Meet the Team

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Rilee Tandem Instructor and cameraman

Rilee is one of our regularly returning team members. Most recently he received his tandem masters and is returning as a camera flyer. Originally from the mighty North Waikato, he has previously worked many years in Auckland, for New Zealand Aerosports. This company designed and produced almost all of the parachutes that we currently use daily. Rilee is an avid nature enthusiast, when he’s not at work you’ll find him out fishing, snowboarding, reading a book or standing strong on his standup paddle board. You will be able to spot him at our Drop Zone showing off his majestic mullet.

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Troy Parachute packer

Troy has just completed his training at the Skydiving institute and joins us for his work experience. He is 20 years old and originally from the Kapiti Coast right here in New Zealand. Troy has grown up all his life skiing in the North Island at Mt Ruapehu and has gone on to teach the high performance side of freeride/freeskiing and racing. Having found that to not be enough Troy found the NZ skydiving school, after completing his training he is excited to join our team here at Skydivefranz to continue his journey into the Skydiving industry. He aims to become a camera flyer, eventually an aff instructor and tandem master for work, personally he aspires to get into base jumping one day.

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Tracy Tandem Instructor and camera flyer

Tracy is from Canada, she has been to New Zealand five times over the last 19 years, including a year living in Taupo. Tracy has a love of the water and mountains so being in Franz Josef is a great fit.
Tracy has jumped in seven countries so far, in over nine years, during her skydiving career. Started doing tandems as a way to work while seeing the world. She enjoys living vicariously through others first jump experiences. Her interests include hiking, hunting and travelling. And is hoping to get back into scuba diving someday.

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The Porter dream machine

This Pilatus PC-6 Porter retired as a commercial Ski- Plane from the slopes of New Zealand’s Highest Mountain range, Mt Cook. Then in 2012, joined Skydivefranz to pursue the new adventures of Skydiving!. Pilatus PC-6 Porter planes are a single-engined STOL utility aircraft designed by Pilatus Aircraft of Switzerland. Since operating here in Franz Josef the Pilots take extra special care of it, as it is the only plane and key component to our Skydive operation. The porter has a maximum capacity of 10 Skydivers plus pilot, it has a lot of experience in this regions different conditions.

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Sandy Ground Crew and Office administration

In June ’18, Sandy agreed to a 1 month contract with Skydive Franz to assist ground crew personnel. She can still be found haunting the drop zone as well as the office. Her background is in communications, with experience in aviation ground crew, office administration, and herding cats. In her spare time, Sandy enjoys long walks, horseback riding, and passionate conversations about world peace.

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David Tandem Instructor/cameraman and avid wingsuiter

From Southern California USA, David has been skydiving for 6 years and has about 1500 jumps in total. It has always been a dream of his to live and work in New Zealand, he his happy to be here making that a reality. His #1 passion in the sky is wingsuiting and parachute formations but will never turn down any kind of fun jump with friends. Outside of skydiving David really enjoys world travel and has a particular passion in exploring the beautiful countries of Asia. Overall David is really excited to be involved with a Drop Zone situated in one of the most magnificently scenic locations!.

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James base manager and drop-pilot

James, from New Zealand, is our base manager and drop-pilot.

He enjoys being involved in skydiving because of the genuine thrill it offers people from many different backgrounds and cultures. James is a keen skier and sailor, who is happiest out on the lake sailing with his family and friends when not flying skydivers about in the skies.

James lives in Franz Josef with his wife and young son and daughter.

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Sancho tandem instructor and cameraman

Sancho, from Switzerland, has done several thousand skydives and when not skydiving he enjoys many other adventure sports including base jumping and speed flying. He enjoys the summer season in his home of Switzerland, then in the off season he joins us for our summer season period.

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Sarah load co-ordinator and ground crew

Originally from Greymouth, Sarah has spend the last six years working in Franz in the summer and at Ohau in the winter where she managed a café and went snowboarding as much as possible.

Although only recently starting in the role, Sarah has been enjoying the change of scene.

“The interaction with the skydiving customers is awesome, everyone’s super stoked,” says Sarah. “It’s a lot less stressful and different to my other jobs, it’s fun seeing everyone excited and happy, it’s really nice.”

Sarah has now done six tandem skydives and she’s happy to offer advice especially to first time or nervous skydivers.

“It helps to talk to people, I know what they’re in for and if they’re nervous I tell them to try to relax as the staff know what they’re doing,” says Sarah “The nervous people are the most excited after their skydive, they seem to have more fun.”

