I am Sakhile Mduduzi Tembe and I come from a small village called Ndomo reserve near Jozini. I entered the world of skydiving through my brother, Jabulani Mabika. Better known as Jabu, he was a parachute packer at the Johannesburg Skydiving Club for many years. I was visiting him in 2008 and went with him to the drop zone one weekend where I started helping him open and untwist the lines. He asked if I was interested in packing and introduced me to Chris Grosch, who allowed me to learn under the guidance of Jabu and Justice - both very experienced packers. I realized early on the importance of having people trust you with their life.
When the drop zone became less busy, I moved back to Durban, where I met Steve Bartels and started packing at Durban Skydive Centre. Soon after that, a new drop zone opened in the Eastern Cape and I got the opportunity to join Donavon Crerar at Skydive Port Elizabeth where I was the only packer. I also did my first skydive there and it was then that I truly understood the trust that people put in me to pack their parachutes. Donavon saw potential in me and asked if I wanted to learn how to pack the reserves. I was excited at the prospect. I learned that at school I passed matric but, you only needed 50% to pass. For this job you need 100% to pass and you must get 100% all of the time.
Unfortunately, that drop zone closed in 2013 and I returned to Johannesburg Skydiving Club with a drive and dedication to prove myself. This is where I met Ralph and Liz Ridge. They also saw my potential and I continued the process to learn to pack reserves with Liz. I got to do a few AFF jumps with Ralph and now have 26 jumps already. It's an expensive sport but, I want to do many more. After a 2-year apprenticeship with Liz, she sent me to do my final evaluation in 2016 with evaluator Ian "Boss Doug" Douglas in Durban. Boss Doug was impressed and passed me for my Reserve Packer rating.
I got lucky when I was there and I met an old friend, Dale Jowett, from parachute manufacturer Aerodyne. This meeting led to an interview 3 days later with the big boss, Dominic. The interview went well and I started working at Aerodyne.
I have been there 4 years now and have never looked back. When not packing reserves, I work in the harness and container department where I help to build rigs and have learned so much more working there and in various other departments. I passed my Senior parachute technician evaluation in June 2020 and I am so happy and proud.
I am grateful to everyone mentioned here and all the others along the way, who have shared their knowledge with me. In particular, I am grateful to the Aero Club of South Africa Transformation & Development Division for their financial assistance in obtaining my parachute technician rating. I want to keep going because I love what I do and so that one day I can call myself a Master Parachute Technician.
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