Saturday, December 17, 2016

First skydive attempt a success at Venice Municipal Airport

VENICE, Fla.-- With the engine running and wheels on the tarmac, four passengers left Venice Municipal Airport on a one way flight. The only exit was a 10,000 foot jump.

"I could talk to you for hours and hours and you still wouldn't understand it," said owner of Skydive Venice Beach Christian Schoemig. "It's such a rush. You have to do it to understand it."

Schoemig has jumped nearly 8,000 times and operates a company out of Palm Beach, Florida, but for Mashid Kamali, it was the first time.

"I was nervous," said Kamali, "but as soon as I jumped out of the airplane, there was this silence and then the beautiful scenery.

It's a 2 mile descent controlled only by wind resistance, and it's the first commercial skydiving jump out of Venice Municipal Airport. For 7 years, the only resistance came from the Venice City Council, concerned about safety risks.

City Councilman Kit McKeon has been there throughout the process.

"During that period of uncertainty," said McKeon, "we didn't want to have something else that would potentially concern the citizens."

McKeon says that "period of uncertainty" was a time when the airport was in need of repair.

"The airport had suffered from what I will call 60 years of benign neglect," said McKeon. "It needed work."

Since then, the Federal Aviation Administration has given them nearly 18 million dollars to refurbish different parts of the airport. It still operates without a control tower though, which was among the concerns for the council, and something Schoemig acknowledged as an obstacle.

"We have a different traffic pattern than the planes and the helicopter, so we had to work through a long process," said Schoemig. 

On Saturday, that process came to an end though. Schoemig finally took that first jump in Venice, and he says it was well worth the wait. 

"Skydiving is very special no matter where you do it," said Schoemig. "You could jump over the desert and you'll have a blast, but to add that component to a skydive is very special. It's just like, 'wow!'"


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