Featured Friday - Susie Taylor

September 28, 2016

Skydive Arizona is a big drop zone with many extraordinary people! The Featured Friday series is aimed at getting to know the people that make Skydive Arizona work and rock!

Today, we meet a woman whose often behind the scenes coordinating pilot schedules, training pilots or behind the wheel of one of the many Skydive Arizona planes. She's been flying for Skydive AZ for years and today, we get to know more about her. Meet the talented, Chief Pilot, Susie Taylor.

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What/who inspired me to become a pilot?

That would definitely be my Dad. He was by far the greatest man (and pilot!) that I have ever known. He was an excellent pilot! When I was younger, he tried many times to teach me, but being the obstinate teenager I was…I wasn’t interested! (Can you believe that?? What a dummy I was!) But….I did pay attention to the things he did try to pass on to me in an airplane and in life…and when I finally did make the decision to learn to fly, I tried very hard to remember the values he instilled in me. I’m a work in progress, but I keep trying! :) My wonderful Mom is still here….but, he’s been gone for almost 20 years now…..never forgotten! And…..like I love saying: Jack Taylor will ALWAYS be my copilot!!

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What was your flying journey before you got a job flying at Skydive Arizona?

I was a flight instructor at a school called “Chandler Air Service” at the Chandler Municipal Airport. This is an AMAZING school! They teach you how to REALLY fly an airplane (not just push buttons and learn all the fancy automation). I learned so much there! I received all of my certificates and ratings there, and then went on to instruct there. I even had the opportunity to be an aerobatic instructor. You haven’t flown, until you’ve flown upside down! What an amazing experience that was! To this day I will be forever grateful that I learned to fly there!

What’s your favorite part of flying jumpers?

At Skydive Arizona, flying jumpers can be challenging at times…..it is a complex flying environment (especially during the season!). I like that challenge! I like the challenge of having 5-6 airplanes in the air at once, doing all different jump runs and altitudes…and trying to make the puzzle work! It can wear you out mentally, but it is a very rewarding experience to be a part of. BUT….what really makes me happy about flying jumpers are….the AMAZING people I get to fly for! Skydivers are a very special, cool group of people. They are one of the most fun-loving, daring and accepting groups of people you will encounter! I have had the good fortune of meeting (and flying) just some truly quality people….people who have made an impact on my life for sure!

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What’s the most loads you’ve flown in a day (and when/where was that)?

I’ve had numerous 20+ load days…but the most I ever flew in a day was 28 in a Skyvan at World Freefall Convention in Rantoul, IL. Man! That was a LONG day…..but fun! :) I was a little under the weather at the time, so I think that made the day seem a little longer ;) Wouldn’t trade that experience for anything…amazing time! :)

Recently you earned the status of, “Chief Pilot”. What are the job duties of Chief Pilot and how did you feel when you earned the title?

Ahhhhh….the job duties of Chief Pilot…..that can be a tough one to answer. Basically, I am in charge of all of the pilots and our Flight Operations department. I am fortunate to be surrounded by such amazing, talented pilots! They have a challenging job with challenging hours to work and duties to fulfill. I try to make sure (to the very best of my ability) that they give the very best of themselves on a daily basis (no room for less than the best!) :) But…another important responsibility of my job is to make sure they feel, know and understand that they play a very important role in this company. I strive through my managing of them and the department to instill in them that we are a TEAM….and that we are part of (in my opinion) the absolute best dropzone in the world. I work hard to remind them (and hopefully demonstrate through my actions) that their contributions are important to the greater whole….that they have a great opportunity (and really a duty) to give the absolute best of themselves inside and outside the cockpit.

