LEBANON – When people think of Maine, the rocky, rough and uneven shoreline often comes to mind. The long snowy seasons remind people of the majestic mountains that form the backdrop for skiing and other winter activities and yet, Maine is also known as one of the best places in the country to skydive.
Skydive New England has been taking people into the air each summer for the last 29 years. Tucked away in a private airfield that borders New Hampshire, the company uses three aircraft to shuttle passengers from the tarmac to the clouds in search of their dreams.
“Last year I think we had over 25,000 people ride with us and skydive,” said Eli Bolotin, a United States Parachute Association (USPA )Safety and Training Advisor with the company.
“Most of the people come here and want to try a tandem jump,” he said. “They sign up and after some classroom instruction, they’re paired with an instructor for the jump.”
“We usually fly to about 14,000 feet,” said Derek Hudson, a pilot for the company. “From there, it’s out of the plane,” he said with a smile.
The students usually free fall for about a minute, and then it’s a five-10 minute parachute ride back to the field,” Bolotin said.
Tony Hays, a tandem instructor and native of Oklahoma with over 10,000 jumps, knows all too well the impact the sport can have on someone.
“I remember one year a man jumped with me and as we came down, he spread half the ashes from his son,” Hays said. “Some time ago he came to jump with him, and he later died of cancer. The next year he came back and spread the rest of the ashes.”
Some of the people who come to Skydive New England become passionate about the sport and for those who want to continue jumping, the company has an Accelerated Free Fall course that will allow students to earn a USPA “A” license.
“With that license, they can skydive at just about any drop zone in the country,” Bolotin said. “Last year we had about 45 people earn their license with us.”
But many people, young and old, come to the Maine drop zone to simply accomplish something they’ve always wanted to do.
Mary and Clayton Brown of Westbrook jumped in June and, for them, it was a special event, as the dive was their tenth wedding anniversary present to one another.
“It was kind of on our bucket list,” Clayton Brown said. “In some ways it was more than I expected, he added. “I was nervous and it took me a few seconds to catch my breath, then it was great.”
“We each went with an instructor and that was great,” Mary Brown said with a nod and a smile. “It really made me feel more comfortable.”
“When we were free-falling it seemed like a lot longer than 60 seconds. It was wild – It was cool,” she said.
Most jumpers have the option of getting a videotape of their adventures to commemorate the event and prove to their friends and loved ones that they actually did it.
When asked if they would do it again. The Browns laughed, smiled, and after a deep breath or two said, “Yeah, it might be a year or two, but yes. It was great.”
For more information about skydiving and Skydive New England visit: http://www.skydivenewengland.com/