First Commercial Skydiving Center in the United States
Published: April 24, 2017
Freefall is easy, but planning can be hard!
Don't be caught out. As you chart your journey to the sky, you're gonna need some baseline information. Here are the quick-and-dirty details to get your skydive started off in the right direction.
This is actually a much trickier thing to pull off than you might imagine because there are quite a few ne'er-do-well companies who masquerade as legitimate dropzones to lure potential tandem skydivers.
Some of these are booking agencies. These guys operate call centers, charging an obscene markup to unwitting wanna-be jumpers who don't know the difference and issuing "vouchers" upon payment. The customer is then sent on a wild goose chase looking for a dropzone that'll accept it. Most don't.
You can out these guys lickety-split if you know the secret: that any legitimate dropzone will pin its map location on an actual airfield. No exceptions to this rule exist. Do yourself a favor and peek at Google Maps before you book.
Along with the booking agencies, we have the "Groupon Dropzones"--pop-up operations that appeared out of nowhere to take advantage of the flash-sale frenzy. These guys have no interest in the health or longevity of the sport; their existence owes only to bargain-basement pricing and a cavalier attitude towards safety, comfort and customer service. They're instant businesses, based on volume and not reputation. (Heck--they can close up shop and open again under a new name whenever they want, right?)
The solution? Ask for the history. Find out how long the dropzone has been operating. Any legitimate dropzone will be thrilled to tell you all about it. (For instance: We've been actively jumping here since the dawn of the sport! Cool, huh?)
At the very least, check for your dropzone of interest on the USPA website. USPA member dropzones uphold the world's gold standard for instructor professionalism, equipment maintenance, and safety standards. (Spoiler: The difference is very noticeable.) You owe it to yourself to check.
After you've picked a real, USPA-member dropzone with a great reputation, you still have a little bit of homework left to do. There are quite a few heads-up, high-quality dropzones in the New England region, after all.
The first detail you should investigate is the altitude of the tandem skydive. The majority of New England dropzones can only fly their jumpers up to 10,000 feet--which leaves you with a shorter freefall time than a less-altitude-restricted operation. Altitude really does make a difference! Get all you can.
Secondly: Weight restrictions vary from one skydiving center to the other. If weight restrictions are a concern for you, you'll be putting yourself in much better stead if you know before you go. Because skydiving equipment must be operated within a specific weight range in order to prevent equipment failure (!), you can be assured that you'll be weighed.
Don't shortchange yourself on time. Plan for at least a half-day experience at the dropzone, and leave yourself some margin even over and above that. To that end, it's a great idea to bring sunscreen, soft drinks, water and snacks. (A picnic lunch is a great idea.) Also, pay attention to the weather; clouds can slow down the day and keep you at the airfield a little longer. (Hot tip: Call on the morning of your jump to get a feel for how the weather is looking.)
Remember, too: It's not uncommon that folks show up at our dropzone for their first tandem skydive and never really manage to leave. When we say "give yourself enough time," we might just mean "cancel all your previous plans and get ready for a new adventure that's gonna rock your world." It wouldn't be the first time it's happened!