In 1995, shortly after moving back to Perris, California, Dan arrived at the Perris Valley Airport in a three-piece suit, looking to find a new job. After a career with the airlines, Dan was quite comfortable with the hustle and bustle of an airport. But, little did he know that what he was about to encounter at Skydive Perris was far different than anything he could have been expecting.
“I didn’t know what I was getting into and I tell you what, it hit me like a freight train right off the bat…I knew there was an airport here, but I didn’t know it was a skydiving operation. So, when I got here, I was kind of shocked to see what was going on. Skydivers jumping out of airplanes. Girls running around in bikinis. It was a lot of fun, and I was hooked from day one.”
Dan wasn’t new to the area. In fact, he attended high school with Melanie and Patrick Conatser, co-owners of Skydive Perris. Despite knowing the family nearly his entire life, Dan really didn’t even know they owned the airport until he began working there!
In 1995 Dan didn’t just start working at the drop zone; he also got bit by the skydiving bug: “I started jumping right away in ‘95, and I jumped till about 2007.”
Despite giving up the sport of skydiving in 2007, Dan Cook still enjoys the dropzone as much as he did back then:
“It’s still fun coming to work, it really is. And I think that’s why I’ve lasted so long. Because people come to the dropzone to have fun. It’s not like going to the DMV. Everybody’s happy and having a good time, and I think, as a place to work, it’s awesome.”
After such an impressive and lengthy career at the dropzone, what is the most interesting, positive experience Dan has while working at Skydive Perris?
“I like when big ways come together. We did the sequential event last week, and that was really solid. When you get some of the best skydivers in the world together and you see what they can do and when you can have a part in that, managing the aircraft and making sure they are on time and keeping them on calls, it’s great to be a part of.”
There are few that know their way around the Manifest position quite the way that Dan Cook does, and he has handled the challenges of a steadily growing safety-focused dropzone with finesse.
“We went from a three aircraft dropzone back then—we had two Otters and a Skyvan. Now, we have three Otters and five Skyvans. We do a lot of military training now. So, I think our activities definitely increased. And we’ve become increasingly safety oriented. It’s probably been 10 years now since we implemented the no more than a 90-degree turn below 1000 feet, but that was a challenge because, at one point, we had so many canopy teams here. But we made that tough decision based on the incident reports we were seeing. And that was a big hurdle, but I think it saved lives.”
So, how does Dan keep it all together? After all, in the manifest, if you miss something, it can have serious consequences. The advice Dan gives is simple: “The most important thing is to tackle one thing at a time. Multi-tasking is great, but you can only multi-task if you know how to do each thing, one at a time before you try to take on too much.”
Dan isn’t just a major part of the skydiving community at Skydive Perris. Because of his manifest expertise, Dan is invited to travel and work in manifest nationwide. Chances are if you’ve stopped by manifest during one of the United States Parachute Association Nationals, you’ve come face-to-face with Dan.
In a position rife with stress and known to have a high turnover rate, how does Dan do it?
With patience, a good attitude, and a sense of humor. With a chuckle, Dan says “I’m going on my 25th year at Perris in Manifest, so my sentence is up here in about another year.”
Don’t let that statement fool you, and don’t you worry if you haven’t met Dan just yet. If you make your way to Skydive Perris anytime soon, you’ll definitely have a chance.
When asked what the future with Skydive Perris holds Dan says, “I plan on staying here till the place is shut down, or I’m ready to retire. I don’t plan on going anywhere.”
Good to hear, Dan. Good to hear!
This post was written by Gabriel