Imagine fulfilling a bucket list dream where the ground below is moving slowly beneath the wings of a perfectly good airplane. Temperatures are mild and light fluffy clouds beckon you to join them. After pausing with feet positioned on the plane's landing gear, the signal to go causes the heartrate to increase and the 7,500 foot descent begins with a free fall of approximately 15 seconds.
The scene above becomes reality when clients make their first jump from Ben Lowe's 1961 182D airplane.
Lowe began his skydiving endeavors 12 years ago in Boston, Mass., and has more than 8,600 jumps to his credit.
When asked how he landed in Delta, and began his USA Ultimate Skydiving Adventures, his reply was, "Traveling all over the country allowed me to just find a place that really was beautiful that I wanted to take people for their first jump." An elimination process brought Lowe to Delta from Moab, Utah. where he, his wife Melissa and son Benjamin, currently reside. A move to Delta is in the works while Lowe grows his business.
Lowe spends time in Delta to accommodate an average of roughly 20 clients per week with tandem jumps with trips to Moab when possible to be with family.
Accomplishments by Lowe include canopy competitions where he won numerous medals which are housed in a trophy case in Moab. Lowe's wife Melissa is also an accomplished jumper with over 11,000 jumps (spanning 34 years) which includes world competitions (females only) where she has earned 18 world records (the most recent being a jump involving 168 female jumpers).
Lowe met his wife in 2010 in Chicago at his wife's family jump zone. The two actually met while walking through a line at a cafe.
As a tandem examiner, Lowe has taught over 50 other parachutist to be tandem instructors for parachute manufacturers. The process includes 500 jumps, usually around three years of training, with a three to five day course where ground mechanics, more jumps and gear training completes the process of receiving a tandem instructor rating.
Lowe packs his own chutes. He received his senior rigger ticket in January of 2006 and became a master rigger in the winter of 2012.
With all that his business entails, Lowe has a "ground man" who does many tasks, from sweeping to booking clients, on a daily basis. Giovanni Boyd-bonanno is the jack of all trades for Lowe and is a paraglider and also helps pack chutes.
Lowe's pilot, John Smoltzer, is from Grand Junction and commutes to Delta for duty when jumps are scheduled throughout the week. Lowe himself is a pilot with a little more than a year's worth of flight time.
For days that are best for jumps, Lowe looks for dry, cooler air and winds around five knots. Bad days would be those with gusty winds of 20 knots and rainy conditions.
Clients must go through steps to prepare for a jump with Lowe. Signing waivers is the first thing. A video takes prospective jumpers through the perils and expectations for each jump. A jump suit is assigned and Lowe then fits a harness (to be connected to Lowe's harness and the chute) over the client's jump suit. A walk to the aircraft and an actual 'dry run' of how to exit the plane is rehearsed. Final instructions are given back inside the hangar before departure.
On Thursday, July 13, Laura Benedetto, of Grand Junction, went through the instruction phase and accompanied Lowe on the day's first jump scheduled for 10 a.m. Benedetto's excitement was evident as the two jumpers climbed into the aircraft.
About 20 minutes later the pair was under the canopy silently circling with a blue sky above them. Fifteen minutes later the duo gently slid to a stop near the west end of Blake Field's runway.
Sea level jumps begin around 12,700 feet above ground while Delta's jump began at 7,500 feet above ground.
As Benedetto walked towards the hangar with a smile on her face, she was asked about the jump. Her answer was simply, "It was amazing."
There are not many limitations for potential clients. There is a weight limit but age is an open category where Lowe has jumped with a youngster two years old and an elderly person who was 92.
How fun is parachuting? Lowe was asked by Benedetto prior to last Thursday's jump if he ever got tired of jumping. An enthusiastic "Never," was Lowe's quick response. Kind of reminds one of a once famous cereal commercial where the commentary goes, "Be like Mikey! Try it ... you'll like it!!"