Dave Schwartz is a very recognizable name in the skydiving industry – he’s a skydiver, a long time jump pilot, and is the co-creator and voice behind Skydive Radio. We here at Skydive Chicago are very fortunate to have Dave on the team. Join us on getting to know Dave’s quick-witted humor and his journey getting into skydiving and making Skydive Chicago his home.
Give us the skinny. How old are you, where are you from and how did you end up at Skydive Chicago?
I’m 46 years old from Lincoln, NE. My wife Karry and I left our real jobs and came to Skydive Chicago in 2006 for a 1 year life experience…2 years at the most. It’s now 2018. We are not good at math.
What were you like as a kid? Were there any indicators early on that might make one think you’d becoming a pilot and skydiver?
I used to climb up on our garage roof and jump off it holding sheets and umbrellas. My VK lands much better.
Before skydiving, what were your favorite passions and/or hobbies and why?
Snow skiing was what I enjoyed the most, but all mountain activities have always felt really good to me. I also did a lot of water sports and R/C aviation.
What/who inspired you to become a pilot?
My dad owned a Cherokee Six and some of my first memories are sitting on his lap with my hands on the yoke. I think that was the initial seed and I’ve been interested in all forms of flight ever since.
What is the story on how Skydive Radio came about?
Skydive Radio was really born out of my frustration that the content didn’t already exist for me to consume. When I first discovered podcasts I was able to find shows for all of my interests except skydiving. After months of searching I finally thought “why can’t we just produce a show ourselves?” Karry and I bounced names and formats around for awhile and landed on Skydive Radio. I reached out to Stump and Cory from LSPC and within a week or so we were up and running. That was in the summer of 2005 and we have been producing shows ever since.
What is the story of how you got into skydiving (including who/what inspired you to go; where and when you learned, etc)?
When I was around 7 years old I got a cassette tape from a youth pastor that visited our church. In it was a section where he did a visualization of making a skydive. I listened to that a lot as a kid and that’s probably where my first interest in skydiving came from. Later, when I was around 14 I saw a demo and that really convinced me I wanted to do it. When I turned 16 there was a drop zone in Nebraska that would let you jump with parental consent. begged my parents to sign but they wouldn’t do it. So as soon as I turned 18 I called Lincoln Sport Parachute Club and booked a static line course. Later I found out that Tracy, the guy who answered the phone and took my appointment that day, was one of the same people that jumped into the demo I had seen years before. He and I are good friends to this day and have made hundreds of jumps together over the years.
Tell the story of what happened after your first jump and how you decided to continue:
Not continuing never really occurred to me as being an option. I bought a 5 jump package the day of my first jump and never stopped.
What discipline do you like and why?
I’ve played around with all the disciplines over the years. Angle flying is where my interest is lately and I would guess it’s been more than 90% of my jumps over the last 5 years or so. I think it feels more like flying than the other freefall disciplines and I really like that aspect of it. Also, I’m a pretty big guy and I’m always struggling with fall rate issues when I freefly. Because angle flying is generally so fast I find that it falls more within my comfortable speed range and that makes it really enjoyable for me as well.
What’s something about the sport that surprised you that you didn’t know when you started?
That for the rest of my life all of the people closest to me would come from the sport including my wife and daughter. Skydiving has been very good to me in that regard.
What attracted you to get a job in the skydiving industry?
Karry and I had often talked about living on a large dz for a summer as a life experience. When the job at SDC became available we saw it as a way to check off that box. We had every intention of returning to our real jobs in a year or two but we found the quality of life at SDC to be even higher than we had anticipated. We ended up selling our house in Nebraska at the end of the second year. I guess that’s when we really committed to being in the industry long term.
How long have you been at Skydive Chicago and what is your position?
I’ve been a pilot at SDC since 2006.
What is one (or three) things as a jump pilot you’d like to share with skydivers:
I think skydivers should take aircraft safety as seriously as they take skydiving safety. Making sure that every person on the airplane is properly using their seatbelt is a big one. One unrestrained person can put the lives of the other 23 people on the airplane at much higher risk if there is an accident. Loose items can be equally dangerous and should be stowed away or secured to your harness during takeoff and initial climb. This includes phones and cameras and those items in particular are a growing problem that I see. Smart phones are a great way to pass time in the airplane during the climb to altitude but they should be stowed safely inside a jumpsuit pocket until a safe altitude is reached. There are many other things to consider and it’s way too big a topic to cover here but take the time to educate yourself about aircraft safety. You spend a lot more time flying than you do jumping.
What is your favorite part of the sport and why?
I love that all of life’s normal social barriers sort of get checked at the door when you arrive at the dropzone. Skydivers represent a huge cross section of people from all walks of life. There are different races, nationalities, careers, socioeconomic levels, sexual preferences, religious and political beliefs, and the list goes on and on. All these things that in normal society tend to divide us just don’t seem to matter at the dropzone. I love that I can watch someone with a PhD listen intently to a high school drop out about how to perform a specific skydiving skill. Or that I can see a Christian and an atheist share a beer across the table from a republican and a democrat without any arguments breaking out. I’ve met some truly amazing people that I would have never had the opportunity or possibly the desire to know if it were not for the sport.
Is there anything else you’d like to add? – Beer
Fast Facts Favorite Cuisine? – Indian
Favorite junk food? – Pizza
Favorite food that you enjoy that most people would consider disgusting? – Peanut Butter and Pickle Sandwich
Favorite place you’ve visited: – Galapagos
Place you want to visit that you haven’t been to yet? – Egypt
Pet peeve: – Clutter
What you said as a kid: “When I grow up I want to be – “Married.”
Something about you that few people know about and would be surprised to learn?
I went to a one room parochial school that had a total of 26 students across 8 grades. There were 3 of us in my graduating class.
Best book you’ve ever read?
I don’t know that I really have a favorite book but one I’ve recommend to friends is “The Art of Happiness” by the Dalai Lama. I’ve also read several of President Carter’s books and I find his insights on human rights and compassion in general to be pretty inspiring.
If you were to write a book, what would be the title?
The Art of Making Houses Small
Most used app on your smartphone? – Garmin Pilot
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