By Devin Corbitt, The Belton Journal
Skydive Temple hosted a national Safety Day last weekend to welcome spring and refresh skydivers’ memories just in time for the warmer weather.
“The United States Parachute Association, also called the USPA, started Safety Day as basically the start of our skydiving season,” Shelby Palmer, an instructor at Skydive Temple, said.
“Springtime comes, everyone gets to be more active in jumping. We always want to sit down and talk about last year: lessons we learned from, maybe, skydives that didn’t go quite right so we don’t make the same mistake twice. It’s a great time for skydivers to get together, have some camaraderie and figure out a way to be better skydivers.”
Located just off I-35 in Salado, Skydive Temple has been in operation for 25 years. It’s current owners, Mark and Penny Pollack, took over the business in 2006 and have since transformed the drop zone (DZ) into the best place for skydiving in the southwest, earning Best Small DZ in the Southwest region from the USPA.
“This is my home DZ,” licensed solo jumper Brian Winfield said. “I really like the atmosphere here. It’s a smaller drop zone, but I see the same people every weekend, we hang out outside the drop zone. It’s pretty awesome here. It’s got a good vibe. It’s just a bunch of friends hanging out that happen to skydive together.”
Although Skydive Temple remains open year-round, instructors and jumpers alike note the importance of Safety Day for both new and experienced jumpers.
“We’re lucky here in Texas, we can jump year-round, but a lot of the northern drop zones and people on the East Coast shut down for the winter because it’s not viable to operate,” Winfield said. “So, the middle of March the weather is warming up, it’s starting to get nice, so the USPA said, ‘Hey, let’s make a Safety Day since a lot of people haven’t jumped in four or five months and go over those basic things people might have gotten rusty on while they weren’t jumping.’ It’s a reason to go over safety procedures and bring everyone back together.”
But at Skydive Temple, safety is more than just one day of the year.
“Every day is safety day. (March 14) is just the named Safety Day,” Winfield said. “There’s a lot of planning, and everyone is always safety-conscious. It doesn’t look like there’s a plan, but there’s always a plan.”
In fact, skydiving is incredibly safe, contrary to popular belief.
“The odds of you getting in a fatal car accident is 14.7 for every 100,000 people, and to die in a tandem skydiving accident is .076 for every 100,000 people,” Palmer said. “The most dangerous part of your day is your drive home.”
But still the question remains: What makes a person want to jump out of a perfectly good airplane?
“It’s just awesome,” Winfield said. “When you’re jumping, you’re not worried about work or getting in that fight. You’re focused on the people you’re jumping with and everything just goes away while you’re flying. You always want one more jump.”
It also provides a sense of community, bring people of all types together.
“In skydiving, it goes from the guy who’s out here at the drop zone emptying the trash just because he wants to get a skydive license to the people who make millions of dollars a year,” Palmer said. “The thing I like about skydiving: everyone is the same. There really isn’t a social hierarchy here, whether you’re a brand new jumper with one jump or a super experienced skydiver with 10,000 jumps. We all like helping each other become better, safer skydivers.”
In keeping with this community, Skydive Temple has launched two community outreach programs to help bring more people together.
They are in the process of starting a community outreach program called Silent Wings that allows members of the Deaf community to skydive. They also operate Catharsis, which works with soldiers to overcome PTSD.
“We specifically reach out to military personnel (with Catharsis), and we like working with the Reassociation of Adrenaline. It’s a new portion of psychology that’s being explored; adrenaline-based sports generally help PTSD,” Palmer said. “A great thing about skydiving is it’s a very tight-knit community, so it really helps a lot with reintegration into public life. You build trust.”
To join the Skydive Temple family, find them at 15771 South IH-35 in Salado, give them a call at (254) 947-3483, or find them online at skydivetemple.com.