumper. The ZP.EXE 150 is a cheekier beast, quick and responsive. It does have a rapid descent rate - be aware. The openings are faster than the Pilot, but not fast per se, and clean. The canopy can wobble a bit in turbulence, but there again, so do many canopies. Although the canopy sinks quickly, it does have the ability to get you back from bad spots using brakes and risers. I am sure there are canopies out there that are "better" (and more expensive), but if you're after a non-pretentious square that won't bankrupt you, this is it. I'll keep this for the next few hundred jumps at least.