Stephen Hatzistefanidis | D-35113
Profiles | Jan 01, 2023
Stephen Hatzistefanidis | D-35113

Brian Giboney

Stephen Hatzistefanidis is a helicopter and airplane pilot, tandem instructor and bucket-list destination skydiver extraordinaire. He’s seen the skies over Niagara Falls, the Egyptian Pyramids, the Great Blue Hole, Iceland, the Maldives, Fiji, the Bahamas, Hawaii, Greece and Palau—planning the logistics of both the trip and the skydives at many of these locations. Back home in the U.S., his favorite kind of jumping is still a demo for spectators—especially a Santa jump for kids. As a refugee from multiple closed drop zones, he recently took matters into his own hands, opening Pegasus Skydive Center in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.

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“I first met Hatz in Egypt, jumping over the Great Pyramids—he was making both fun jumps and doing tandems. He’s a very social and approachable person, with a super fun and friendly attitude, and I can tell he’s into all forms of aviation, for fun and work.” –Laszlo Andacs, Profilee #112


Nickname: Hatz!
Age: 29 plus 11
Height: 6’
Birthplace: New York City
Nationality: Greek and Egyptian
Pets: A grumpy 40-plus-year-old parrot
Transportation: Air or land? Either way, all my vehicles are blue.
Pre-Jump Superstitions: I like to step my right foot first into the plane. It’s a Greek New Year’s custom.
Favorite Food: Everyone knows the key to my heart is cookies!
Sponsor: Aerodyne Research
Container: Aerodyne Icon and MicroSigma
Main Canopy: Aerodyne Zulu, JFX and TX2
Reserve Canopy: Aerodyne SmartLPV
AAD: Advanced Aerospace Designs Vigil
Disciplines: Tandem, freefly, demo accuracy and crappy swooping
Home Drop Zone: Pegasus Skydive Center! I would hope I’d call it my home.
Year of First Jump: 2005
Licenses/Ratings: A-68652, B-40102, C-42300 and D-35113; Tandem Instructor and PRO
Total Number of Jumps: 3,500-plus
    Tandems: 2,000-plus  Freefly: 600  FS: 500  Wingsuit: 150  Demos: 40-plus  Balloon: 10-15
Number of Cutaways: Three so far

Can you explain your love affair with the Great Blue Hole in Belize?
I like the color blue, so it only makes sense! There’s something magical about that place. Something about landing a parachute in a coral-surrounded, 400-foot-deep, water-filled, shark-infested cave, 65 miles from land and any help, followed by scuba dives and lunch on a deserted island and a booze-filled three-hour boat ride back to land with 30-40 great friends is just unmatched. I’ve become really close with pretty much whomever I shared this experience with and even aside from the jump, the aftermath holds a special place in my heart. This last time I jumped, it was even more special because I got to share it with my wife, whom I took on a tandem!

Who have been your skydiving mentors?
So many greats out there! Michael Wadkins is certainly up there with his calm, cool method of instruction. Rich Grimm with his boogie-throwing mastery comes to mind. Too many to list!

What safety item do you think is most often neglected?
Jumping ragged, outdated equipment. If you are willing to spend the money to get into this sport, why not make sure you have good equipment? Send that AAD out for service, make sure you have your cables cleaned, use a proper rigger and stop jumping that 1999 Dolphin!

Any suggestions for students?
People come to me to buy gear all the time, and I’ll hear a 50-jump student telling me they want to buy a Sabre 3 150 … Guys, there’s no need to rush to downsize! Learn to fly a canopy appropriate to your skill. The resale value on parachutes is amazing; you can sell your used canopy for a few hundred less than what a new downsized one would cost.

What’s the most bad-ass thing you can do in the air?
I guess eat a sandwich in freefall. You try doing that and tell me the results. It’s not easy.

What was it like skydiving the pyramids in Egypt?
It was pretty spectacular! Something about landing between these magnificent structures in the middle of a desert, all while jumping out of a military C-130 from a military base in Cairo is just wild … only to land next to a guy offering a camel ride for cash.

If you could do a fantasy 2-way with anybody, whom would it be with and where would it take place?
Well, I’ve been blowing off Kate Cooper-Jensen for a skydive for at least five years now, and I think she’s taking it personally. I secretly don’t want her to see how crappy I am at belly-flying. This jump would be somewhere exotic, like on a safari.

Worst skydiving moment?
Watching the King Air that crashed in front of me in Hawaii. I still think about that and those 11 people on it.

Most embarrassing moment at a drop zone:
I once gloated to my friends over at Skydive Spaceland-Clewiston that I managed to evade my 100-jump pie-ing. I was in town for a Santa demo and popped into the Christmas party after. I showed up late and people had waited for me. I was touched … until I realized they all waited to pie me at 573 jumps!

What do you consider your most significant life achievement?
Until March 2020, I had no medical experience or knowledge about masks (N95, etc.). When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, I had just returned from a boogie in the Maldives and was in the midst of busy season at work. I ended up catching COVID in the big New York City wave, when all the nurses were going on TV saying they were forced to reuse masks. I did hundreds of hours of research on masks, researching FDA requirements, porosity tests and more, and reached out to vendors in China, with whom I already had a 20-year relationship, setting them out to find the right factories, get samples of masks and test them on Skype with me. We subsequently imported more than 50,000 medical-grade masks to the U.S. before April 2020. At the same time, I was able to raise thousands of dollars via my friends to donate said masks to healthcare workers around the U.S.

Funniest skydiving moment?
I was doing a solar eclipse jump back in 2017. I was in the air staring at the eclipse with these eclipse glasses. I hadn’t been able to make or receive calls all day because the networks were overloaded, and while in the air, my Apple watch was finally able to get service. I look down and there’s a text from my mom, warning me not to stare at the sun as it would damage my eyes … and then I proceeded to look back up at the eclipse.

Please explain yourself in five words or fewer:
Happily immersed in organized chaos.

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