ASHLAND -- AerOhio Skydiving's inaugural season in Ashland has been put on hold due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. However, want-to-be skydivers shouldn't feel dismayed.
AerOhio intends to bring adventure to the region by mid-summer -- once the social distancing recommendations have hopefully been lifted.
It was announced last year that AerOhio would be moving from Rittman to the Ashland County Airport, securing its position as the closest full-time skydiving center to Cleveland, Columbus and Akron.
Although opening day has been postponed, Sherry Butcher, business manager of AerOhio, expressed her excitement for the upcoming skydiving season.
“Originally, we planned to have our opening day on the last weekend of March. We are anxiously awaiting the first day of jumping," Butcher said. “We’re waiting for the social distancing recommendations to soften.
"There’s no way to do tandem jumps or being in an airplane for the ride up to the altitude to honor those social distancing recommendations."
The Ashland County Airport has offered several accommodations to AerOhio in the transitional process. Currently, AerOhio is leasing a hangar on the property to store its airplane and parachutes.
In the long term, AerOhio plans to establish its own hangar on the property. Construction on the hangar is planned to begin later this summer.
“The airport was gracious enough to negotiate a place for us to eventually build a hangar on airport property," Butcher said. "We have an 8-acre area towards the southwest end of the airport that we will be using as a landing area for parachutes."
AerOhio isn't simply a one-jump skydiving facility. It offers a training program that gives interested individuals an avenue to become a licensed skydiver.
“The process for becoming a licensed skydiver requires a 25-jump training program that is sanctioned through the United States Parachute Association," Butcher said. "Every jumper that wants to start jumping can either come and do a tandem jump where you are attached to an instructor, or they can start with a tandem and transition to the solo free-fall training program that eventually leads to getting licensed."
Butcher has jumped out of a plane over 8,500 times. Her business partner, Dave Lepka, operations manager of AerOhio, has also jumped over 8,500 times.
“People who have licenses and experience plan formation jumps together," Butcher said. "So they’ll jump out in groups of two, three or four.”
The United States Parachute Association (USPA) is the governing body that sets the safety standards for its training program.
You must be at least 18 years old to skydive, although there isn't any age limit for older adults. Butcher recalled recently taking someone for a jump who was in their early 90's and in good health.
AerOhio's move to Ashland contributes to the county's ongoing development and aspires to increase tourism in the area.
“We should see an increase in traffic especially on the 250 corridor generating more revenue for hotels, restaurants and retail stores,” said Ashland County Commissioner Jim Justice.
The skydiving season typically lasts until November depending on the weather.
Interested jumpers can visit AerOhio's Website to find more information about skydiving in Ashland County.