Even though Calkins was instantly hooked, it was a lengthy process to get certified as an instructor. It took him nearly four years. "They run you through the ringer to see if you are worthy," he explains. A certified instructor must (successfully) complete 200 jumps as well as display freefall skills.
But, Calkins admits the romanticism of the job is often tempered by mundane chores. "Packing the chutes, for example," he groans. For every fifteen minute jump, it takes about equal time to correctly prepare a parachute.
The upside? Many of the students develop crushes on their instructors. "Oh yeah," he admits, "we call it 'hero worship.' They see us as brave and daring individuals." That is as long as the chute opens. PHIL BUSSE