Profile - David "T.K." Hayes | D-18764
by Brian Giboney
David “T.K.” Hayes, D-18764, manages Skydive City Zephyrhills in Florida. Originally from Canada, Hayes cut away from a good career at IBM to pursue a career in skydiving. He made his first jump in 1981 at the age of 20. Thirty-five years later, he is still in love with the sport. Hayes holds almost every instructional rating there is (in both the U.S. and Canada) and is a strong supporter of canopy piloting competitions.
Birthplace: Gander, Newfoundland
Marital Status: Single
Occupation: Drop zone operator at Skydive City Zephyrhills
Education: College diploma in electronics (1981) and Associate of Arts degree (2012)
Life Philosophy: I seek growth in everything I do.
Sponsors: Mirage, Performance Designs
Main Canopy: Performance Designs Katana 150
Reserve Canopy: Performance Designs Optimum 160
AAD: Airtec CYPRES
Discipline: Formation skydiving
Home Drop Zone: Z-Hills [Skydive City Zephyrhills in Florida]
Year of First Jump: 1981, an instructor-assisted deployment jump in Canada. On jump 15 I was a guinea pig for the early AFF program without even knowing that it was so new they had hardly any idea what they were doing. That was the first time I was ever stable in freefall.
Licenses and Ratings: Canadian Sport Parachute Association: D-486, IAD and PFF (Progressive Freefall) Instructor, Exhibition Jump Rating, Coach; USPA: D-18764, IAD and AFF Instructor, PRO. Retired from tandems. Several coach ratings from Sport Canada.
Medals and Records: Bronze medal in 4-way formation skydiving at the Canadian Nationals in the 1980s. Unofficial two-point 100-way sequential FS record at Skydive DeLand in Florida. Unofficial two-point 118- and 121-way (and one more, I think) FS records at Z-Hills. 102-way Canadian FS record at Nouvel Air in Farnham.
Total Number of Jumps: 8,200-plus
FS: 3,800 Tandems: 2,800 AFF: 1,200 Camera: 300
Accuracy: 100 Demos: 100 CF: 25 Freefly: 15 Wingsuit: 10 Balloon Jumps: Two BASE: One
Largest Completed Formation: 140-something, I think, at [the World Freefall Convention in] Quincy [Illinois].
Total Number of Cutaways: So many, I lost count. More than 25 on tandems and at least a dozen others. Makes me wonder what the hell I was doing.
What was your canopy progression?
Pretty bad. We had no idea how to teach canopy control back then. Started on round parachutes, and the first jump on a square was probably jump 25 on a DC-5 (a bad parachute even on a good day). Combine that with instructors who had no idea how to teach anything related to flying a square, and I basically hit the ground hard a lot. Had 1,200 jumps before I learned accuracy, and took Scott Miller’s course after 20 years in the sport. I still learn new stuff every time I attend a Flight-1 course. I love flying parachutes now.
Of all your skydives, does one stand out most?
I had a bag lock on a tandem in the early 1990s that did not cut away completely and resulted in a main-reserve entanglement with a reserve that was spinning. Got it under control and landed the reserve, standing up, in the pea gravel with the main still trailing behind it all.
What do you like most about the sport?
New stuff that kids come up with. Whodathunk freeflying? Wingsuiting? Sub-100-square-foot parachutes? It never ceases to amaze me the fun stuff we come up with. Human innovation is awesome.
What do you like least about the sport?
People still getting killed and injured making the same mistakes we made 30 years ago. We are supposed to learn. The craziest obsession these days is trying to get every last moment of your life on video for absolutely no purpose whatsoever.
Who has been your skydiving mentor?
Rob Laidlaw. I was a really bad student. Rob did not give up on me, and I made it through. It gives me a great deal of empathy when working with students. Every time I run into a student who is having trouble with the program, I think about how I was treated as a student.
What safety item do you think is most important or most often neglected?
Being able to land any parachute, anywhere, anytime.
Do you have any suggestions for students?
Have fun with friends in smaller groups. Learn canopy progression. Practice a cutaway every time you put your gear on and three more times on the ride to altitude.
If you could do a fantasy 2-way with anybody, whom would it be with?
Lew Sanborn or Jacques-André Istel … respect.
If you could make everyone do something to make earth a better place, what would it be?
Stop throwing your garbage in the ocean. Abandon religion.
What has been your most embarrassing moment at a drop zone?
I was watching a hop-and-pop, leaned out the door to watch, and I missed the bar above the door and fell out of the Otter. Lost my glasses, and the rest of my 8-way was saying, “WTF?”
Of all your thousands of skydives, is there one you would like to do over?
I was on some 232-ways in Lake Wales [Florida] in, like, 1992, and I took about 20 people out of the formation. Yeah, I'd like to do that one again. Roger Nelson and Carl Daugherty were less than pleased, but as it turns out I was the only person from our plane who actually got to the formation, so I did not get axed.
Do you have any suggestions for USPA?
Keep up the good work. As much bitching as goes on, there is no organization that can work to keep the government off our backs for such a small fee each year.
What has been your best skydiving moment?
I had about 120 jumps and got on a 12-way sunset load. We did three or four points and I got an “attaboy” from all the skygods on the load. It was then when I really thought I might be able to do this.
What has been your worst skydiving moment?
Breaking my neck on a swoop gone bad in 2001. I thought it was all over. I still have physical issues related to breaking my neck. So if you ever get a chance to break your neck, just say no.
What is the story behind your nickname, “T.K.”?
"Tent Killer." My 11th jump, in 1982. Given to me by old friend and former skydiver Jacquie van Lierop (aka Baby Jackie) in Calgary, Alberta.
You worked for IBM for 15 years before cutting away. Do you have any advice for people who might make a similar decision?
Have a Plan B. It is tough to make a living skydiving, but sure, pursue the dream. But be ready to do something else if it is not working. Packing parachutes for cheeseburgers might not be so glamorous.
Do you have any regrets about cutting away from IBM?
I would be retired with a pension by now. But the customer service training I received at IBM (which was legendary) has served me well in the skydiving industry.
How did you get so heavily involved with promoting canopy piloting competitions?
I always saw CP as one of the very few hopes we have of ever being a spectator sport. At Skydive City, we made a decision a long time ago to pursue that.