Flying high and diving in Harford

At the Harford County Airport on Aldino Road near Churchville is one of Harford County's most exciting companies: Skydive Baltimore.

Skydive Baltimore is owned by veteran sky diver Lance Linton, who has completed more than 5,500 dives.

The company has been in operation since 1974. It moved from Ridgely on the Eastern Shore to Harford County in March, a decision partially influenced by the many customers from Harford County, Linton said.

The company specializes in tandem skydiving, in which an expert diving instructor and a first-time or novice diver jump together, using a harness designed to hold two people.

"On an average day we see anything from the typical 'thrill seeking' college student, all the way up to retirees who are checking it off their 'bucket list', and everyone in between," Linton said, adding that the company has taken "customers as old as 85 on their first tandem skydive."

The divers are taken to an attitude of 11,000 feet – about two miles – in one of Skydive Baltimore's four Cessna 182 airplanes. Upon jumping out of the airplane, divers will quickly reach free fall and fall at a speed of 120 miles an hour for about 1 minute.

Then, the expert sky diver activates the parachute and guides the pair to a neat landing, a task which takes about 8 to 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, according to Linton, the novice diver experiences a unique bird's eye view of the Chesapeake Bay and Susquehanna River, as well as the City of Baltimore, the farms of Harford County and the surrounding towns and suburbs.

Despite sky diving's daredevil reputation, tandem skydiving is an activity available to nearly everyone, Linton explained. The only requirements are that divers must have at least average levels of flexibility, weigh less than 220 pounds and be at least 18 years of age or older. Solo diving opportunities are not available from Skydive Baltimore.

All customers must go through a detailed safety briefing, explaining how the parachutes work and what they can expect to feel while in the plane and while jumping. Further safety precautions are taken by checking the diving equipment while on the ground and again when in the air, prior to jumping.

Skydive Baltimore is open seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., March through November. Jumps are typically rescheduled in the event of weather conditions that would put the divers' safety at risk, such rain, snow, solid cloud cover or high winds. Instances of heat lightning can also jeopardize a jump.

The cost of a dive is $239 per person. Photos and videos of the dive are available at an additional cost. Reservations are encouraged (and required for groups larger than five), and a $50 deposit is required upon reservation.

Linton, obviously, encourages people to go skydiving, especially if they have never gone because it is a "free[ing]" experience. He especially recommends group skydiving as a fun and memorable activity for a bachelor or bachelorette party.

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