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Published: March 4, 2016
There are lots of drop zones in the United States who offer skydiving, but no two drop zones are the same! There isn't a manual out there telling you what to look for.... so we're here to share some insider knowledge!
The USPA is the United States Parachute Association. Drop zones pay an annual fee to be a USPA member and must agree to follow the guidelines set by the USPA. Being a USPA member drop zone is the first starting point when selecting your DZ. The USPA isn't a government institution like the FAA, but does set the safety standards for the sport in the United States. To see a list of USPA Member drop zones, click here.
There are a lot of drop zones that appear to exist online, but don't really exist in terms of a brick and mortar establishment. For example: if you live in New York, a Google search will display http://www.skydivingnewyorkny.com/. Nice website and all, but no such skydiving center exists. You'll call the number displayed and be routed to a call center where you'll probably speak to someone who knows very little about skydiving and will charge you a lot more than if you were to call direct.
So how do you tell the difference? Look for a physical street address that corresponds to an airport in that area using Google Maps; This will give you a good indication if this is a locally owned and operated business.
You can get a feel for a drop zone by visiting reviews on Yelp, Google and TripAdvisor. While some people have unrealistic expectations, you'll be able to see trends developing that indicate the kind of business you're working with.
The price range for making a skydive is all over the map. Be careful of pricing that's exceptionally high (over $300 for a tandem skydive as these are normally third party sites) or too low. Companies charging very low prices could be scrutinized as this is an expensive sport as it involves aviation (nothing is inexpensive in aviation!).
Call the skydiving center you're considering and ask questions. You'll get a better feel of the place when you speak with someone. If the person on the other end is rude, you'll probably know whether you want to do business with them or not. Good questions to ask are:
a). What's your safety record? (You can usually Google this - make sure the answer matches what you find online.
b). How long have you been in business?
c). Do they have a snack bar or can you / should you bring food?
d). What's the alcohol policy (most skydiving centers request no consumption for at least 12 hours before the jump)
e). How long should you expect to be at the drop zone (most are 3-5 hours)
Ultimately, trust your gut! With the proper research above, you'll have a good sense of whether you're working with professional people who put safety and customer service as their highest priorities.
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