Some might say they have the most exciting job at NZ Aerosports. You may even go so far as to say they have one of the most exciting jobs in the skydiving industry. Or the world. But what does a Testie actually do? What is a typical day of test jumping? And why are they all called Chris? We figured it was about time to give you some insight into who our Testies are and what they do. Introducing our Testies. Their name is Chris. And they are NZ Aerosports Test Jumpers. Or Testies. Not Testes. There’s a difference.
An ode to those who came before
Before we get stuck into talking all things Chris, we’d like to give a special mention to all those that have been a part of the NZ Aerosports research and development journey so far. It’s been a long road and a lot of learning, but we wouldn’t be where we are today if we hadn’t had the support from you all.
Thank you to our machinists, riggers and production staff for having the patience with making prototypes. For all the times we’ve asked for changes to be made, deadlines to be met and working all hours to get canopies finished.
Thank you to our Test Jumpers. All of you. Thanks for travelling to a country in the middle of nowhere. For letting us send you canopies across the world. And for willingly jumping a brand new canopy for the very first time. You know who you are.
Thank you to our Athletes for embracing our new canopies, showing them to the world and pushing our canopies further. Nick Batsch, you were amazing at Big Boy’s Pants. And that was just the beginning of our record breaking journey.
It goes without saying that we love our engineering genius behind the designs. Jyro would be proud of everything you have done for this company, Julien. Thank you.
Jyro. We miss you and love you. Thank you for creating this wonderful family.
And to all our fans, customers, dealers, DZ owners, anyone who has supported us over the years. We say a big THANK YOU. Thank you for loving our canopies.
Who can be a Test Jumper?
Over the years, we’ve had Test Jumpers of all shapes and sizes and if you can believe it, they weren’t all called Chris. Our Founder, Jyro, was the OG test jumper. He’d make a parachute in his garage and then take it out to the DZ to jump. Now that is some hardcore skydiving right there.
We’ve had visiting skydivers/badasses take prototypes out for a lob or two. Even our Production Manager, Richard and General Manager, Attila have been NZ Aerosports Test Jumpers. Both those guys have some quite frankly harrowing stories from their days as Testies. We’ve included a particularly gnarly jump Attila did with a prototype called Ilona below. You may need to change your underwear after watching.
Yeah, we watch that too and realise our day jobs are pretty sweet.
For all the hardcore test jumping, NZ Aerosports Test Jumpers need to be experienced in flying high performance canopies. And have nerves of steel. Prototypes will go through many, many variations, so knowledge of how a canopy works helps with debriefing the jumps. Our current Testies between them have 1000s of jumps in all canopy types. Plus, two of them have their rigging tickets, they’ve all worked on the packing mat and spent years working in the industry. So basically they are highly qualified to do the job in front of them. Just how we like it at NZ Aerosports.
Who are our current Testies?
Chances are, if you’ve met a Test Jumper at NZ Aerosports recently, they’ve introduced themselves as Chris. They are a strange breed, the majority of them being big tea drinkers. And they all like two-wheeled vehicles, although for one Chris, the two-wheeled vehicles don’t really like him.
Chris ‘Stewy’ Stewart
He’s the cool kid on the block, the one who goes off to competitions and is the genius behind our videos. Born and raised here in New Zealand, Stewy has spent his adult life living, breathing and working the skydive life. He’s been a DZ bum and competed against the best in the world. Petra is his canopy of choice, although these days since the world imploded, he jumps whatever is in the Testie bin at work. Stewy is also our most organised and efficient Testie who gets sh%t done. He doesn’t leave canopies in the lift at work and then drives out to the DZ for a day of test jumping.
And outside of work? He’s probably the only Chris you will find at a party after 9pm. You’ll find him down the local mountain bike tracks with Snelly on their days off. Beersies and a rugby game (Warriors fan for all you Kiwis out there) is a good night/day for our Stewy. He does love a good deal on Trade Me (NZ version of Ebay) and is really quite handy around the house. If you want a motorbike restored, he’s your man.
