Fly teachers

Teachers take to the skies

Baylen Altizer

Chris Davis has fond memories of taking his close friends and family members jumping. He took his wife in 2007 and has a full video of the jump from the plane to the landing.

Chris Davis

The guy was like, ‘you ready Chris?’ and I’m looking down and saying ‘no–yeah…’ I told the guy ‘yes.’ I was just nervous. I had my eyes closed but once we were out, we were out. I was like ‘Whoa!’ I was screaming my head off. It was amazing. I thought ‘I just gotta do this again.’”

Chris Davis managed stocks, sold computer chips and instructed skydiving before teaching social studies at Decatur. Despite his initial attraction to skydiving while still a stockbroker, Davis didn’t immediately launch his skydiving career.

“I didn’t go back for three more years,” he said, “but in ‘98, I kept on jumping.”

Davis received his class A license, the first level license in skydiving, after completing the required 20 jumps.

He didn’t stop there, though. He worked his way up to the highest certification, a class D license, after completing 200 jumps.

Davis thinks three types of people who tandem skydive exist: the one-timer who is satisfied with one jump, the person who jumps a few times and is content and the guy who says, “I’m gonna do this for a long time.”

Davis is that guy.

After the first jump, he was hooked. He worked his way up to an instructor’s license which required 500 jumps and a one day course in a classroom

The final requirement to obtain his instructor’s license was to tandem jump 10 times with an instructor acting as a first-timer would. This helped Davis practice for what he would have to deal with in real tandem instructing situations.

He worked at Skydive Long Island, a company based in Long Island, N.Y., which he says has an amazing atmosphere.

“At Skydive Long Island, we’d [jump] for a living,” he said. “You risk your lives together every day, 20 times a day. It’s like a brotherhood, almost.”

Although it came with danger, Davis enjoyed the thrill of being a skydiving instructor.

“I used to tell people it was like being a professional athlete, but you weren’t a millionaire,” he said. “You get to do your dream job, jump out of an airplane and get paid for it.”

The scariest moment for him was when he went to pull his parachute and it didn’t open.

(Bottom) Davis and his coworkers at Skydive Long Island jumped so much that, to spice it up, they would play games with passengers and each other. One of Davis’ proudest moments was when he put a whole box of Tic Tacs in his mouth and spit them out one by one as he fell. “I actually have a video of it,” Davis said. “The funniest part was that one of them flew out of my mouth and shot right up my nose.”
(Bottom) Davis and his coworkers at Skydive Long Island jumped so much that, to spice it up, they would play games with passengers and each other. One of Davis’ proudest moments was when he put a whole box of Tic Tacs in his mouth and spit them out one by one as he fell. “I actually have a video of it,” Davis said. “The funniest part was that one of them flew out of my mouth and shot right up my nose.”

He had already pulled the cord that lets the main parachute out of the backpack, so he had to open the secondary, or reserve parachute.

The danger was the main parachute coming out at any point during their descent, because it could have tangled with the reserve parachute and caused them to fall to their deaths.

“Luckily, my passenger was a cool dude, a military man,” he said, “I was like, ‘listen dude, I need you to not move at all.’ He was like ‘okay,’ and I just made little turns to get us back to the drop zone.”

After landing, Davis discovered that the pin was stuck in the main parachute, so it couldn’t have opened.

Davis’ current jump tally is above 2500 jumps, but some of his skydiving students are surpassing him. One of his former students has racked up over 4000 jumps.

When working at all of his previous jobs, Davis’ friends always considered him a good communicator. He also had a love for history, and his friends repeatedly said he would be good at teaching.

Davis considered teaching as his next career move because of his friends constant reiteration of the idea.

“Even while I was selling computer chips, I was always the guy teaching the other people how to work any new software or doing presentations,” Davis said.

After moving to Georgia, Davis soon realized that the skydiving wasn’t the same as in New York.

“When I moved here in 2008, I took a little time off because it became like work,” he said. “I jumped a little at Skydive Monroe down here in ‘09, but it wasn’t the same. I missed my friends. There were just slower vibes. It wasn’t the upbeat, cool kind of atmosphere I was used to.”

Now Davis rarely goes skydiving. He does miss it, “especially the people,” he said, but teaching and family life have kept him busy.

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Debra Le Doux was in the Air Force for three years and flew planes before and during her time in the Ariforce. She washed out of pilot training after just “a few months,” she said. “The planes are not made to accomodate a wide range of humans. I couldn’t reach the breaks when the plane was on full throttle on the runway, basically I was bad at it” she said.

Debra Le Doux

Debra Le Doux is now a Decatur science teacher, but she had a previous career in the Air Force before ever teaching.

Le Doux attended college from 1984 to 1988, on an R.O.T.C. scholarship, a program designed to train commissioned officers of the United States Armed Force.

She studied mechanical engineering because she believed her degree would “better [her] chances of acceptance into pilot training.”

It was rare in the ‘80s for a woman to be accepted into the Air Force pilot school, Le Doux said, and after receiving her acceptance, she felt “thrilled.”

Once she started pilot training, Le Doux realized that she was not exactly suited for the job.

“I had my pilot’s license and I loved flying planes,” she said, “but it turned out that when you go to Air Force pilot training, you are trained right away in small jets and you have to do aerobatics. I didn’t do well with that. I got motion sickness.”

The cockpits of the planes themselves were also too big for Le Doux to reach all of the controls.

She dropped out of pilot school but continued working for the Air Force, first in a partnership with the major airplane company Boeing, reviewing the construction of military planes, and later in the electronic systems division.

Le Doux reviewed documents that dictated what Boeing was supposed to be building, ensuring construction was being carried out properly.

“Everything had big, red labels that said ‘Top Secret’ and ‘Star Wars,’” she said.

Le Doux moved back to the east coast to be with her husband, who was in the Navy at the time. She worked on a base helping monitor the construction of electronic systems, which were used in the Desert Storm operation in Iraq and Kuwait.

After having a son, she left the Air Force in 1992 because of spending cuts in the military.

Under normal circumstances, she would have been committed to a certain number of years in the Air Force, but the birth of her son was reason enough for her to leave.

From 1992 to 1999, she led guided walks at a nature preserve in Massachusetts while raising her first son, Adam.

She enjoyed the work because it revolved around two of her passions.

“That’s how I got interested in working with kids, and really teaching science,” she said.

Le Doux moved to Atlanta in 1999, after her husband took a position teaching at Georgia Tech.

“I decided to go back to school and get a masters in secondary science education so that I could teach science at Decatur,” Le Doux said.

Le Doux said she appreciated the overall experience of being in the Air Force because of her background.

“I grew up with certain liberal ideals and in the Air Force I was able to see and understand many new perspectives,” she said.