Sarah’s also used the new job as a kind of personal case study.

“I’ve thought about getting my skydiving licence, just to go skydiving for fun,” says Sarah. “ Working here was my way of deciding if I want to go and do it, and I do.”

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Nathan drop-pilot

Nathan Graham has returned to his childhood hometown in 2017 to take up the role of full time aircraft pilot at Skydive Franz. Nathan spent much of his youth in the small town of Whataroa just north of Franz Josef Glacier and has worked most recently in the mining industry in Australia. Coming home has been a welcome change of pace.

“I’m happy to be back on the Coast,” says Nathan. “There aren’t many people here, I like the isolation of the West Coast.”

Nathan trained as a pilot in the mid-90’s and has done about 2000 hours of flying. He also learnt how to skydive in 2007 and has done nearly 1000 jumps.

“I like skydiving but I prefer flying a plane,” says Nathan. “I like being in control of machinery.”

While Nathan’s mining career has been successful, the love of flying and the skydiving scene has won him over.

“What I like about the aviation and skydiving industry is that it’s not regimented,” says Nathan. “It’s not like work, it’s like a hobby to fly a plane and enjoy what you’re doing.”

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Matthis Parachute packer/ cameraman and avid wingsuiter

Matt, from France, has been living in NZ for four years and has worked here as a packer, driver, editor and ground crew and is now our main parachute packer and is also a skydive cameraman.

Matt started working at Skydive Franz on a three month work experience placement while gaining his Skydiving Diploma through the NZ Skydiving School.

Now he’s a skydive cameraman, he aims to continue to learn and eventually teach others to skydive and become a tandem instructor.

“I originally wanted to do something like my dad who is a helicopter pilot, it was actually my Dad who told me the skydive school existed,” says Matt. “I’ve always been climbing buildings, jumping off buildings doing parkour and freerunning and I wanted that feeling in my every day job.”

As an aside, Matt has spent two years travelling around New Zealand, so will be a wealth of information for other travellers.

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Lily office manager and ground crew

Lily has recently moved to Franz Josef Glacier to work in the Skydive Franz office and join her boyfriend Matthis (who also works for Skydive Franz).

Lily has recently completed her degree in teaching while living in her hometown of Devonport, Auckland and is enjoying a break from teaching and city life.

“My job has so many exciting and challenging aspects. It’s awesome to meet such a vast amount of diverse people everyday and to be able to give them the experience of skydiving,” says Lily. “As for moving to Franz Josef Glacier my friends and family understand my sense of adventure very well and are happy for me to spend time with Matthis, whether it be a small town in New Zealand or anywhere in the world for that matter.”

Lily says she loves tandem skydiving and encourages others to give it a go.

“Being able to skydive in such a unique place in the world, with the most amazing team of skydivers is reason enough for anyone to do a skydive,” says Lily. “It really is an experience enjoyed by such a variety of people.”

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Kelly Tandem Instructor and camera flyer

Skydive Franz has welcomed Kelly to the team as a tandem master and skydive camerawomen.

Kelly from Taranaki New Zealand, is part of a family of rally drivers so was no stranger to adrenaline as a youngster. She had always been keen to try skydiving but her parents requested she waited until she was 21 and she did her first solo jump the day after her 21st birthday. Since then she’s gone on to become a tandem master, AFF (advanced freefall) instructor, and skydive camerawoman and she’s now done more than 3300 skydives.

Her career has taken her around the world.

“I’ve skydived in Dubai, Jordan, Kuwait, NZ, Australia and Norway,” says Kelly. “No one jump is the same which makes it exciting.”

Being a female tandem master allowed her to take women skydiving in the Middle East where female customers don’t jump with a male tandem master.

“I like being involved in people’s once in a lifetime experience,” says Kelly. “One of the ladies said during the skydive that it’s the freest she’s ever been and the freest she’ll ever be. And I was glad I could help her with that.”

Kelly’s enjoying being back amongst the amazing scenery in New Zealand and loves skydiving in Franz Josef.

“The views are awesome the place is sick, it’s good to be home.”

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Justin Tandem Instructor and cameraman

Justin is a tandem instructor and skydive cameraman. Justin, from Lithuania, has been skydiving for the past 13 years in the UK before moving to New Zealand in October 2017.

Justin has been enjoying the change of scene.

