Went to skydance skydiving having not heard much about it after being severely disappointed by Hollister and ended up camping out there on the DZ the last 2 of my 3 month skydiving vacation to USA. I’ve decided to put together this review based on my experiences there so that others can have a good idea of what happens there on an average week.
In the time that i was there skydance was running a Cessna Caravan that was configured to fit 20 people, all be it tight it was not too uncomfortable and it was not often that it was so full. I would say the average on the load is about 16-18. Aircraft had seatbelts for everyone which is something i was not used too coming from a small club in EU where we had no seatbelts. With 18 people and with the temperature around 37c/100f it took about 13-15 min to get to altitude which was regularly 4.2km/13,700ft. And of course the sunset load gained some extra altitude. With 10 people it was near 10 min to altitude.
Assigning exit order is something that I felt could use some improvement; it is determined by the jumpers when the taxi way call goes up and everyone should be getting on the plane. This works ok with experienced jumpers but there are often newer jumpers who are not sure where to go in the order and as they generally pull higher this can mix up the order as people are getting into the plane. Jump run is either North or South along the East side of the runway and is spotted by the pilot and GPS. Plane uses the Red light/Green light system but spotting yourself after green is very much supported and people will wait should you give them a good reason. Toys are allowed here if you get out last, talk to Morgan if you get the chance, he is one of the most creative people I have ever met and it shows in his skydiving. Go arounds are also an option if some how you are far off the spot, this only happened to me once during a boogie and it was because a 2 way took too long trying to hang from the Skyvan. They were scared of falling off or something
Jump days are Wednesday through Sunday and I was able to get at least 4 jumps each day, often times I we were able to get 6-7 jumps each day if desired. I totaled about 150 jumps in the 2 months I was there and I took it pretty easy, could have been a lot more.
I was really impressed in this area. Staff at the DZ are not afraid to address an issue if they see it, such as bad patterns or people trying to get in the plane without their gear tightened. They don’t go yelling at the person but try to offer suggestions on how they can do better or be more polite in the air. I didn’t get on his bad side but there is one person there who will let everyone know in a loud voice if you do something wrong but always for things you know you screwed up on and he just calls you out on it. Again advice is offered on what to do better.
There is reliance on everyone in the plane to know what the exit separation should be. At most DZs ive been to they either tell you what the separation should be for the time/winds or its written in the plane near the door. You can find out the uppers yourself from manifest. This has led to some people opening closer to me then I would have liked but nothing too dangerous, and you can always discuss the separation in the plane or ask one of the staff.
Manifest here uses either a ticket based system or a punch card for jumps if you buy the packages. The manifest workers are pretty quick to get you on a load and the announcements come in the form of a 10 min gear call and then a taxi way call so don’t manifest unless you are packed and able to have everything on and tight in 10 min. The loads are read out by number and by the names on the list both at the gear call and taxi way.
Having lived at the DZ I made great use of all the facilities they have on site, these include clean toilets, sinks and 2 showers for each genders room. The showers are very large and have as much hot water as you can want. These area are also open for use on mon and tues when the DZ is ‘’closed’’ so don’t worry about staying there for extended periods. Manifest is also open during certain times aswell as the gear shop. There are a few vending machines on site for drinks and snacks however there is no real on site food as the café is open only on certain hours during the weekend and so you must have a car or be willing to walk/bike/hitchhike the 10km/6.5 miles to town for real food. There are a lot of people who will give you are ride but you cant bet your ability to eat on it. You have access to the skydiver fridge which is usually full of beer as it should be but there is enough room for some lunch meats and cheese if needed, but I would recommend a cooler and put it in the shade. The tent area is dried grass and uneven in a lot of places but its manageable if you are there a few nights or longer term with an air mattress. We were there without a car and managed but it would have been a lot easier with one. Currently camping is free but I heard rumors of there being a charge soon as there was a problem getting the permit for camping and the owner having to pay a lot of money for it.
I will be going to Skydance again, I feel it is one of the better dropzones I have visited and the overall feeling of the place is very similar to a club in the sense that people seem to care for eachother and not only turning loads. I didn’t once sense a skygod complex or anything like that there. If you get the chance meet Charlie one of the pilots, the man is like a real life Chuck Norris.