Though skydiving is often billed as a once-in-a-lifetime experience, for the staff at Jump Florida Skydiving, it's a job. As they climb above the scenic landscape of Lake Country in a Cessna 205 aircraft, they stay calm as excitement radiates off customers—as young as 18 and as old as 79—about to make their first leap. At the ideal altitude, the plane levels off, and jumpers get into position. The sky is amazingly clear around the plane, which takes off from a private airport, so there are no commercial jets or flocks of migrating geese obstructing the airspace. Tandem or solo divers step to the edge, take a deep breath, and experience the thrill of accelerating at 9.81 meters per second per second.
While participants revel in their adrenaline-fueled thrills, the staff keeps them safe by adhering to the strict standards of the United States Parachute Association. These protocols enforce rigorous regulations, safety guidelines, and eminently cool member handshakes. On the ground, the team prioritizes hospitality, offering guest rooms, a restaurant, spectator fields, and a nerve-diffusing bar.
More than 60 times a day, Skydive Air Adventures' King Air jump plane climbs to nearly 3 miles above the earth's surface. Once there, instructors strap themselves to novice divers and plunge out of the aircraft during tandem flights. The frequency of these dives has allowed some of them to rack up serious airtime; many instructors have more than 8,000 dives under their belts, including Carl Smith, who has jumped from planes and escalators to heaven more than 14,900 times. To keep track of all these jumps, Skydive Air Adventures can shoot photos and videos of every wind-blown expression and ear-to-ear grin.
It's not often that you find yourself falling headfirst toward the earth, wind whipping by, before you pull a cord on your chute and float gently to the ground. This thrill-seeking experience is available to first-time and returning divers at Skydive Spaceland, which sends people plummeting out of planes on a regular basis. Tandem dives pair newbies with experienced instructors, and skydiving lessons teach students how to take the plunge on their own. To prepare patrons for the jump, an online pro-shop sells helmets, goggles, and t-shirts that prove you've conquered your fear of heights and cotton that could shrink in the dryer.
Skydive Sebastian’s planes fly far above the Atlantic, affording their passengers a chance to drop into Florida's eastern edge near the picturesque swimming cove of Sebastian Inlet. The company's hangar and flock of professional skydivers—some of whom boast more than 16,000 jumps––await flights at a 7-acre facility, where they host first-time tandem skydivers and operate a skydiving school for beginners interested in learning to skydive on their own through the Accelerated Freefall course. Meanwhile, experienced skydivers with a passion for the sport of skydiving can receive independent coaching to keep free-fall skills sharp.
At Planet Air Sports, kids and adults spend as little time on the ground as possible. They bound across 8,000 square feet of trampolines, using cords in the bungee area to execute somersaults or combining aspects of basketball and volleyball into the bouncy Aeroball. They also practice their Indiana Jones impressions as they maneuver over planks and suspended tires on 30 point ropes courses—the upper level culminating in a heart-pounding zipline adventure. The 20-foot rock-climbing wall, meanwhile, tests strength, beckoning adventurers to the top with the satisfaction of accomplishment and the promise of seeing the last remaining dodo nest.
Guests are also entertained with arcade games and air-hockey tables while parents retire to the lounge area. The colorful center's airtime-inducing attractions make it an ideal spot for birthday parties, corporate team-building exercises, and fun family outings. Families spending the day at the facility can take a snack break at the in-house cafe, which serves a menu of pizza, sandwiches, and salads, in addition to small bites, such as mozzarella sticks, muffins, and fries.
Engines start to roar, propellers spin, and a large parachute expands into the sky, carrying a light aircraft and its passengers toward the clouds. Silver Lining Aviation's certified instructors create adventures like this every day as they teach visitors to soar behind the controls of sport aircrafts such as powered parachutes, weight-shift trikes, and gyroplanes. Led by licensed FAA flight instructor Craig Ewing, Silver Lining's team takes prospective pilots on introductory flights that allow them to experience aircrafts such as the Airwolf 912 and nibble on different flavors of clouds. The aviation experts also sell sport aircrafts, which patiently wait onsite as customers work through custom ground- and flight-training programs. In most cases, the flight instructors prepare their pupils for aerial navigation in as little as two weeks. They also assist new pilots with replacement parts, provide 24/7 support, and cook oil soup to feed hungry aircraft.