Side Hustle #58 – Skydiving Drop Zone Worker

by J. Money - Published July 10, 2015

skydiving job

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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.

jump for your life

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.

skydivers drop zone

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? :)

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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

[Photos by Prince Roy, Tony Mann, and Joe Baz]

Jay loves talking about money, experimenting, blasting hip-hop, and hanging out with his two beautiful boys. You can check out all of his online projects at jmoney.biz. Thanks for reading the blog!

{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Brian @ Debt Discipline July 10, 2015 at 7:39 am

Very cool side hustle. We have a local sky driving place. I’ve never tried it but have some friends who have and that had an amazing time.

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2 J. Money July 10, 2015 at 9:35 am

I think it’s one of those things you try at least once just to experience it and say you’ve done it :) It seems you either REALLY love it afterwards and keep going, or you’ve had your fun from there. I fell into the second category. It was really cool to see what it’s like to just FALL for so long in the sky like that, but I didn’t get enough of a rush to really get addicted. Plus, someone later that same day I went had a heart attack mid air and never pulled his chord cementing my feelings on it even more :) Still, quite the experience to try!

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3 Gene Roberts July 10, 2015 at 6:57 pm

eeewwww, Any day you didn’t have to bring a spatula to this side hustle would be a good one.

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4 Simple Is The New Green July 12, 2015 at 12:23 am

This reminds me of a joke…
What’s the difference between a golfer and a skydiver?
A golfer goes whack!….. sh**!
A skydiver goes sh**!!!….. whack!!! :)

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5 Simple Is The New Green July 10, 2015 at 10:21 am

I agree with J$. It is definitely something to try once!

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6 Mel July 10, 2015 at 9:32 am

That’s so cool – did you ever get to jump for free for working there? Skydiving is expensive! I would be so scared to pack parachutes for someone, even with a reserve chute.

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7 Simple Is The New Green July 10, 2015 at 10:24 am

No, I didn’t get any discounts jumping. And yes, it IS expensive. Unless you really, really love it, it probably isn’t the ideal sport for any good budget. :)

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8 Tawcan July 10, 2015 at 9:55 am

If you want to get some excitement and like skydiving, that seems like a great side hustle. Haven’t tried skydiving myself but my wife and some of my friends have done a few times and thought it was a lot of fun.

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9 Simple Is The New Green July 10, 2015 at 10:25 am

Yes, this particular side hustle was by far the most fun I ever had making money!

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10 Alexander @ Cash Flow Diaries July 10, 2015 at 10:23 am

The first time I went skydiving I thought the people working there were the coolest people on earth. What a great job to have! I just love the adrenaline from jumping out of a plane. Ive done it twice now and also did iFly (indoor skydiving) but that is no where near as fun as real sky diving.

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11 Simple Is The New Green July 10, 2015 at 10:27 am

I’ve been wondering whether the indoor skydiving is any fun. And yes, they are the coolest people, with big hearts and a love for life.

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12 Kayla @ Femme Frugality July 10, 2015 at 10:47 am

What an interesting side hustle. I’ve never been sky diving. On one hand it sounds crazy fun. On the other, I think I’d pee my pants, haha.

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13 Simple Is The New Green July 10, 2015 at 10:53 am

It is crazy fun, but pretty intense before hand. Flying up to 13,000 feet gives you enough time to wonder what the heck you just got yourself into. :)

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14 Michelle July 10, 2015 at 11:51 am

Wow very interesting! I have never gone skydiving but it’s definitely something I want to try.

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15 Simple Is The New Green July 10, 2015 at 11:52 am

You definitely should!

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16 Will @ Phroogal July 10, 2015 at 12:23 pm

What would you do with the videos? Put them on the company website?

You’re a champ for doing video editing for $10/hour. It’s definitely harder/more time consuming than it looks. Looks… ha.

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17 Simple Is The New Green July 10, 2015 at 12:48 pm

The videos were purchased by the jumpers. They had to pay extra and it would entail another jumper with a camera on his helmet. When I edited the videos, the jumpers were often sitting next to me with their post jump buzz on, so that was fun. :)

Yes, it took a little getting used to the editing, but I thought it was fun. It wasn’t super high tech equipment, but I was one of only a few people who knew how to work it. They called me the “smart one” because of that. lol!

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18 Debt Hater July 10, 2015 at 2:54 pm

That’s really a unique and probably always exciting side hustle. I did some minor video editing at one of my internships to get posted to a blog, I’m surprised you didn’t get a pay bump for that as it’s not so easy. I’ve never gone skydiving myself, but it is on the list of things I’d like to try at least once.

