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Artvoice Weekly Edition » Issue v10n36 (09/08/2011) » Five Questions With...

Nicholas Calandra: Skydiver

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Nicholas Calandra: Skydiver

During the Buffalo Bisons final home game on Sept. 1, fans who turned their eyes skyward were treated to an incredible display of aerial acrobatics by members of Frontier Skydivers, who impressively dropped four perfect landings onto the field in difficult conditions. A club member and tandem instructor who also works for the non-profit Hearts for the Homeless of WNY, Calandra was the team manager and organized the demonstration. Coming from a long-line of skydivers, Calandra made his first jump six years ago and since then has made over 750 jumps. For more information visit

What was it that first compelled you to jump out of a plane? What do you remember most about your first experience?

In my case pure curiosity first compelled me to jump. My situation was much different than most people making their first skydive because I was able to do it with all my family. My father has been jumping for about 30 years now and growing up around the sport my whole life made me so curious to what the sensation was that all of the people I knew were experiencing regularly. For me my first experience was not just about jumping for the first time but entering into a world that I had become to know and love but only seen from the ground level. I will never forget the eye contact I had with my father as I was exiting the plane as he was filming my first tandem with my grandfather as my instructor. This is a memory that I will have forever!

How would you describe the feeling of free fall?

Freefall is a incredibly peaceful place. Even with the 120 MPH wind and all the noise it is a place where you can leave all the worries, stresses and thoughts of everyday life on the ground. Somehow it all goes away when you are in the door getting ready to jump. It is a place where anyone can clear their head and experience so many sensations at once such as excitement, fear, confidence, relaxation and pure joy. It is something that needs to be experienced to be understood.

After all the jumps you’ve completed, are you completely accustomed to the sensation or does it still spike your heartbeat?

Each time I make a skydive I still feel the spike in my heartbeat; if this ever stops I think it will be time to try something else.

After going through the training, flying to the drop site and standing at the edge, how many people have trouble stepping into the void? Do you have any tricks to encourage them to go through with the jump?

There is nothing about skydiving that is an “every day activity” and with that comes some many new sensations. People do have trouble “stepping into the void” but this is normal considering they are about to throw themselves out of an airplane at 11,000 ft or above. I wouldn’t say that we have tricks to encourage them but instilling confidence in themselves, their ability and in their training helps a lot. But when you come down to it and are in the door at 11,000 ft “no” sounds a lot like “go”!

How much planning goes into one of your choreographed jumps? What are the variables you must consider before attempting something like the Bisons jump?

Weeks of paperwork, planning and coordination go into making one of our demonstration skydives possible. Some of the variables that we must consider before attempting any of site jump (any place other than our regular drop zone) are obstacles, the size of the primary landing area, identifying possible alternative landing areas and if any exist, timing between jumpers, flag and aerial smoke rigging, ground crew personnel, crowd control, air to ground communication both primary and secondary communication and announcing. Each demonstration jump posses its own challenges and each one needs to be given extensive thought and preparation. But these are the jumps that allow us to show people a preview of skydiving while bringing excitement and entertainment to an event no matter what the size is.

bonus: How many jumps have you made and how often do you jump?

I have 750 jumps and jump as much as possible; weekday afternoons and all weekend from May until November. Comparatively speaking I am still very young in this sport as our four person team that jumped into the Bisons on 9/1/2011 had a combined jump total of over 10,000 skydives. Each day I am driven to make more and more because our sport has so much to explore and offer.

bonus: Do you have a favorite or most memorable jump in your career?

My most memorable jump so far would have to be a father son eight-way that I was on. There were four pairs of fathers and sons who made a skydive together—it was a really cool moment seeing each pair with a similar bond between us.

bonus: Seriously, are you crazy? How often are you asked that?

Crazy, no. Passionate, yes! And we are asked that all the time but for me and other jumpers I know it is such a passion. We live and breath skydiving and all it has to offer us and everyone else who is willing to take that BIG first jump!

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