Air, Land and Sea

Story by: Marty Olmstead

Photography by: Ryan Gibson

By Air— Skydiving

Skydiving isn’t for only adrenaline junkies who love the thrill of diving solo. People who simply want to experience leaping to earth from a moving airplane can opt for a tandem dive (i.e., attached to an instructor). Cathy Kloess, a veteran of more than 2,000 jumps, opened The Jumping Place in 1986 to provide instruction and experience to skydiving enthusiasts. Flights, based at an airport in Statesboro, usually tour the coast and may roam as far away as Cumberland Island. The aircraft is usually a four-seater, such as a Cessna 182 (or larger), that carries the skydivers to an altitude of 10,500 feet. Kloess’s son, experienced skydiver Carey Kloess-Finley, explains that beginners have two options: Jumping solo (AFF, accelerated free-fall) or in tandem. For the latter, following an hour of instruction and familiarization with the equipment, including the airplane, the first-timer is connected to a harness attached to an instructor, who guides the student through the whole jump starting with about a minute of free-fall, followed by about a five-minute-long parachute ride that features a bird’s-eye view of the Georgia coastline. The solo-jump AFF, however, requires four to six hours of ground school, which is an introduction to the sky-diving equipment that Kloess-Finley says covers “everything you need to know about the harness.” And don’t forget the video aspect of the experience, he adds, because you’ll only make your first skydive once. 127 AIRPORT ROAD, STATESBORO, GA; 912.322.7282; THEJUMPINGPLACE.COM

Hot Air Balloons

Few flights can compare to the peaceful experience of soaring in a hot air balloon. Since the craft travels at the speed of the wind, practically the only sound you’ll hear is an occasional soft “whoosh” produced when the pilot heats up the air in the balloon in order to make it more buoyant to rise higher. The man at the switch on Feather Air Balloon Adventures is Andy Cayton, a retired Gulf War veteran formerly with Special Operations Aviation at Hunter Army Air Base who has flown airplanes and helicopters but became hooked on hot air after taking a flight in Colorado some 15 years ago. Now he runs commercial flights out of Ellabell, Georgia, with early morning or evening departures, depending, he says, on the wind. (To date, he’s also piloted three wedding parties.) The sightseeing excursions cover seven to 10 miles and last roughly an hour. From an altitude of some 1,500, feet the views encompass forests, farms and the coastline. Only one customer in a thousand hasn’t been thrilled by the experience, says the pilot. “It’s a peaceful experience, something everyone should do at least once in their lifetime,” Cayton says. Perhaps altitude has a good effect on attitude. 4326 WILMA EDWARDS ROAD, ELLABELL, GA; 912.858.2529

Plane Charters

For getting away from it all, including the planet Earth, flying a plane can’t be beat. Owning an airplane is a considerable expense, but renting one doesn’t have to be. At Savannah Aviation, Michael Calarruda has a small fleet of Cessna 172s available, most available for rent at around $150 per hour. Savannah Aviation also offers flight training in single-engine Cessnas. Earning a private pilot’s license takes a lot of time (40 hours in the air, including 13 hours solo), study and money, but some find it hard to resist the company’s come-ons: “Heart-pounding. Life-altering. Soul reaffirming . . . Let the sky be your playground.” 34 HANGAR ROAD, SAVANNAH, GA; 912.964.1022; SAVANNAHAVIATION.COM