Photo above by Elliot Byrd.
After beginning her skydiving career in 1997, Jeanice Dolan became the first USPA-licensed female skydiver in the Bahamas. She spent several years at Skydive Space Center in Titusville, Florida, as their accountant and gear store owner, before starting her own busy drop zone—Skydive Ocean City in Maryland. Jeanice has successfully juggled being a single mother of two and a drop zone owner, all while managing a busy career as a financial controller. Her accounting skills have come in handy in the skydiving world, as she’s been a valuable resource for both USPA and other drop zone owners with her expertise, specifically in the area of employment status. Dolan is known to be unflappable in what others would consider extremely challenging projects and circumstances.
“Jeanice is the epitome of smart and confident—a walking super computer. She has the uncanny ability to cut through red tape and find paths through seemingly impossible road blocks.” -Brian Erler, Parachutist profilee #5
Birthplace: Towson, Maryland
Marital Status: Divorced
Occupation: DZO at Skydive Ocean City and Controller at Ruark Hospitality Group
Education: Loyola University, Bachelor of Business Administration
Transportation: 17’ Boston Whaler and GMC Acadia
Pet Peeves: An unfastened helmet on take-off
Pre-Jump Superstitions: Gear checks
Life Philosophy: Good things happen to good people.
Container: United Parachute Technologies Micron
Main Canopy: Performance Designs Stiletto 120 and Spectre 170
Reserve Canopy: PD Reserve 113 and 160
AAD: Advanced Aerospace Designs Vigil
Year of First Jump: 1997
Licenses/Ratings: USPA S&TA and Coach; D-21144; FAA Senior Rigger
Number of Jumps: 1,500-plus
Number of Cutaways: One, at lucky number 13
How have you juggled being a single mom and running a busy DZ?
Showing my kids what hard work looks like on a daily basis is the reason for my drive and the pep in my step. I wake up before sunrise, at an hour too embarrassing to admit, and start working. I work nine days a week during the skydiving season, but I recharge with plenty of travel time in the winter. My village is really the reason for my success. I couldn’t do it without my family and friends. My mom made the three-hour drive to Ocean City at the drop of a hat, anytime I needed help. My kids, Jenna and Chase, spend their summer working at the DZ with very few days off. Life is a whirlwind sometimes, but I try to remember what I tell my tandem students: “When you are in the door, just about ready to jump, don’t forget to stop and smell the roses.”
Most people don’t know this about me:
I had my first hip replacement at the age of 24, after years of surgeries from a car accident when I was a kid. Skydiving wouldn’t have been possible without the intervention of medical technology. At first, my orthopedic surgeon highly advised against continuing to skydive. But, years later, I became the success story of his medical conference seminars.
What suggestions do you have for someone opening their own drop zone?
Work hard to invest and be invested in your staff. Treat them with respect. Listen to them even if you don’t agree. Just listen. Create a culture that screams fun yet professional. Be a leader who doesn’t mind getting your hands dirty (especially when emptying out the trash the first hundred times).
How long do you plan on skydiving?
Skydiving keeps you young both physically and mentally. I hope to be jumping for as long as I am able because there is no doubt: I will always be willing!
What do you like most about the sport?
Skydivers are such an eclectic group of people who share the same passion. We become friends, instant best-of-friends in many cases, with people we would normally not have the opportunity to in our non-skydiving lives. The friends I “grew up” skydiving with in my early years at Skydive Space Center in Titusville, Florida, are still such an important part of my life. We have scattered all over the world now but the bond of skydiving, whether anyone still jumps or not, continues to keep us together. I was recently at Sebastian Invasion and looked around a jam-packed kickass New Year’s Eve party, and thought to myself: Some of these younger jumpers have no idea they are surrounded by their forever people.
Any suggestions for new students?
Respect the sport. It’s what keeps us safe. And never stop learning. If you think you know it all already, you no longer respect the sport.
What’s the most bad-ass thing you can do in the air?
Check my altimeter.
What do you consider your most significant achievement?
My biggest contribution to the sport of skydiving to date is in the area of employment law. In a time when drop zones were starting to come under the scrutiny of the IRS and state labor boards, USPA sought my opinion on worker classification of professional skydivers and workers compensation. After multiple consulting phone calls with USPA and leading a roundtable discussion at the DZO conference in 2017, I was asked to present at the 2019 DZO Conference in Dallas, Texas. I provided my time pro bono because I hoped to bring awareness to this heated topic. While all state laws vary, the commonality is that if you improperly classify your flying or jumping staff, a DZO could face serious fines that their drop zone may or may not be able to financially withstand.
I also worked tirelessly with the United States Secret Service to receive permission for my drop zone to continue jump operations during a VIP, or Presidential, TFR [temporary flight restriction]. My drop zone is located approximately 25 miles from President Biden’s beach home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. When a VIP TFR is in effect, a 30-mile ring of restricted area is in place. While other businesses received permission to fly in the no-fly zone, I was told that a skydiving operation would not be entitled to any special accommodations. But through the help of USPA, our airport manager and some local politicians, I was finally afforded an opportunity to participate on a Zoom call with many representatives of the FAA, the Secret Service and U.S. Senators. During that call, I had the attention of the most influential and powerful people I have ever been around. I spoke for 15 minutes explaining the specifics of our operation. Skydiving is often misunderstood, and I used my allotted time to educate my audience. I was incredibly relieved when I received a call a few days later that we would be permitted to jump—with strict restrictions in place, of course. This was a win not only for my drop zone, but for skydiving as a whole.
Suggestions for USPA:
Require continuing education every three years for all instructors and examiners. Most certificated or licensed professionals must participate in continuing education – why not professional skydivers?
Explain Jeanice Dolan in five words or fewer:
Shy, genuine, smart(-ass), driven, fun