Great Canadian Freefall Festival Draws Hundreds

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The Great Canadian Freefall Festival is being held in Vernon, British Columbia until Monday, July 3, 2017.

Hosted by Okanagan Skydive, the event will celebrate the 150th birthday of Canada. “It’s a big year for Canada, and with the 150th birthday comes even bigger events. Adventure travel is becoming one of the most popular travel trends of the 21st century,” said Bret Chalmers, owner of Okanagan Skydive. The Skyvan, a British 19-seat twin-turboprop aircraft manufactured by Short Brothers of Belfast, will fly 22 jumpers at a time to 12,000 feet above Vernon for the jump. Rocky Tyson, a flight instructor with Okanagan Skydive, said:

“The Skyvan is a huge attraction because the whole back of the airplane opens up and we can all just run out of the back. It’s a lot of fun that way.”

Tandem skydiving usually lasts 10 to 25 minutes. During the freefall, jumpers witness breathtaking views of the landscape. The ride to the ground takes 5 to 15 minutes. Tandem skydivers wear a four-point harness with two side buckles and two shoulder buckles. The harness is attached to the instructor. “Okanagan Skydivers are planning to attempt to build a 12-person “150” formation. We will be making two or three attempts in the evening of Canada Day (July 1) right over Kin Beach, just prior to the fireworks show. This is how we celebrate Canada’s birthday,” said Chalmers.

The event will draw people from around the globe.

“They come from as far as California, Montreal, and there’s a couple from Arizona. A lot from B.C. and Western Canada but quite a few from further out,” said Chalmers. “We’re able to showcase Vernon like nobody else. We keep doing this because we love it. We love the people and we love to fly,” said Chalmers. “Heck, if you are going to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday what better way to do it then to freefall out of an aircraft and one of the biggest events.”

Unlike other forms of skydiving, Tandem skydiving does not require a medical exam.

You should, however, let instructors know if you have any health conditions, including fractures or back problems. Some skydiving centers may require a doctor’s note stating it’s OK for you to skydive. This is often the case if you have cardiac or pulmonary conditions, nervous disorders, fainting spells, blood pressure issues, shortness of breath, kidney disease, diabetes, or any health problem that could pose a risk during the dive.

I love the community, ever since I started it’s just been really friendly. People don’t really care what you do, who you work for, things like that, it’s all about having fun and skydiving,” said Ted Bates, a pilot for Okanagan Skydive. “It’s terrifying, but exhilarating. It’s so much fun,” said Erin Sigalet, who traveled to the Okanagan from Calgary, Alberta.

The Skyvan will fly divers up every 40 minutes during the festival.

Given the number of jumpers in the sky at once, many will create interesting Tandem formations. “So if people want to look up over the fields over Vernon they’re going to be seeing something spectacular,” Chalmers said.

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