Featured Friday - Jason Hanson

December 09, 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 someone in the aviation world who saw wingsuit skydiving and became inspired to become a skydiver himself! He learned to jump in 2009 and is now one of Skydive Arizona's pilots. Meet, Jason Hanson!

What/who inspired you to make your first jump and why?
As a teenager I always wanted to skydive, but in 2004 I saw online footage of people flying wingsuits (McConkey and Fadnes) and was like, “I’m definitely going to do that”. Though I didn’t really know how or when, I knew that I was going to do it. I was a student pilot/aviation geek at the time, so the idea of flying without an airplane seemed insurmountable.

Where & when did you lean and what kind of student were you?
I didn’t do my first tandem until 2009, and I actually did it at here at Skydive AZ with Kim Winslow as my Tandem Instructor. I’d been thinking about skydiving for the last five years, so when I finally did I was instantly hooked. I was living in ND at the time and in AZ on vacation. 

When I got back to ND I immediately googled “Skydiving in ND”. It was winter at the time, but I signed up for the very first static-line course at Skydive Fargo that spring. Being a student in ND is super frustrating, as winds are rarely less than 14mph. Also, I lived an hour from the DZ and worked full time, so combining that and weather holds it took me the full summer to get my A-license. Because of those conditions, one would likely describe me as an impatient student. “The weather actually works today? Put me in the air NOW!” I had some struggles with heading control in Cat-D, but other than that I feel like I took to it like a fish to water.

Who were your mentors or idols? Why?
The two local names you’ll recognize are Wade Baird and Becky Jose. They were both Static Line Instructors and coaches at Skydive Fargo. There were several mentors/instructors for it being a small club DZ, to include Jim Krogh, Dave Sornsin, Bill Ufkin, Chris Gourde, and probably a few I’m forgetting. 

What/who inspired you to become a pilot?
All of my high school classmates were saying things like “I got into ASU/NAU/etc” and I was standing there like, “Uhhh, when do we apply to college”? I went on one intro-flight at the tail-end of high school and figured, “Well, I’d better pick something.” So flight school was an out-of-the-blue/last minute choice when trying to figure out what to do after graduation. No one in my immediate or distant family was in any aviation-related career and I didn’t have any friends that were pilots, so it caught my parents by surprise.


What’s are you favorite airplanes/helicopters to fly and why?
Flying the twin otter is a blast because I get paid to hang out with a bunch of friends, plus it’s an overall fun airplane to fly. Flying the A-Star in the EMS (medical) role is a lot of fun too, mainly because there are no “airport procedures” to follow – you just arrive on scene and have to figure it out. It’s both challenging and rewarding, plus I get to fly with NVGs (night vision). I definitely miss teaching touchdown 180-autos in the H300 though.

What’s the most loads you’ve flown in a day?
The most loads I’ve flown in a day is 21, at nationals this year.  That equates to about 8 ½ hours of sitting in the aircraft. I literally only got out to take a leak, and hop back in. When I’m flying I’m glad the sun goes down around 5pm, but when I’m jumping I wish we had long days like at Lost Prairie or Chicago.


Where were you before moving to AZ?
I grew up in Phoenix and moved to North Dakota in 2006 to finish college. I only planned to be there for two years, but it ended up being 8. The University of North Dakota gave me a sweet deal to transition from an airplane instructor to a helicopter instructor, so that persuaded me to stay the extra 6 years. After that I had been flying helicopter EMS in ND for about a year when the company decided to open our first base in AZ. I jumped at that opportunity and moved back last year. “The base is three hours from Moab and five from Eloy? I’m in!”

What’s your drive in skydiving, aviation, and future goals?

My main drive in skydiving right now is throwing what would be my “retirement fund” at the tunnel to learn to freefly. After 7 years and 1,200 jumps I figured it’s finally time to learn to fly on my head. A big shout out to Jimbo (and the whole Skyventure AZ crew) for all the help!

I’m pretty content right now in regards to my flying career, but I wouldn’t mind trying my hand at aerial firefighting.

Future goals would just be to travel more and hit some more destination-type boogies. I’m still toying with the idea of getting my AFF-I, but after 7 years as a flight instructor I’m still on the fence about that.

Advice for newbies?
Nothing will halt your progression faster than pounding yourself into the dirt, so take it slow and develop good basic skills. You can’t skydive with shattered femurs, so fly that oversized “boat” of a canopy for much longer than you need to. (I still fly the first canopy I ever bought). Go to boogies and experience new DZs. And Party. Don’t forget to party.


Anything else to add?
I’m a part-time guy who really enjoys this gig, so it doesn’t feel like a job to me. Some of the full-time guys are here eight to nine days straight, sunrise to sunset, with an hour commute each way. So thank your pilots, cut them some slack, buy them a beer or two, and most of all; try to make it fun for them too! Lastly, try to convince them to become jumpers as well!


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