Year 2 baby, we made it! Finally not the lowest underdogs at the dropzone, I mean we are still pretty low, but not the bottom and that’s all that matters. The last year has been long and tough but we made it through to the other end and came out stronger. Over the past year I have achieved a crazy amount. I managed to get my A licence, B licence, C licence, FS1, Canopy Handling coach rating and Category System Basic Instructor.
At the beginning of the year Rob, our Chief Instructor, sat us all down and went over goals for us. Things we hoped to achieve by the end of the year. When we sat down and listened to what he had planned for us, I was a student jumper not even A licence with 21 jumps and thought that this guy in front of me telling me I would be an instructor in less than a year was crazy.
As the year went on the jump numbers went up and as did my skill level. After a mental summer and a dodgy farmers tan I stumbled out the other side with over 200 jumps and a C licence and then began the training for the CSBI course. This was so strange and surreal as only a few months earlier I had been the one sitting in the lessons, not teaching them. After hundreds of practice lessons, many briefs and thousands of cups of tea, it eventually came around and I was ready for my course which was held in Peterlee in February in 2017 which I am delighted to say I passed with fairly good remarks. Then it was back to the DZ to teach my first lot of students!
Teaching students for the first time is the strangest feeling in the world and them throwing them out of an aircraft is even more so. After I dispatched seven static line students for my first time I came down from the aircraft and couldn’t stop shaking. I don’t know who was more nervous, me or the students. I have been an instructor for 4 months now and love every second of it. Seeing their faces as they exit the place and on the ground after their first skydive is the best feeling. Knowing you taught them to jump out of a plane and survive is amazing, and knowing they loved every second of it and want to go again is even better.
Another memorable moment was following out my brother on a tandem. Glen growing up said he would never in a million years go skydiving. So naturally, for his 16thbirthday, I got him a tandem! We went up, Glen attached to Andy Pointer, with me and Neil Oliver filming. Watching him skydiving was very weird! He got down and loved it so much he went straight back up and did it again! Now he is working his butt off trying to save up for an AFF course. I don’t think my mum is too happy about both her kids and our dad all being skydivers.
With everything achieved last year, this year is due to be just as progressive. So far I am at 300 jumps and counting. By the end of this year I am hoping to be up to a camera pool standard and also have my CSI rating. I also hope to be on my way to getting my FS coaching rating, along with improving my personal flying and working on my skill level while upping my jump number so I can possibly start thinking about a tandem rating and AFF rating. Bring on Year 2.
Half way through year two now. Nearing 400 jumps, and have successfully achieved my FS coaching rating! Also on follow out to sell with camera now and prepping for my CSI course in November. Also talk of going out to Spain for three months in the winter. Exciting stuff.
People ask, well you can get a million and one different answers. For some, it was always something they wanted to do, that infamous tandem that turned into so much more, a tick of their bucket list that led to an addiction to the sky.
For me it was simple, it’s in my blood. Growing up with a skydiving dad you always learn to look to the sky. Christmas time would see me asking for a pink Barbie parachute and late nights would mean reading through my Dads old logbooks waiting for the day I could finally skydive.
So it was only natural for me to begin skydiving the second I turned 16. After one and a half years of skydiving and still being a student on the category system, I decided to take it a step further and try to find employment in the sport, and it was then I came across the opportunity at Skydive Hibaldstow.
I spotted an ad on Skydive Hibaldstows website offering employment for somebody who wanted a career in the sport. Their three-year program would take you from the very bottom to the very top, from ground crew to AFF instructor. I thought it sounded too good to be true but I applied completing the application form and submitted my personal statement , a few months and training weekend later, I miraculously found myself packing a very large suitcase and moving to England.
I have achieved so much more than I thought humanly possible in such a short space of time. Within 2 weeks, I had my A-license that I had been working towards for such a long time and within a month I had 50 jumps, B-license, half an hour in freefall, another 2 weeks saw me with my FS1 (formation skydiving grade 1).
One of the biggest highlights had to be my first skydive with the man who got me into the sport, my dad, Craig Harper. I managed to get my FS1 on lift 38 that night and was sitting on the plane with my dad on lift 39, the last load of the night. Despite being on a five-minute call, the second I donned my rig it, went surprisingly well. There’s something very strange about jumping out of a plane with your father, a feeling I could tell was mutual giving the number of times he checked my closing pin on the climb to altitude.
The jump, filmed by two good friends and fellow staff members, is something that will be in the family scrapbook for a long time. Of course this couldn’t have been possible without my FS1 and amazing instruction by Richie Gecse who had more confidence and patience than I did. Also, the instructors on my FS1 jump who wouldn’t give up until it was achieved, many thanks to Chris Southworth and Andy Pointer.
Not only is there progression in my skydiving, but I am finding myself learning skills I never thought I would be able to do. Such as refueling planes, starting them, driving bowsers, (although not reverse parking them, much to everyone’s amusement) co-piloting a Dornier, working towards my radio license and being a DZ controller.
I have seen AFF students come to us fresh from ground school on the Friday and leave on the Sunday night with A licence in hand. We see people every day achieving their new licenses, new ratings, new personal bests and it’s incredible to see.
Recently I took part in my first 8-way which went well despite this being the first formation skydive since my FS1 dive and I am now nearing my 100th jump. Despite the many beer fines I have incurred over the past few months, there’s so much more I hope to achieve at Hibaldstow this year including my radio licence in the next week or so, C licence by the end of the summer, camera flying by early next year and if it weren’t for Hibaldstow these goals wouldn’t be achievable.
Skydive Hibaldstow has shown me what it’s like to be a part of a drop zone where its number one priority is the progress of its students, fun jumpers, experienced skydivers, staff, teams and I hope to be a part of it for as long as I can be.