“Here it’s more fun and the surroundings are nicer,” says Justin. ” Where we jumped in the UK it was flat for miles and a lot of the customers didn’t really want to skydive.”
Justin says charity skydiving in the UK is very popular which means workplaces are making their staff do a skydive to help raise money for a charity, which leads to a lot of people doing a skydive reluctantly and not enjoying the experience.
“Here there are a lot of visitors from around the world who really want to skydive, so the job is much more fun,” says Justin. “There’s a lot more enthusiasm and I like tandem skydiving, doing camera jumps and staff fun jumps.”
Justin has always been interested in adventure sports and started skydiving in Lithuania as a challenge to keep up and surpass a friend who’d recently started skydiving. His friend has done over 100 jumps but Justin has gone on to do more than 1500 skydives and has also done 300 base jumps.
“I’ve base jumped in France, Italy, Spain, Lithuania and England,” says Justin. “I’ve ticked all the boxes I wanted to tick.”
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Jordan T Tandem Instructor and cameraman

Jordan, from New Zealand, is a tandem instructor, health and safety officer and skydive cameraman and initially came to Skydive Franz as a NZ Diploma in Commercial Skydiving student in 2014.

An article about Jordan from our blog:

You’d think being a health and safety officer would be at odds with a passion for jumping out of planes – but in fact safety is a prerequisite for having fun when it comes to skydiving.

Skydive Franz’s Health and Safety Officer is Jordan Topping and while every staff member has safety procedures to follow, Jordan’s additional responsibilities creates an overarching layer of protection for customers and staff.

“My main responsibility at Skydive Franz is risk management,” says Jordan. “My main goal is to eliminate the risk of incidents and accidents.”

Jordan says the whole Skydive Franz team collaborates and identifies possible risks or hazards in their own workplace as well as at other skydive companies. The team monitors international incident reports online and local reports through the Civil Aviation Authority.

“We then create possible solutions to remedy any issues raised, once remedied I monitor the action,” says Jordan. “Skydive Franz is extremely proactive with its health and safety systems, this results in swift identification and management of potential risks which means a safer skydiving experience for everyone.”

Jordan says that customers can expect the highest level of safety from Skydive Franz.

“We take pride in our operational procedures which ensure the customer’s safety and ours,” says Jordan. “Our gear is prepared and inspected regularly and we triple protect against human error in areas that have cause incidents overseas.”

The implementation of safety systems doesn’t automatically mean the Health and Safety Officer can assume everything will run to plan.

“The best advice I’ve received would be to ‘never assume anything’,” says Jordan. “Assumption only increases risk, so as skydivers we check everything important ourselves and from a health and safety aspect we cannot assume a customer will always behave predictably.”

Although skydiving is an exhilarating and fast paced activity, it is also relatively straight forward.

“A statistic I love repeating is that you are more likely to be in an accident driving to your skydive than on the skydive itself,” says Jordan. “There are a few anomalies that can occur but our staff are fully trained and certified to deal with every one of them plus our operation procedure means the likelihood of anything occurring in the first place is greatly reduced. We do everything possible to ensure the safety of our staff and customers.”

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Henry chief tandem instructor and operations manager

Henry, from New Zealand, is a Tandem Instructor and Camera jumper, and is also a senior manager.

He has been with Skydive Franz from the very first day of operation, initially employed as a parachute packer.

Henry lives in Franz Josef because he loves the natural environment and the outdoor opportunities it provides. He is a keen speed flyer and parachute swooper. Henry lives in Franz Josef with his partner and young son in a fully self sufficient home set amongst the forest and surrounding farm land.

 

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Emily Video editor and camera flyer

Emily from the UK learned to skydive about one year ago and can barely remember her life before skydiving.

I used to go to work, go shopping every weekend, buy clothes and go out with friends,” says Emily. “Then I was forced into doing a charity tandem skydive by my work with another workmate. He was initially excited but ended up hating it, I was absolutely terrified but loved it.”

It took Emily two weeks to decide she wanted to learn to skydive solo and she describes her first jump as terrifying. She’s since gone on to do more than 200 skydives.

“I still am terrified, always scared,” says Emily. “But it’s super fun at the same time, I can’t really describe the feeling of skydiving.”

Emily met Justin (Skydive Franz tandem instructor) while learning to skydive and he advised her that she’d likely quit her job, lose her friends and boyfriend and end up with no money.”

It’s true, that all happened. My friends think I’m a crazy idiot, my family think I’m stupid but I love skydiving,” says Emily. “My major goal is to skydive all over the world and do 1000 skydives.”

Emily is currently working as the Skydive Franz video and photo editor and manages to squeeze in a few fun jumps here and there.