Everyone Says They Will Do It Again…Skydiving in Rowan County
Skydiving in Rowan County has been around for several years, and I have gone out and watched a few times myself. In fact, at any given time, you can be driving down Main Street towards China Grove and see brightly colored parachutes floating around high in the sky. After visiting I thought it would be a great idea to write a blog on this fun activity that so many people near and far away like to come and enjoy in Rowan County. So off to Piedmont Skydiving, I went!
I called Piedmont Skydiving about coming out to speak to them and to speak to some of the skydivers. After a few phone calls, we had a date and time.
When I arrived, the sky was already full of the first jumpers of the day. I must admit as someone that has never been skydiving, that it does look peaceful, and you cannot help but catch the excitement of watching the twirling and softly floating parachutes as they make their way to the designated landing area.
I went to the check-in area and met with Melinda Emerson. Melinda is fondly called “Mel” by everyone. Mel takes care of the manifests and social media for Piedmont, and I was very grateful for her time. She told me her first time looking out of the plane she was like “What am I doing?!” After that, she fell in love with it. She said, “Some like the free-falling, but I enjoy the canopy float.” As we were chatting people started coming in for the next scheduled jump. While she was busy checking them in, I decided to walk around and chat with some waiting to go on their skydiving flight.
Everyone Has a Story
Some that day were first-time jumpers that are your tandem jumpers meaning they jump with a licensed skydiver attached to them, some were licensed jumpers which are referred to as your sport jumpers, and some were students working to become licensed. You can tell which are students by the blueberry-colored jumpsuit that has handles on it for the licensed skydivers to hold onto when they jump.
I spoke with a couple that had just jumped for the first time. He said it was “Scary at first,” but loved it. They were from Greenville, South Carolina.
There were two young men waiting to jump, Drae Smith and Timothy Harrell, both living in Greensboro. Timothy was celebrating his 28th birthday and both decided skydiving was on their bucket list. These two met while students at UNCG. They decided not to tell anyone they were jumping until after they did it and they hope to one day skydive on their own. I saw them after they jumped and Timothy said, “It was AMAZING,” grinning ear to ear. Drae said it was “The most exhilarating experience of my life.”
Another young lady came and sat down with me, Calliope Tomczak from Asheville, North Carolina. This was her first time jumping and she was super excited. According to her, this was something she had wanted to do since she was a child. A high school friend of hers called and asked if she wanted to go and she said yes! According to Calliope, “It’s a special experience for someone that’s gone through some stuff. It’s a releasing agent.” Another young man that came with her friend from Asheville said, “I’ve never flown in a plane or parachuted.” Two big firsts at one time! He said he had lost his dad recently and just really wanted to try it. I asked him if he had told his mom and he said he’d tell her afterward. Good idea!!
While people were getting geared up, I started watching all the different spaces at Piedmont Skydiving. There are different staging areas. The check-in area, the waiting area, the gear area, an area for the licensed skydivers to relax and practice jump formations, an area for packers and riggers, and then the van that takes everyone to the airport where they board the plane.
While I was watching there were two sport jumpers working on a formation when someone walked by me and said that’s called the “Horny Gorilla” pose. Really?? Yep. That person was Ron. Ron, in his previous life, was a truck driver. He retired and decided to help at Piedmont, where he was hired. I rode with Ron and a group of jumpers over to the airport. Everyone was excited. I watched them board the plane that was piloted by Jerry (fondly called Jer-Bear).
There are two planes used at Piedmont. The “Beast” which is a PAC 750XL and a King Air. On this day, Jerry was piloting the Beast. These planes do jumps at 12,500 feet and 17,000 feet depending on the type of jump you want.
One such person that is a student in training and doing quite well is Justan Mounts. Justan wears many hats, one of which is Director for Veteran Services in Rowan County. He told me it is just “amazing” to jump. Justan has encouraged me to give it a go, but there is a slight problem… I’m terrified of heights! According to him, “13,000 feet doesn’t look like heights, trust me. It’s surreal.” I trust you Justan, and I’ll take your word for it!
More people started arriving for the next jumps. Piedmont has jumps on every hour. This next group had a husband and wife from Davie County, Brian and Deanna McIlwain. They came to do a first-time jump to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. Brian told me after the jump, “You have to do it to explain it! There’s nothing quite like it!” Another husband and wife came in and surprise, surprise! She didn’t know where they were going! Her husband surprised her for her birthday! She told me they had discussed it over the years but had no idea until they turned in what he had in store for her.
There are two ladies I know that came to Piedmont for their 60th birthdays. One is Karen Hinson from Charlotte. Karen shared, “I decided in 2018, after witnessing my two sons skydive, that I was going to “jump” to celebrate turning 60. So that I did – in July 2019 we traveled to Piedmont Skydiving. It was a great experience from the moment we arrived that morning until it was time to leave. The entire experience was over way too fast. It was one of the bravest and most exhilarating experiences ever. I look forward to jumping again!”
The second person was Lorrie Allen from Salisbury and she decided to jump into her 60s as well at Piedmont Skydiving. “They made me feel very comfortable and I was not nervous at all. Will always remember my 60th birthday as the best!”
Fun fact… I watched both ladies jump for their special day! They did great!! Both jumped with their sons as well!
Some Information about Piedmont Skydiving
The owner of Piedmont Skydiving is Dan McNulty, and the manager is Derrick Abernathy. Derrick moved from Colorado to take a job at Piedmont. Derrick jumps with visitors and students, and I was lucky enough to grab a minute in between jumps. He told me “It’s an experience you can’t find anywhere else!”
They are also in the process of building facilities there on the property and every time you visit, you may see something new. I noticed the changes from the last time I was there.
Through their media kit I found this:
“Piedmont Skydiving is a USPA Member Dropzone and the highest-rated skydiving dropzone in North Carolina. Whether you are a first-time skydiver or an experienced thrill-seeker, Piedmont Skydiving is the perfect place to find your next adventure. Owned and operated by a passionate team of experienced thrill-seekers, Piedmont Skydiving maintains a perfect balance between fun and professionalism. Plus, its location in Central North Carolina is just 6 minutes off I-85 between Greensboro and Charlotte makes it the perfect place for a day trip or a weekend adventure.”
A Common Thread
I may not have jumped that day and probably will not be doing it any time in the near or distant future, but I did see a common thread. Every person I spoke to that day, whether an employee or a visitor, all had a story and a reason for skydiving. Also, every person said they wanted to jump again!
The entire experience can take up to 3 hours and as I watched these groups waiting, taking off, and floating peacefully back down to the ground, I remembered something that Derrick Potter, there at Piedmont told me… “It’s the best thing you can do with your clothes on!” I’ll take your word on that Derrick… I’ll take your word!
Piedmont Skydiving is located at located in Rowan County at 500 Airport Road, Salisbury, North Carolina. It is easily accessible from anywhere in our state. Give them a call today at 704-603-7920! They are awesome about returning calls or you can email them at www.piedmontskydiving.com. They have different packages available that can include GoPro videos and photos. Look for them on social media such as Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube!