The Star-Herald

Skydiving experts bring high-flying adventures to Presque Isle

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — A group of skydiving instructors from Pittsfield brought a rare opportunity to folks in Aroostook County when they offered tandem skydiving trips during the weekend of June 2-3.

Vacationland Skydiving arrived at the Northern Maine Regional Airport this past Saturday and held brief safety trainings before taking off for 45-minute airplane rides that ended with free falls of 120-130 miles per hour 5,000 feet off the ground. Due to low-lying clouds, the crews were unable to offer morning or early afternoon flights on Saturday as originally planned, but were able to make trips from 3 to 7:30 p.m. on Saturday and from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday.

Twenty-three individuals and pairs participated in skydiving trips, which was made possible by SAD 1’s Adult and Community Education program. Both experienced and first-time skydivers arrived at the airfield and waited patiently throughout the day on Saturday for their chance to achieve the ultimate adrenaline rush.

Margaret Wright of Presque Isle is a three-time head and neck cancer survivor and said that she decided to skydive after recently finding out that she is now cancer free.

“I’ve always loved riding in airplanes, helicopters and hot air balloons, so I thought that this would be a great way to experience the scenery in a different way,” Wright said. “Now that I’ve got a clean bill of health from my doctor, I thought this would be an exciting way to celebrate.”

Margaret Wright (right) of Presque Isle poses with fellow skydiver Molly Cummings of Woodland on the afternoon of Saturday, June 2, before both of them took off in a plane for a skydiving adventure, courtesy of SAD 1’s Adult and Community Education program and the Pittsfield, Maine-based Vacationland Skydiving. Wright is a three-time cancer survivor and decided to try skydiving after recently getting a clean bill of health from her doctor. (Courtesy of Amanda Conroy)

Wright noted after skydiving that she “absolutely loved” the experience and would consider going again next year if SAD 1 Adult Education were to offer it again.

“Even before we landed on the ground I was thinking that I was ready to go again,” Wright said. “I had already thought that skydiving would be a once-and-a-lifetime experience, but now I think I’d like to go again.”

Renee Fulton of Caribou used her experience as a way to help others like herself who are going through recovery from drug addiction. Saturday was Fulton’s 120th day of sobriety and decided to skydive in honor of that achievement while also encouraging friends, family and others in her recovery group to donate any dollar amount to an organization whose mission it is to help and support recovering addicts.

Fulton said that anyone who wished to donate could send her a private message on Facebook and state the name of the organization and how much they’d like to contribute. She calls her fundraiser, “The Sky’s the Limit,” and hopes to turn her efforts into an annual event.

“I was an addict for 20 years and I was never able to participate in many things in life because of my addiction. But now that I’m sober I’m doing as much as I possibly can. I’ve never skydived before and I’m scared of heights, but I’m also excited,” Fulton said. “I want to show addicts that once you’re sober the sky’s the limit.”

After skydiving, Fulton said that the experience was “amazing” and one that she would recommend to anyone.

“When the parachute went up and we were just floating in the air it was the most relaxing, peaceful feeling,” Fulton said. “Skydiving was the best thing I’ve ever done and I’ll definitely be doing it again.”

Before taking off in one of two small airplanes, tandem instructor Jeff Lerette gave everyone background information on the nature of tandem, or pair, skydiving, and reassured them that despite the dangerous nature of the activity, he would be strapped behind them ready to deploy an emergency back-up parachute if necessary. All parachutes are designed to automatically activate after hitting certain altitudes.

During the safety training, Lerette advised people to cross their arms, arch their back and bend their knees to allow for a safe sitting-down position as they land. But the most important thing, he said, is to have fun.

“Everything from the sense of excitement people feel when they live through the experience and realize that they did it is always the best part,” Lerette said. “The sense of danger is all part of the excitement and so is the high adrenaline rush when you land.”

Vacationland Skydiving will return to Aroostook County in August for skydiving trips in Houlton.

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