Skydiving offers fun and education

CANTON — In Alliance, Ohio, skydiving is a tradition for Rodger Conley.

As owner of Canton Air Sports, Conley offers tandem skydiving with complete beginners’ courses and more at his business, which he started 42 years ago. It is open seven days a week March through November, offering both tandem and free fall skydiving.

Tandem skydiving refers to a type of jump where a student skydiver is connected to a harness attached to a tandem instructor. The instructor guides the student through the entire jump from exit through freefall, flying the canopy and landing. According to Conley, divers have a brief period of instruction before leaving the aircraft at an altitude of 10,000 to 14,000 feet and they freefall for a mile or more at 120 mph. Divers then glide to the ground during a five- to seven-minute ride under a parachute specially built for two.

Conley said after two tandem skydives, participants may choose an accelerated freefall option, for which the business offers a six-hour class.

In a normal freefall, most individuals average 120 mph, which may increase or decrease depending on body attitude, clothing, air density and other factors. Tandem skydivers fall at a fairly fixed rate of 120 mph due to the drogue, or device to provide drag, that is deployed during the skydive.

He said people want to try skydiving for many reasons, but freedom is a common one.

“Some want to skydive just to say they’ve done it. Some want to conquer their fear of heights and others want the sense of complete freedom you get from it,” Conley said. “It’s a great freedom you can’t experience any other way.”

Conley started the business in 1974 and moved it to Alliance in 1996.

“I’m not a jumper anymore, but the enthusiasm from new jumpers kind of rubs off,” Conley said. “That’s why I stay.”

Canton Air Sports instructors have taught skydiving instructors in Pittsburgh, Erie, Pa., and Morgantown, W.Va., as well as in Ohio and many foreign countries.

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