When I was given the official job title of “Chief Pilot” from Shawn and Steve (and of course Larry and Lil), I was incredibly grateful, but also extremely humbled. I remember it VERY well. It was on Christmas Day….what an amazing Christmas present!! I won’t lie, I was so excited that I was actually a bit speechless!!….I know hard for those who know my love for talking to believe! :) I had been working towards it as a goal (It was always a goal that I wanted to someday achieve), but I NEVER thought it would happen when it did. But….even more than my own personal excitement, I really truly felt grateful and very humbled! For whatever reason or reasons, the Hills saw a skill set in me that they felt suited the job title. I have a great amount of respect for that family! On a side note, (because I do appreciate this question of becoming Chief Pilot….but….) I wish everyone would/could see this family the way I see them. Larry is an AMAZING man who built up everything you see at this dropzone from a dream and a small Cessna. What he and his family have accomplished over the years is mind-blowing to me! His family are some of the most generous people I have met. Perhaps some don’t see this, but take my word for it….they are! I have sincere respect for them…..they are all quality human beings….and I am a better person for knowing them and working for them. So…long story short: I LOVE being Chief Pilot! :)

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Many people don’t know you’re also a skydiver. When and where did you learn and how many jumps do you have?

(Melissa….shhhh! That’s supposed to be a secret! Ha Ha!) Yes…”officially” I’m skydiver. I only have a little over a hundred jumps (about 104). And….I learned at the best dropzone in the world…..well HERE of course!! :) I got my skydiving license back in 2002. I came down on a bet with an air traffic controller friend of mine. The first time I chickened out, but I finally gave in to the fear and anxiousness and went the second time. And…..(like so many stories I’ve heard before from other jumpers)…..I LOVED IT!!! I was flight instructing at Chandler during this time….but spent every day off down here learning to jump and learning to love eating ramen noodles (Hey! Skydiving isn’t cheap!!) :) I had a great time (and didn’t break myself) so I would say all in all it was an amazing experience!

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Any plans to return to the sky?

Ahhhhhh….I do think about that a fair amount. YES! I would really like to skydive again. I have my own gear that I bought new when I got my license. It’s old….but NOT! (Since I haven’t used it that much). So I am going to say….yes! Someday…..when I get my nerve up again! ;) But….on a side note….when that day comes, I’m not telling a soul…I will just quietly manifest and hope for the best! Ha Ha! Just Kidding! :)

Tell us about your 1000 step challenge you’re doing.

For the 2nd year, I am participating in what’s called the 1000 step challenge in Bisbee, AZ. For those of you who haven’t been there, Bisbee is a small mining town in SE Arizona (about 2 hours SE of Tucson). It is an AMAZING place to visit if you ever get a chance! The town is built into the side of several mountains, and so people who live there have to climb A LOT of steps just to get to their front door! On a side note….UPS, Fed Ex and other companies like that HATE delivering to homes in Bisbee! :)

So…..every third Saturday in October, they have a race (or for me walk!) that goes around the town (about a 4 mile loop) and you end up climbing different stairwells throughout the town (a total of 1000 steps!). I won’t lie…..it is HARD! Last year, I wanted to do it just to see if I could do it…..and I had such a great time that I wanted to do it again this year! I had so much amazing support from my friends and coworkers at the dropzone, and I’m hoping that you all will send more of those great vibes to me this year! To make it even more special, Larry and Lil Hill are doing it with me to celebrate Larry’s new “lease on life” after his heart transplant. How cool is that!! :) Again, just another reason I think they are super special people! There are about 1500 people from all over that come and participate, so it is going to be an AMAZING time (assuming I survive again!)

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Anything else you’d like to add?

Yeah….you know what…..I would! (when else will I get this chance?!) I would like to say one last thing: I sure am a lucky girl! I work at an AMAZING place……I have an AMAZING family, and I have AMAZING friends. I have the unbelievable gift of flying airplanes at the best dropzone in the world! I work with some of the most talented pilots in the business! I realize more and more that life is a gift, and time does go by faster than you realize. So……take the time to be grateful for the life you have….. the family and friends you have, the talents you’ve been given and the positive impact that you make on those around you (even if you don’t realize you’re doing it). Take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way….sometimes they come in disguise, so be on the lookout for them! Stop from time to time and take in the beauty of life…..and (most importantly)…..always remember that you are here for a reason….you have a special purpose! So……find out what you love to do the most, and then do your absolute BEST at it. That’s all……..Chief Pilot, Susie Taylor signing off…….. :)

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If you'd like to learn more about skydiving, check out www.AdventuresInSkydiving.com.

To learn more about Indoor Skydiving, check out www.SkyventureAZ.com.

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