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Ohio State PAES pulls cord on tandem skydiving classes

Courtesy of MCT

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Tandem skydiving will no longer be offered as a course when the school changes to semesters because some students who are registered don’t show up to class.

The School of Physical Activity and Educational Services (PAES) offers a variety of classes that introduce students to “outdoor pursuits,” such as scuba diving, windsurfing and skydiving.

The only course option that will be offered is accelerated free fall (AFF), which prepares students to take the jump alone and it’s one of the first steps to get a skydiving license.

Currently both options are offered, but Jennifer Olson, an instructor for the skydiving course, said the tandem class needed to be eliminated.

“We made the decision with the department that it wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense to continue offering tandem skydive as an option,” Olson said.

Olson said they pushed for the change because it’s easier for people to go to the skydiving location, receive the short instruction and skydive without taking an entire class on it at OSU.

Tandem jumping means that someone is attached to an instructor and there is only one parachute that is deployed, which the instructor has the power over.

AFF jumping students are able to pull their own parachute, but they have two instructors who hold on to them the entire time. They learn hand signals that let them communicate while falling.

There were about 280 students who took the classes Spring Quarter, but the capacity is 45 during Summer Semester and 80 for Autumn Semester.

Olson said she believes more people will want to show up for the AFF class.

“There is more demand for the AFF skydiving, we didn’t have the ability to even allow everyone who wanted to, to take it,” Olson said.

The tandem students met for about four hours for one week, while the AFF students met for about nine hours for one week. The tandems received less instruction time, but still got the same amount of credit, one credit hour, for the class.

When the class was smaller, when it began in 2003, there were no differences between the two classes. They were taught the same way in the course, but jumped differently at the actual drop zone.

That changed as the class expanded.

“The tandem instructors didn’t like the fact that they were learning about how to handle malfunctions because they were worried that the students would attempt to deal with malfunctions on a tandem skydive, when that really needs to be left up to the instructor,” Olson said.

In the class, students learn how to manage risk through training and lectures. They are given quizzes and have to write a paper as part of the requirements.

“We tried this quarter by splitting them up and trying to include a little more information for the tandems,” Olson said. “But still the tandems complained about it, it kind of got to the point where we would have to add so much more to this class to make it so that the tandems could get credit for it.”

Corri Smoot, a third-year in speech and hearing science, completed her tandem skydive Sunday and said she is upset they are taking out the tandem class.

“I think it’s kind of a loss for the school though to lose the tandem, because it was very convenient,” Smoot said. “I feel like a lot more people will do the tandem than the AFF.”

Smoot said she plans to take the AFF class because she still enjoyed the experience.

Students jump at Start Skydiving, located in Middletown, Ohio. It’s one of the top five largest drop-zones in the world, according to their website.

Gene Newsom, the drop-zone manager at Start Skydiving, said he believes that OSU eliminating tandem will affect business.

“We do over 10,000 tandems a year here, and as far as AFF, we do about 1,500 a year first-time jumpers,” Newsom said.

Students are dropped from an altitude of 13,000 to 14,000 feet.

The fees for AFF students is $305 and for tandem students, $219. There is an extra fee for students who want to be videotaped as they fall.

“The way that PAES works is that we don’t see any money from the students’ tuition at all,” Olson said. “Any expenses that the course has, including paying instructors and all that, has to come from the fees that we request from the course.”

Since 2003, Olson said there have been about 3,000 students who have taken the dive.

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