The instructors at Skydive Hollister conduct their highest jumps at 18,000 feet—the greatest height from which one can dive without supplemental oxygen. Even at this altitude, they have to pump oxygen into the plane’s cockpit before a jump. Once outside, the 120 mile-per-hour free falls last little more than one minute. They help students navigate this rapid descent on tandem dives, during which they strap into the same harness as their student and coach them in proper body position, steering, and parachute release over the sound of roaring wind. At 5,000 feet, instructors deploy the parachute and instruct their partner in parachute control and landing techniques as the blue waters of Monterey Bay and the hills of San Francisco unfold below.
Instructors also train students seeking skydiving licenses through two programs. In the Accelerated Free-Fall program, they teach skydiving principles and technical basics in a four- to six-hour ground school before strapping students into their own parachutes for seven jumps. The Instructor-Assisted Free-Fall program precedes this solo training with two tandem skydives, during which instructors teach their protégés the basics of free-fall turns, altitude awareness, and filling in for the lead goose flying in V-formation.