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19 Simple Is The New Green July 10, 2015 at 3:41 pm

I was at a stage in my life where I was just looking for something fun to do on the weekends.I also didn’t need the money at the time, so I didn’t really think to ask for more. I was willing to learn any job there mostly because I was afraid I would get bored if I only drove the van or only packed chutes or only dubbed videos. I need variety. This was 10 years ago also, so the equipment may have been much simpler than what people are used to these days.

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20 Done by Forty July 10, 2015 at 3:27 pm

My best friend packs chutes for a living. The money’s not amazing or anything, but he jumps out of airplanes for a lot less. :) Pretty good perk.

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21 Simple Is The New Green July 10, 2015 at 3:43 pm

When I was there, most of the other packers were jumpers themselves and they would use the packing money towards their jump. It could definitely be an economical way to stay in skydiving!

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22 Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank July 10, 2015 at 7:04 pm

I find your side hustle really awesome. I do want to know how to edit videos. You are lucky you know how to add effects and edit videos. What software/program are you using? After this side hustle, there are lots out there needing your skills.

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23 Simple Is The New Green July 10, 2015 at 8:03 pm

I am not editing videos now. I worked at the drop zone about 10 years ago, so I’m sure the technology I used then is anywhere near what is available now.

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24 Free to Pursue July 11, 2015 at 7:00 pm

Ha! Love this side hustle example. As a former avid jumper, that would have made a lot of sense, especially when you’re stuck at a drop zone waiting for the wind to die down enough to get another load up for a jump. Never thought of asking to pack chutes though…dang!

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25 Simple Is The New Green July 12, 2015 at 12:24 am

That’s cool that you were an avid jumper! I never got past my second tandem jump, but I still love the atmosphere at drop zones!

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26 mobilehomegurl July 12, 2015 at 12:42 am

Neat story and interesting choice for a vocation!

Good to hear you were exposed to different areas of the business. I also have an interest in video so doing video work must have been really fun for you. Great way to exercise our creative sides!

Though I’ve never been skydiving, it’s something I’ve been curious about.

Thanks for sharing! :)

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27 Simple Is The New Green July 13, 2015 at 12:30 pm

Yes, I have to say that working at the drop zone got my brain into a different mode than my typical day job did. It was fun to expand my knowledge with the video work.

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28 Miss Personal Finance July 12, 2015 at 10:02 am

I didn’t even know this was a thing! Maybe I should try sky-diving first before I get on a side hustle like this…:P Sounds so exciting, though! Seeing all the excited/nervous jumpers before they go and then come back. :)

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29 Simple Is The New Green July 13, 2015 at 12:31 pm

Even if you don’t like or want to try skydiving, it is still a fun atmosphere and a great way to be involved without being an avid jumper!

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30 M July 14, 2015 at 4:39 pm

Love the post – and an interesting concept for making some money on the side!

The picture at the top of this article was taken in Queenstown, New Zealand (also known as the adventure capital of the world – bungee jumping was invented there!)

I went skydiving there in November of last year (ironically with the same company that is shown in the picture – NZone) and can’t recommend it highly enough! Many of the instructors have done 10,000+ jumps which is amazing to me.

Paying to go skydiving may not be one of the most frugal activities, but I did it as part of a once in a lifetime trip around the world, so I felt like it was money well spent. Now I’m back to diligently saving so I can go back to New Zealand – soon!

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31 J. Money July 20, 2015 at 11:58 am

WOAHHH very cool! Queenstown looks AMAZING – what an incredible trip around the world. You did something most people will never do, congrats :)

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32 Chris Muller July 16, 2015 at 11:10 pm

This is really interesting. I guess I’d never really thought about someone actually packing the parachute into a bag that someone ultimately pulls. Someone’s gotta do it though, right?

While I’m far too skittish to jump out of a plane, I wonder if people who jump think about the person packing their chute before jumping. I know if I did get the courage to get up there, the moment I thought about that I’d start second guessing myself…Meaning there’s room for human error.

Give yourself some serious credit, though. Even though jumpers have a backup chute, their lives are very much in your hands. That’s got to be a great feeling when everything works out the way it’s supposed to.

Thanks for sharing this!

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33 J. Money July 20, 2015 at 11:59 am

I never thought about it either on my one (and only) jump. Better someone to pack it who knows what they’re doing though than yourself! Haha…

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34 Chella July 21, 2015 at 9:10 pm

I have never been interested in skydiving ever in my life. However, reading this post has sparked that urge and enthusiasm to do it. I think I will definitely try it out with my family in the near future. All in all, this was a great side hustles for you. making $4000 in 6 months was quite impressive. considering that it was just a complementary job.

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