Photo by Mike McGowan.
Kansas skydiver Alice Hicks, D-23554, made her first jump in 1968. Fifty-three years and 4,119 jumps later, she’s still at it. She and her husband, John, are fixtures in the formation skydiving world, although lately she’s also been trying her hand at freeflying. A retired teacher, she places importance on engaging with spectators, and enjoys discussing packing, the equipment, the disciplines and what goes into preparing for a jump. Hicks always promotes and projects a positive image of the sport, something she’s been doing for 50-plus years.
Birthplace: Caldwell, Kansas
Marital Status: Married
Children: Two daughters, one son (all have skydived)
Pets: One loveable Jack Russell, actually a family pet that stays with our daughter because of our travels
Occupation: Retired school teacher and school counselor
Education: BS in education, MA in counseling
Transportation: Full-time RVers—truck and fifth wheel
Life Philosophy: An old adage—treat others as you would like to be treated.
Would you rather swoop or land on an accuracy tuffet? Swoop, but I have short swoops.
Jump Philosophy: Check and recheck equipment and your surroundings (in the air and on landings).
Sponsors: Skydive Store
Container: Sun Path Javelin
Main Canopy: Performance Designs Stiletto 107
Reserve Canopy: Performance Designs PDR 127
AAD: Airtec CYPRES II
Disciplines: RW [relative work, now called formation skydiving]. Working on freeflying with the help and patience of my freeflying friends, but my progression is slow.
Home Drop Zone: Skydive Arizona in Eloy
Year of First Jump: Static-line jump in 1968
Licenses: B-19472, C-29371, D-23554
Total Number of Jumps: 4,120-plus
FS: 4,000-plus Freefly: 100-plus
Balloon: 6 Demos: 6
Camera: 4-6 Helicopter: 2
Largest Completed Formation: 50-way
Total Number of Cutaways: 1
Most people don’t know this about me:
I have a private pilot’s license with a taildragger endorsement. I used to take my 4th grade students flying.
How did you become interested in skydiving?
In college, there was a skydiving club at Oklahoma State University. I thought of skydiving then but didn’t think my dad would appreciate my use of his money that way. Then in 1968, sitting around with my roommate and her boyfriend, we all decided we wanted to skydive. An ex-paratrooper friend who lived in our apartment building said he knew where we could go (Maize, Kansas), but first he took us to a park and had us do a lot of PLFs off a picnic table. Then out we went. Surprisingly, my first jumpmaster was a woman (a mother of six boys, Nancy Underwood, who along with her husband, Woody, owned the DZ). This was also the year of the filming of “Gypsy Moths” (mostly filmed in Kansas).
What kind of skydiving student were you—the typical flailer or a complete natural?
Very much a flailer. In the beginning that’s all I did—potato chip and spin. Under the rounds, I was always spinning. Other jumpers would try to come in for a 2-way but couldn’t because I was always spinning like a flat top. When I opened in a spin, my lines were always twisted. Last jump on the rounds, my future husband, John, and I left the plane together knowing we wouldn’t hook up otherwise.
Do you have any suggestions for students?
Skydive as much as possible, especially initially to get the skills you’ve been taught ingrained in your memory.
Does one jump stand out most?
The one with Lucy Cheatum, a lady who was in the nursing home where my mother was. She had made several jumps back in 1941 and was quite the entrepreneur in aviation. She was 91 and when we visited, she would talk about how she would love to make another jump. Fortunately, with the help of my skydiving family, I was able to make it happen. The nursing home was in a small Oklahoma town, Wakita, no airport. We had to fly out of another small town, Medford. Monte LaMar provided the plane and did the tandem. I couldn’t find a camera person, so I did the video. We took off in Medford and landed in front of the nursing home in Wakita. Lucy was only disappointed that she wasn’t able to jump on her own. I kind of got the reputation as the make-a-wish person.
What do you like most about the sport?
The friends I’ve met, the camaraderie among them. I love the people—new friends and old. It’s a wonderful family to have.
What do you like least about the sport?
The cliques. I feel they divide the DZ.
Who has been your skydiving mentor?
I have had so many ranging from my husband, John, to the pros of [Arizona] Airspeed. They have always been there to instruct, praise or scold, whichever was necessitated.
What are your future skydiving goals?
Nothing definite right now, other than when I grow up I want to be like Eliana Rodriguez.
What safety item do you think is most neglected?
Being vigilant about checking your equipment and checking your surroundings.
If you could do a fantasy 2-way with anybody, whom would it be with?<
Probably with my mother. She always supported my adventurousness, came to watch when I first started skydiving and probably lived vicariously through me. I think she would have loved it.
The toughest thing to do in the sport of skydiving is:
To keep jumping when you see or have a friend go in. But knowing they were doing what they love makes it easier.
What do you consider your most significant life achievement?
How about 50-plus years of marriage to John Hicks?
What has been your best skydiving moment?
Making a jump with the whole family—my husband, daughters and son-in-law.
What has been your worst skydiving moment?
On track off, looking down and seeing a jumper come under me, make a quick wave off and pull and seeing that blue canopy billowing up at and into me. Fortunately, I managed to get off to the side enough not to go through the jumper’s canopy but slide off. Luckily, it was cold, so I had on several layers of clothes and the nylon only burned through four layers.
Are you happy with how the sport has progressed? What would you change?
I definitely like the improvements in equipment and safety—the one-unit main and reserve, lighter weight, ease of packing and AADs. What’s not to like: the many disciplines in skydiving have opened new dimensions to fit a variety of interests. All this is good, but a concern is that too many new jumpers get into these newer, more advanced disciplines before they’ve mastered the basics. I know that a certain number of jumps are required or recommended, but I have seen jumpers make just hop-and-pops to build their numbers. Also, the tunnel is an excellent tool for introducing skydiving, training and practicing—it has totally changed advancement in skydiving. Instructors need to emphasize the importance of constant awareness of your surroundings in the air, before and after breakoff and canopy piloting in the air and landings.
Explain Alice in five words or fewer:
Cheerful, optimistic, adventuresome, outdoorsy, teacher