CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Since the movie "The Bucket List" came out in 2007, many people have begun compiling and checking off their own to-do-before-I-die lists.
Ryan Ashworth, of West Virginia Skydivers, says jumping out of a plane ranks high on many of those lists. He and the rest of the staff of West Virginia Skydivers want to help make it happen.
If you want to skydive in West Virginia, Ashworth says, West Virginia Skydivers is the only United States Parachute Association-affiliated drop zone in the state. Located at Robert Newlon Field Airport, about 6 miles northeast of Huntington, West Virginia Skydivers offers an accessible location with a variety of options.
"For people who are just looking to knock something off their bucket list, we offer a tandem jump, which only requires they show up with a smile," Ashworth says. "For someone looking to do something more than that, we offer first-jump course, which includes a tandem jump. A three- to four-hour ground course, that teaches someone how to control a canopy [steer the parachute], then they do their first solo jump.
"The first solo jump is an instructor-assisted deployment from 3,500 feet. That means you're wearing your own parachute and it is all you, except when you leave the plane, the instructor will pull your parachute and then you pilot your way to the ground."
Co-owned by Bobby Dolan and Carl Bailey, West Virginia Skydivers consists of 16 contract employees: four tandem masters, six IAD instructors, two ground coaches, two riggers and two jump pilots.
There is rigorous testing at each level of certification, including a minimum number of jumps, classroom work, written testing and physical exams. Ashworth says the high standards allow them to provide a safe and fun experience for everyone from the first-time novice jumper to those wanting to gain their own certification.
There is no cutoff of the season; as long as the skies are clear, they can put people out of the plane. However, Ashworth says, jumping after mid-October is not for the faint of heart or the easily chilled.