Chris ‘Snelly’ Snell
Our English tea drinker. Alter ego is Furgal, although these days, he doesn’t come out very often. Usually it’s after many rums. A lover of gadgets, he spends his spare time making things on his 3D printer, playing with his drone and trying to keep up with Stewy on the mountain bike tracks down the road. He has spent many years working on the water and in it and takes any opportunity to head up North to the Bay of Islands. Having said that, New Zealand water is a little on the chilly side for our Snelly, so it takes some persuading to get him into the water.
Snelly is also our Production Co-ordinator and is the right-hand man of our Production Manager. Using a wealth of experience gained over the years, he helps keep the factory running smoothly. And usually with a cuppa in his hand.
When Julien sends through his crazy CAD designs, Snelly is the one who converts them so that our machinists can sew them together. He works closely with our most experienced machinists to put together each prototype canopy. It can be quite a process, sometimes requiring updates from Julien during the assembly of the canopy.
Chris ‘Brooky’ Brook
Brooky is our other tea drinker (the Welsh one. Don’t get those confused). He’s the OG Chris and has jumped all manner of canopies. Including some of the early Petra prototypes. Now those are some scarrrrrrry test jumps. He headed over to this side of the world back in 2009 and found himself at the NZ Aerosports factory. Without even realising it, he was soon working for NZA. Making linesets, answering sales emails, cutting canopies, you name it, he’s probably done it. Maybe not the sewing of canopies though. We leave that to our Ladies. (And yes, that’s a capital ‘L’ cos they are amazing.)
Brooky has many hobbies outside of skydiving, but it’s safe to say his passion is free diving. He’ll even take you to the local pool for fin lessons if you ask. He is a hoarder of cups, likes to keep lawns freshly watered and answers to ‘Wet Blanket’. These days he spends his free time up in Northland recovering from injuries inflicted from motorcycle crashes. He is also a lover of pranks, so tread carefully around this Chris. His favourite plant is any from the Chilli family and he has been known to add them to unsuspecting people’s food. Just ask Julien.
Hmmmmm, have we accidentally written Tinder Profiles for our Chrisss?
What is a typical day of test jumping?
What better way to show a typical day of test jumping than to video it? Our Testie Chris took his camera with him to the local DZ and filmed a whole day of test jumping. From waking up with a smoothie (#veganathlete) to finishing the day with a cold-one. Why wouldn’t you want to watch that?
It’s an early start for our Testie Chris as he has lots to do! Our Brain Child, Julien, has been hard at work designing new prototypes and they are ready for the first lot of jumping. Other Chris has to work in the office so no two-ways for days for these Testies (sad face). Chris loads up his wagon, heads out to the local DZ Skydive Auckland and has a pretty good day. He even gives tips on how to have a lunch break without missing a load.
It’s not all about jumping prototypes for our Testies
So Stewy gave us an insight into a typical day of test jumping. However, it’s not all our Testies do. When the weather is crappy (bad), they are often on our socials. Live streams with tips on anything from explaining high performance canopies to demonstrating a 25 jump check. We’ve also asked them to dress up as pirates. They’ve appeared in the film ‘Test Jump’ (well, the poster anyways). Our Testies have even been helping with the factory move.
Just keep them away from the shipping room or you might find your canopy headed to Swaziland.
What now for our Testies?
It’s not been the best year for test jumping. Or jumping full stop. That hasn’t stopped our Testies from working hard though. During those crazy months where the whole world was stuck at home, our Testies entertained us all with Quarantine Diaries and Weatherhold Webinars. When jumping resumed, it was still mid winter here in NZ (yes, we are the right way round. Christmas should be hot. Shouldn’t it?) so test jumping was a slow starter. Now we are in full swing and our Testies are giving our Prototypes plenty of air time. We’ve got some exciting things coming up for 2021, so watch this space.
We’ll be bringing you more live streams, video series and updates from our Testies. Check out our FB page for the Tasty Testie Tales and head over to our YouTube Channel for the brand new series ‘The Beginner Series‘. It’s top notch and full of useful information for those getting into the sport.
P.S. We still haven’t worked out why they are all called Chris. But if you want to apply to be a Testie, you have a 69.7654% better chance of getting the job if you’re named Chris.
Thanks for reading!
NZ Aerosports Crew