Featured Friday - Jessica Schultz

June 09, 2016

Skydive Arizona is a big drop zone with a lot of people from visiting to local jumpers, to staff, pilots, instructors, ground crew, maintenance, manifest to teams, event organizers and load organizers!!! The Featured Friday series is aimed at getting to know the people that make Skydive Arizona work and rock

Today, meet a young lady who started packing parachutes at the age of 9, earned her A license before she graduated high school, is a commercial pilot & SDAZ's manifest extraordinaire. Meet, Jessica Schultz!


When/where did you do your first jump?
Well, I used to pretend I was skydiving off the back of my parent’s couch when I was three years old, but my very first actual skydive was May, 1999. I learned to skydive at a Cessna drop zone in Wisconsin.

Tell us a little about your family and how you got into skydiving?
I can’t remember a time when skydiving wasn’t a part of my life. Working at the dz was a second job for my parents. My father started flying skydivers on the weekends when I was two years old. When my mother wasn’t at the dz all of my “moms and dads” took turns watching me. Believe me, they have their fair share of embarrassing stories about me. If you thought bringing a date home to your parents was embarrassing, bringing a date to your dz family takes it to an entirely different level. Later my mother started coming out to watch me and packing for the dz.

My father was always known amongst friends as the dare-devil type, but he swore he would never jump out of a plane, they were meant to be flown. I finally convinced him to do a tandem at SDAZ a few years ago – he loved it! My mother did a couple of tandems, but it wasn’t for her. I got my license when I was 16. The rest is history.


You’re a pilot, too. What are your ratings and what are your future goals as a pilot?
I currently hold a Commercial Single-Engine Instrument rating. Whew - I can’t believe I can finally say that. With a bit more training I’ll be able to say, Multi-Engine. Goals… I’d like to dig myself out of debt from my flight training. Anyone out there know where I can find a big bag of money? Just kidding. But seriously, let me know. I haven’t made a decision on long-term career goals other than to be a bad@$$ pilot someday. I’m extremely fortunate to know so many amazing pilots and I’m looking forward to learning as much as possible from them. However, if in a few years you’re on an airline and you hear a pilot singing, “Fiiiive minuteeesssss to departure” I won’t be offended if you put your rig on.


Most jumpers meet you at the manifest window. How did you get into that part of the skydiving business?
I moved to Arizona from Wisconsin in 2010 and began working at Skydive Arizona. I first met the Hill family many years prior at the World Free Fall Convention when it was in Quincy, Illinois. I drove the Skydive Arizona golf cart around picking up skydivers and bring them to the Skydive Arizona tent. I started at SDAZ in the back office and a few months later they put me in the window for the Halloween Boogie. I didn’t break anything or start crying so I guess they figured I could handle it.

How did you learn to manifest, what are the challenges, and how do you get that good?
I think of manifest as a giant puzzle. I’m always thinking about timing for passes and who will be ready to manifest to determine when to start up and shut down airplanes, all the while keeping call times to a minimum. I love it and I get super excited when it’s boogie time. Everyone else thinks I’m crazy. The most challenging part is if we have to unexpectedly shut down an airplane or a group of people pulls off of a load causing me to juggle everyone around as quickly as possible. I mainly learned to manifest from Mari and Barb as they’re legends around here. I’ve also learned quite a bit from listening to the pilots, ground and the skydivers to make manifesting more efficient and the call times more accurate.


What’s your favorite thing about the skydiving community?
I love that we are just one big, happy, fun-loving, dysfunctional, family. It seems like such a small community, but it’s likely that you know people from all over the world and everyone looks out for each other. Going to the DZ always feels like home to me.


What’s another thing that people don’t know about you?
I started helping my mother pack by flaking out parachutes when I was nine years old. If you thought students looked terrified on their first skydive, wait until you see their reactions when they saw me “packing” their parachute. When I was 11 I started packing full time, which became my primary job for the next decade or so.


What’s the best advice you can give for newbies?
You’re a part of the family now! So join in and don’t be shy. I know it can seem really intimidating walking into the hangar not knowing anyone. Coming for a small DZ to a big DZ I was always a little shy to ask people to jump, but in reality everyone is always willing to make a jump. People are here to have fun and want you to have fun too! If you ever need guidance on who to talk to or where to start, go to manifest. I’m always willing to help you find your new best friend!

Anything else you’d like to add?
Be the reason someone smiles today


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