Skydive Langar instructor Dean has been jumping for over 50 years and still going strong! Here he is talking to Tom Shorten about the good old days.
TS: Do you remember when Skydive Langar opened?
DF: Yes, April 1977. A guy called Tom Sawyer I used to jump with at Ashborne, he came over to Langar earlier in the 70s, but he had to scarper – he was a bit of a notorious guy – a likeable rogue. He came back to this country in 1976, I didn’t know he was back until I got a phonecall. He needed a BPA instructor’s signature on the CAA clearance for this airfield. Being the notorious fellow he was, nobody in the BPA wanted to know. I thought, stuff the BPA, I’ll sign it! So I signed the BPA clearances for the dropzone in 1976. We got it up and running and started in April 1977.
TS: You’re a big hit with the students – do you have any advice for new instructors?
DF: You’ve got to be really keen and want to do it. Instructing can be very rewarding – it is very rewarding. But if you want to do jump numbers, you have to sacrifice the number of jumps to spend time with students. That’s my advice, be committed and it’s very rewarding.
TS: You must have a load of logbooks, how many jumps are you on now?
DF: I still have all my logbooks, they’re all in biscuit tins. I’m on logbook number 44, 200 jump logbooks. I’m now on 8736 jumps.
TS: How many malfunctions have you had during that time?
DF: I’ve had 4 reserve rides. Pretty good isn’t it? [Dean jumps a Fury, which may help to explain his very good malfunction rate!]
TS: And you’ve jumped lots of different planes?
DF: Yeah, loads. I’ve got 67 different aircraft in my logbook. A whole range of Cessnas and Austers and Pipers.
TS: What was your favourite?
DF: I would say any small aircraft, but the Stearman was one of my favourites. This one here [the Tigermoth], we used to jump regularly with the Barnstormers [display team], three of us in formation. The Stomp was very good, very similar to the Tigermoth. I did an inverted exit from the Stomp, you do it in a loop, when you’re upside down he just pushes the stick forward. You’re standing on the front seat hanging on to the two handles, upside down he just shoves the stick forward and you come out, fantastic sensation. We used to do that at the displays as well.
TS: What was it like being a Barnstormer?
DF: Barnstormers was a flying circus, we used to fly around doing airshows. That was very rewarding, we used to go all over the country, all through the summer doing little displays at fetes and airshows. I miss that. I miss that…