It's not often that you find yourself crouched at the open door of a flying airplane, heart pounding and wind whipping by, while waiting to jump out, deploy your own parachute, and float gently to the ground. This thrill-seeking experience is available to first-time and returning divers at Skydive Spaceland, one of the country's largest skydiving training centers which has been helping people achieve lifelong dreams on a regular basis for more than 20 years. Tandem dives pair newbies with experienced instructors, and skydiving lessons teach students how to take the plunge on their own in as little as one week. Skydiving experiences can also be given as a gift or used to cross an item off a bucket list. An on-site pro shop sells skydiving T-shirts and souvenirs that prove you've conquered your fear of heights.
Located on 50 acres of land in Clewiston, The Florida Ridge Air Sports Park gives guests unlimited opportunities to indulge in airborne activities. Winds from the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf Coast converge to create favorable soaring conditions for hang-gliding, paragliding, and controlled umbrella flights. The park also offers pilot-training programs and equipment rentals for expert windsurfers.
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.
Sportations connects amateur adrenaline jockeys to certified professional adventurers, drawing from a nationwide network of aeronauts and speed demons to introduce habitual pedestrians to the wonders of skydiving, ballooning, hang gliding, and stock-car racing. Thrill seekers can zipline across a forest canopy, hollering like Tarzan or taunting nearby birds until they agree to race. Helicopter tours ferry patrons skyward over landmarks and cityscapes, whereas paragliding adventures get up close and personal with blue skies and clouds. For most sports, Sportations accommodates groups of any size, from physics classes empirically proving gravity's existence to solo ballooning supervillains declaring dominion over all they see.
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.
At Heli Aviation Florida, LLC, the Robinson R22, R44, and R66 helicopters that make up the fleet serve a number of roles. They not only lift casual passengers into the sky for sightseeing tours, photography sessions, and search parties for lost Mylar balloons, but also give traffic-patrol pilots a bird's-eye view of the morning commute. Plus, they're used during flying lessons.
Aerial fun and excitement aboard the helicopters are second only to one thing at Heli Aviation Florida—safety. The Helicopter Association International member relies on the Target Zero Safety Management System, whose goal is nothing short of perfection, or zero accidents while providing helicopter services.
After full safety briefings each day, the pilots take off from their 10,000-square-foot area at Sarasota Bradenton International Airport, which features a lobby, classrooms, a training area, and hanger space.