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[Hey guys! I’m headed out to the beach for some good ol’ fashion family vacay, and while I’m gone I’ve lined up some great articles from blogger friends ready to spread the good word. Starting with Green Girl who shares her experience working at a skydiving joint for our Side Hustle Series! Enjoy!]
Hi, I’m Green Girl and I left the corporate rat race to live a super simple life that is good for the planet, great for my pocket book and even better for my health and happiness.
This is what I consider true wealth or WELL-th.
I once had a job at a drop/jump zone, i.e. skydiving operation. I got started because I had done a tandem jump and LOVED it. I also happened to know some of the people at the drop zone. I was a working professional during the week, but I was looking for something fun to do on the weekends.
I would sometimes just go hang out at the drop zone and watch the skydivers, and then one day, the owner asked me if I wanted to help out at his operation. I jumped on it! Pun intended! :) Not because I needed extra money, but because it was a great way to hang around with some of the most fun and alive people you can meet! They really know how to live life to the fullest, and I sometimes need to be reminded of that.
What the Job Entails
I started by learning to pack parachutes. You have to pack several practice chutes while supervised before you can get paid to pack one that someone will actually use to jump out of a plane.
I have to say, it was quite an experience when that first person jumped out at 13,000 feet with my pack job! I was so worried that it wouldn’t open properly or get tangled up. They told me not to worry too much though because all jumpers have a reserve chute for that reason. If the main chute isn’t working correctly, they cut it away and use the reserve which is packed by a certified professional and has to be inspected and repacked regularly, per FAA regulations. Still though, it was a bit of an exciting moment anticipating that first chute opening. (And FYI, during my time working at the jump zone, all my chutes that I packed opened up just fine!)
The second job duty that they had me doing was driving the van to pick up the jumpers. I would drive the van over to the site where the skydivers land. The tandem jumpers like to have ground help when they land, especially on windier days, since they are heavy with two people and have a very large chute. Basically, when the tandems start getting close to landing, two ground crew would run up on either side while they are landing, grab the toggle cords and pull hard (i.e. run) to collapse the chute. It can actually be quite a workout and a test of strength for a 110 pound girl.
The third task was dubbing the videos. This was by far the most fun. I would take the video footage and add music, special effects and some words. It was fun because I had to learn the equipment and not many people were willing to do that. It was also fun to watch the videos and how happy people were after they jump. If you haven’t jumped yet, I have to tell you that it is one of the best highs in the world!
[Editor’s Note: I can attest to this! Though don’t be a dummy like me and show up half-drunk from the night before… that makes the experience a bit too surreal ;)]
How Much You Get Paid
The pay was minimum wage for running the van and dubbing the videos, but the packing added a bit to this mix. I would get $5.00 for a single jumper parachute and $10.00 for a tandem parachute. Some days were slower than others so I wouldn’t get as much packing in, but I probably made $4,000 in about 6 months.
Pros to Being a Drop Zone Worker
- Super fun people and atmosphere. There are no grumpy people at a drop zone. Maybe nervous people before the jump, but elated after!
- It was great exercise to pack parachutes and run the van pickups.
- It was all outdoors. Packing chutes and dubbing videos happens inside the hangar, but the door is open. So it is covered, but not fully enclosed. And, of course, picking up the skydivers had me out in the elements.
- If you got really good at packing, you might be able to travel around the country, or even the world working at drop zones.
- For the single ladies… since skydiving is a somewhat male dominated sport, it is a great place to get a date. ;)
Cons to Being a Drop Zone Worker
- It was a lot of physical work and exposure to dust, heat, sun, wind, etc.. I personally loved it, but if someone prefers a cushy desk job, this is not for them!
- The pay is not great, unless you can find a super busy drop zone and get really efficient at packing. Then you might be able to make upwards of $30/hour.
- It can be unsteady work when you factor in weather closings.
How to Get Started
If you want to try it out, look for a local drop zone so that you learn the basics. If they aren’t officially hiring, ask if you can volunteer to help out for a couple of days. Also, check out the U.S. Parachute Association at USPA.org or skydiving.com.
Who wants to go jumping? :)
Green girl blogs over at SimpleIsTheNewGreen.com to clarify her thoughts and improve her writing skills. She promotes conscious consumerism for the new WELL-thy: people, planet, prosperity and the pursuit of happiness!
PS: Check out all 50+ other side hustles we’ve featured here: Side Hustle Series