Fandango Part Two?
Any jumper who watches the skydiving sequence in the movie “Fandango” howls out loud as instructor Truman Sparks puts his student through the paces in preparation for a static-line jump. The movie was released in 1985, but it was set in the year 1971, and perhaps we find it so funny because in many ways it was a pretty good (albeit exaggerated) representation of a first jump in that era. Search YouTube for “Fandango skydiving scene,” and you’ll find the skydiving sequence split into three different videos.
Why all the reminiscing about a nearly 30-year-old movie, you ask? While it does not happen frequently, USPA does receive occasional complaints from the general public about their first-jump experiences, and sometimes their descriptions of the training and facilities make it sound like they were starring in productions of “Fandango Part Two.”
Today’s students are intelligent consumers, arriving at drop zones smarter and better prepared than ever before. Most can easily tell if the instruction and facilities are not on par with what they should be. A recent complaint included the description of a first-jump course that consisted mostly of students watching an old VHS tape of a training course that ran while the instructor was in another room chatting with his buddies. Another complaint came in about a course that consisted of nothing but a lecture that caused several participants to fall asleep. Yet another described a student’s complete lack of confidence in the instruction she received, so she elected not to jump and continued her training at another drop zone. Other complaints have regarded cold, damp hangars used for classrooms, old and worn-out training aids or even no use of training aids whatsoever.
Are your first-jump course and training facility up to today’s standards, or are your students wondering if they have stepped through a wormhole into 1971? Students expect (and should be presented with) modern instructional methods, realistic training aids and clean and comfortable facilities. USPA provides many video presentations and animations that can help with student training, which are available at uspa.org and skydiveschool.org. Attending an Instructor Examiner Rating Course will also help you learn new ways to improve your teaching at every level, including the first-jump course.
It takes a little bit of staff training, time, effort and money to reinvigorate your student program and facilities, but it is certainly worth it. So, get rid of the Hendrix posters, the duct tape and belly-mount-reserve hanging harness, and work toward creating a truly professional training experience. And in the words of Truman Sparks, “Always watch the horizon, OK?”
—Jim Crouch | D-16979
USPA Director of Safety & Training