The only thing that stays the same is that things change...

The only thing that stays the same is that things change...

After being DZO of Skydive Kansas for 21 years, I accepted a full time position at USPA as Director of IT. I'm still traveling to teach courses as an eXaminer with Xcelskydiving. But I have never believed in spreading thin or watering down. After much contemplation, I made the bittersweet decision to close my dropzone. (See this wonderful article in the Osage County Herald!)
In an email to regular jumpers, I explain by starting with:

The only thing that stays the same is that things change.

Over the last 21 years owning and running Skydive Kansas, I’ve seen, experienced, and created a lot of change. Twenty-one years. In 1995, I was only 24 years old as a new DZO. That’s the year OJ Simpson couldn’t fit into a glove. The year of the Uni-bomber. The year Yahoo! was formed. My jumpsuit had afterburners. I wore a frap hat and Tevas. With socks. My Javelin had an ROL. My canopy was F-111. And my “cell” phone was really a desktop sized phone in a portable bag.

Yes things have changed. I mentioned three types of change: Change you see, change you experience, and change you created.

Changes I’ve seen around me. 
In what has spanned my entire adult life, the most remarkable changes I’ve seen at Skydive Kansas have been the faces. Besides the hundreds of faces of those making tandem jumps, the faces of friends and staff have come and gone as well. Everyone knows I require a hug before you leave for the weekend. Mostly because I can’t tell you how many skydivers casually said goodbye after a weekend of jumping who have not returned, be it from quitting the sport or moving away or anything else life brings. That’s been sad for me… but those faces were smiling. Maybe you’ve felt it, too, but I seem to feel the energy each person has deposited into this hangar. When you come around the corner, it grabs you. I still feel the collective energy each face has left me with.

Changes I’ve experienced.
These types of changes were those I had no control over, but which affected the dropzone and my decision making. I’m talking about gear, regulations, economy, and of course weather. Like handling terminal freefall wind, I’ve learned to relax and flow with these changes, and even capitalized on them at times.

Changes I’ve created.
This hangar used to have concrete floors, one couch and a fridge. Some of my staff knows, if it’s a windy day and they’re hanging around, they’re likely to be roped into moving furniture! After what has been half of my entire lifetime, I’ve finally organized the furniture to flow with our tasks like Fung-shui! But more significantly, I’ve created educational change here and elsewhere. Skydive Kansas was the first in the state to implement a dedicated AFF program. I wrote the first online ground school of its kind, which morphed into SkydiveSchool.org and the USPA Library. I helped develop tools for Coach and Tandem rating courses. And again, with staff that I’ve dragged into my crazy ideas, I created packing and training videos for Strong Enterprises. None of those changes would have been within my vision or my reach without the resources Skydive Kansas has afforded me. I sincerely believe my dropzone has been a testbed and catalyst for beneficial educational change in the whole skydiving industry.

Creating change takes courage. (Fortunately jumping out of an airplane teaches me courage!) Creating change takes initiating momentum away from a current trajectory. And creating change takes a vision for better things.  So it is not without heavy consideration and hours of bittersweet contemplation that I’m announcing: Skydive Kansas will be closing.

Within the last month, I’ve found out my work situation will be changing next year. I have some amazing opportunities to be involved in the educational and technological forefront of this sport, opportunities that will require much more of my time and attention. Skydive Kansas deserves the kind of leadership that can sustain it, that can thrive through changes. I will no longer be able to give this dropzone that kind of leadership, so I’m sadly stepping out. Ironically, the reason I have these new opportunities is directly because of the dropzone. My plan for at least the last decade has been to make it to 25 years, but it’s clear that I must take this opportunity now as it’s presented.

We will continue to operate over the winter  whenever we are graced with good weather. December 11 my daughter turns 18 and will make a tandem with me. (Yes in the cold!) In February, my airplane insurance needs renewed, so if I do not choose to renew it, we will stop flying the plane February 9th.  Soon, I will share more about what lies ahead for me, and my plans to continue giving to our Kansas community. I will also announce some avenues for selling equipment and gear, for giving away sentimental items, and for buttoning up the physical aspects of closing.

