Exploring the Heavens Above

 The seven members of the Malone Parachute Club have a history of diving into thin air


David Swanson calmly laid down the children's book he was reading, opened the door, and fell ten thousand feet.

He smiled a rippling grin, and as his body careened towards the earth, he playfully somersaulted. After streaking through tufts of clouds, Swanson deployed his parachute and guided himself down like a hawk in descending spirals. With a shrill whoosh, Swanson came down from the sky, softly landing on a grassy field. Swanson is just one of the daring members of the Malone Parachute Club.   

Parachute being repacked

Two members of the Malone Parachute Club re-pack their parachutes.

The Malone Parachute Club has entered its 37 year of operation and is currently located at the State Airport in Swanton, Vermont. There are currently seven members in the not-for-profit club which is open most weekends from April through October.  All proceeds made from paying customers go towards maintaining equipment and fuel costs. The plane they fly is a Cessna 182. The members of the club are not paid in cash for lessons or tandem jumps.

Their payment is free jumps.

After the garage to the hanger is opened in the morning, faded rugs of different colors are laid out on the vast concrete floor, creating a patchwork pattern. The left wall of the hanger is stacked high with individual lockers, smothered in skydiving stickers. The lockers contain retro looking zip-up body suits, tight fitting goggles, and bomber hats. In one locker someone wrote "sky dive naked." Chairs are set out for guests and members, and "I Love Rock and Roll" streams through the airwaves from a radio behind a large pontoon plane. 

"You're getting out of a perfectly good airplane and falling six thousand feet."

The members of the Malone Parachute Club joke and catch up with each other, while cautiously re-packing their parachutes. "I've taken my glasses off so you'll have to let me know when you're getting close to the ground,"Kent Wood, co-owner, facilitator, and skydiving cameraman of the Malone Parachute Club jokes.

Jumpers in the plane

Jumpers prepare to take off into the sky.

Wood, like most of the members of the club is tandem-certified. He has jumped around nine hundred times, but acknowledges that he does get somewhat nervous before each jump. "You're getting out of a perfectly good airplane and falling six thousand feet," Wood says. Wood also mentioned that about twenty percent of people get motion sickness while skydiving.  

Although Swanson has jumped over 3,500 times, it seems he can't get enough. "I think it has to do with every jump being different," Swanson explains. "My father is a pilot and I've been in this sport since I was in my diapers." "And you'll be in it until your diapers again," a member says from across the room, followed by a roar of laughter. 

Lee Labarge is another member of the Malone Parachute Club.  He has jumped around 850 times. "It's a combination between the relaxing aspect and the rush," Labarge says.  "When you get out of the plane, it's not like your screaming on a roller coaster falling towards the ground. It's freedom. It's the closest thing to flying."

As far as experience, the members at the Malone Parachute Club recommend that beginners start with a tandem jump. "Students have said it really helps the comfort level to do a tandem first," Labarge says. 

"When you get out of the plane, it's not like your screaming on a roller coaster falling towards the ground.  It's freedom.  It's the closest thing to flying."

After the jump, members take time to watch the video of the previous air excursion along with the visiting thrill seeker. Also, a visiting jumper is given a certificate of their jump, which documents their experience (the footage of their jump can also be purchased).


As the day comes to a close, the members of the Malone Parachute Club gleefully talk about the full day they spent whizzing through the air, and about the plans for the future.  The club is currently renting a hanger and hopes to purchase one in the same Airport in Swanton, Vermont. 

The members of the Malone Parachute Club have jumped—and lived to see another day.    

 

 

Have you skydived at the Malone Parachute Club?