On The Coast: The Meaning Of Safety When You Work As A Skydiving Instructor (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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On The Coast: The Meaning Of Safety When You Work As A Skydiving Instructor

MS. EMILY BERMAN

00:00:03
We'll switch gears now from safety on our local roads to safety thousands of feet up in the air with On the Coast.

MS. EMILY BERMAN

00:00:13
Our regular segment, in which reporter Bryan Russo gets us up to speed on the latest from the eastern shore of Maryland and coastal Delaware.

MR. JOSH DOLAN

00:00:23
So, I'll have you put your goggles on. We'll get them all tightened up, okay?

BERMAN

00:00:25
A few weeks ago, Bryan headed to the Ocean City Municipal Airport to tag along with a woman named Jean as she prepared for her very first skydive.

MR. BRYAN RUSSO

00:00:36
When was the last time you flew in a plane this size?

JEAN

00:00:39
Never.

RUSSO

00:00:40
Never?

JEAN

00:00:41
Never.

RUSSO

00:00:42
Do you like flying, in general?

JEAN

00:00:44
Short trips, yes. Longer trips, I get a little anxious. I get a little -- I guess this counts as one of the short trips.

BERMAN

00:00:53
Jean's instructor was a man named Josh Dolan. He and his team at Skydive O.C. have made more than 35,000 jumps out airplanes, which made us wonder, what does safety mean when your nine to five gig involves plunging toward the ground at high speeds? Bryan sat down with Dolan to ask him that question, but they began by talking about how he got into skydiving in the first place.

DOLAN

00:01:19
It was in the late 1980's, early 1990's, and Patrick Swayze was doing back flips and free falling for, I think, thanks to some video editing, for five minutes at a time. And I think that was the first movie where people saw, in skydiving, that you could really fly your body and go link up with your friends, and I went with a couple of friends to see that movie and that was like, oh yeah. We gotta try that. That looks crazy. So, well, me and one other guy were the only ones out of a group of five that actually booked the skydiving appointment and went and did it. And then out of that, I was the only one that went back for a second jump.

DOLAN

00:01:57
So, I was young, fresh out of college, didn't have a lot of money and skydiving is as expensive as learning to fly an airplane, so I had to make some, you know, some serious choices if I was gonna, you know, go grocery shopping or pay for another jump. And, of course, pay for the other jump, you know?

RUSSO

00:02:12
What are the challenges in doing the type of tandem jumps that you guys are doing every day right next to the beach? Is it any different than being in central Pennsylvania or any other place in the country that isn't over a gigantic body of water?

DOLAN

00:02:28
Yeah, you have to pay attention on where your wind direction is, and we do that through just observations and through forecasts. And we have to pay attention to, we call them our outs. In other words, if you don't land in the airport, where are you going to land? We're blessed here to have a very nice golf course, just south of the airport. We've got a couple of farms/fields west of the airport. We don't have a lot of options to the north side of the airport. There's some big houses and neighborhoods, so we're very choosy as to -- if we're not going to make it here, where do we want to land, so we favor the sides of the airport where the out are.

DOLAN

00:03:01
But I can tell you, we've gotten good at analyzing winds, and we do it through GPS on the way up to altitude, so even though we get a forecast, we verify it. We can analyze how fast the airplane's going, airspeed wise, how much air is hitting the airplane and how fast we're moving on the ground. Then we can decipher, hey, okay, the wind really is out of the east at 25 knots. So, we're going to plan our exit point on that heading, over the east. So we pay attention to it. We get it down to a science. And I'd say in three years, we have missed our mark, maybe once, and we chose the golf course.

RUSSO

00:03:38
Safety is such a big part of this sport. You know, from the moment people walk in the door and start filling out the paperwork, it's safety, safety, safety. Talk about just how that has got to be the mantra and the mission of this sport and this facility.

DOLAN

00:03:57
The tandem dive has a misconception that it's an amusement park ride, that it's a roller coaster ride, that it's, you know, that's kind of, you know, you can just go out and get radical and it's really not. All right? This is a training dive. We're required to teach you certain things, teach our students certain things. But it's a lot of instruction, but what we do teach is really important.

RUSSO

00:04:19
After doing this for so long and interacting with people who are experiencing their first jump, as these ladies are today, you know, does it remind you of your first jump? I mean, does it ever get old to see people get elated the way that these ladies are elated?

DOLAN

00:04:33
No. Never gets old. That's the best part about the job, the best part about the job. After landing and, you know, seeing that you've made a great impact for their day and maybe their life, you know, for the rest of their lives, they can say, hey, I jumped out of an airplane, so and so, when they're 80 years old, talking about their grandkids that want to do it, you know? So yeah, you don't have to be an army commando airborne ranger to tell your grandkids you jumped out of a plane.

BERMAN

00:04:55
That was coastal reporter Bryan Russo, talking with skydiving instructor Josh Dolan of Skydive O.C., in Ocean City, Maryland.

BERMAN

00:05:16
And if you're curious to hear how Jean, the woman we heard from at the beginning of the story, faired on her first skydive, we've got a longer version of this story on our website, metroconnection.org.
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