The Skydiving Season
Pilots often ask, “When does the skydiving season start and when does it end?” The answer depends on the region of the country and on the decisions of the DZ owners.
DZs in the northern latitudes—those along the Canadian border, the New England states, those ringing the Great Lakes, and those that fan out to the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains—tend to shut-down entirely for the winter months. At most locations the weather is poor and it’s too cold for skydiving to be enjoyable. So, their season tends to start in March or April and last through September, October, or November, depending on location. These DZs begin hiring in January and February to be staffed up and ready when they open in early spring.
DZs in the southern latitudes—those in the Carolinas, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, and Arizona (and let’s include Southern California)—tend to stay open year-round, but there are still distinct differences.
For DZs in the southern-most states, Florida and Arizona particularly, their seasons are the reverse of DZs in most other states, meaning that they are least active in the summer months of June, July, and August. It’s simply too hot. They are much more active in the fall, winter, and spring months. And in November, December and January, their RV lots and activity levels swell with jumpers who move south when their northern DZs close for the winter. These DZs begin hiring additional staff, including pilots, in early fall, to be fully staffed-up for the expected winter influx.
While DZs in the other southern states tend to stay open all winter, their activity levels tend to decrease before picking back up in the spring. With the drop in customer volume at the end of summer, staffing levels tend to drop, too. Where they may have used two or three pilots in the summer, they may cut back to only one or two, and then need to hire again in early spring.
For sure, there are DZs that operate contrary to the tendencies just described. There are DZs—and jumpers—in the northern states who pride themselves on jumping in the cold, though they may have to wait until the runway gets plowed. A New Jersey DZ stays open and hosts an annual FreezeFest jump boogie. Denver-area DZs can have 30-degree days followed by 70-degree days in the winter, so they stay ready to operate. DZs in mid-latitude states like Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, etc. can have vastly different climate and weather due to location and terrain, so some will stay open in the winter while others will not. For DZs dependent on grass or dirt runways, temperature is not the dominant factor so much as moisture; they can’t operate until their runway is dry.
When talking with a DZ owner about a jump pilot job, be sure to ask about their season and their jump volume at different points in their season. Their answer will tell you how long and much you can expect to fly. And don’t worry if you aren’t quite ready to be hired at the beginning of any skydiving season. Pilot hiring by the airlines, charter companies and others means that many jump pilots are taking new jobs, requiring DZs to hire new jump pilots mid-season or later.