Change takes courage for sure. For inspiration during this transition, I have had to remind myself of an exercise I conduct with candidates in all of my rating courses: take a breath in, and let it out. (Quite literally “inspiration!”) Now take a breath in but hold it. Hold onto that breath. Because breathing is necessary for life. That breath was important, useful, significant. Keep holding onto that breath! Whoa, okay, let it go… at some point we need to breathe out! And take another breath in! Or we’ll die…

Sometimes you have to let things go in order to take new things in.


Throwing people out of airplanes since 1995

Over 45,347 times, humans have taken flight over Osage City, Kansas, with impeccable safety... not to mention tremendous fun! While nationwide, less than 1% of those trying tandem for the first time returned for another jump, Skydive Kansas boasted a 19% return rate in 2015! We jumped with people from almost every county in Kansas, from every state in the U.S., and from many foreign countries.

From Chris Hubbell, Skydive Kansas pilot

"I'll never fly for a dropzone" I said to myself. The airplane I was looking at had a piece of scrap sheet metal hammered into shape and attached to the cowling with pop rivets and toolbox fasteners. When I said something about it, the response was a laughing recollection about the non-mechanic pilot rebuilding one of the magnetos. 

I followed Frank and Bill around to a few dropzones after that to watch them skydive, and nothing changed my mind for many years. The first thing that caught my attention about Skydive Kansas was that Bill told me they did all of the required maintenance on their aircraft. Annual inspections, 100 hours, oil changes on schedule, and all work done by an A&P. The owner, he said, was a stickler for safety from her airplanes to her gear to her training and her policies. 

"OK. I'll take a look." I was still nervous. One of the other things I observed at some dropzones was a lot of aggressive type A's: the kind of people that make you wary in aviation because they aren't usually open to the continuous learning necessary to keep you safe. 

It's hard to believe that was a dozen years ago and that I've flown over 1,000 loads of jumpers. What I found when I got to SDK was the warmest, most welcoming group of people I've ever met in my life. They were all on the same wavelength, focused on the safe enjoyment of their unique skill and sport. They were all cooperative with each other, without competing agendas or distracting egos. And they were all cool. 

Over the years the names and faces changed some; but the atmosphere never did. That's because of one thing, Jen Sharp's ceaseless energy and devotion not only to her operation, but to all of us who are part of it. She's steady in a crisis, caring and stern at the right times and in the right measures, and aggressively generous.

These magic times or places move through our lives, though, and all must eventually come to an end. Skydive Kansas is closing this month after 20 years. The right thing has happened and the good person is winning, with a great opportunity for her and her family. 

Thank you, Jen, for all of those great years, for the laughs and fun, the lunches delivered to the plane (for the cool airplane to fly!), and most of all, for being you. Best of luck with the USPA.

  • 11 March 2017
  • Number of views: 3617
  • Comments: 3

3 comments on article "The only thing that stays the same is that things change..."

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Claudia

4/5/2017 3:13 AM

Hi, I'm sorry to hear that Skydive Kansas is closing. I know you had exposed at the following link (https://skydivekansas.com/staff/CoachCourse.pdf) a great overview for USPA coaches. I am one myself and I just wanted to reread it before the season starts. Could I please get a copy of it?

Also, if you have some gear (150 main, 150 reserve) that would fit a 5'4 52kg girl (me), I would love to get it out of your hands. :D

Thank you,

Claudia Juncu


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Jen Sharp

10/22/2018 8:32 AM

Sorry for such late response. Actually I have better things in store, watch at USPA.org for better materials soon. In the meantime, you can also look at a ton more resources I've gathered here: http://xcelskydiving.com/Xplore


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Claudia

5/9/2017 11:00 AM

Hi, could you please let me know if you still have the coach course pdf that was at the address https://skydivekansas.com/staff/CoachCourse.pdf?

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Another word from the Dictionary of Jen:

"chameleontegrity" 

[kəˈmēlyən teɡrədē]

Variable character of integrity that changes based on the level of integrity of surrounding people. For example, the behavior of being honest and fair if people around them are honest and fair, but lying if other people in the situation are lying. 

 


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