Calling all daredevils: This is the newest, craziest way to see the Grand Canyon
The skydiving jumps will offer views of the Grand Canyon without actually entering the national park's airspace.
- Paragon Skydive owners worked nearly three years to secure approval for their business
- For tandem jumps, instructors are strapped to the backs of participants
- Skydivers will experience a 30-second free fall before the parachute is released
There’s a new way to see the Grand Canyon and it starts from an open door 15,000 feet in the air.
Your attention, however, may be focused elsewhere. Perhaps on the fact that you’re about to jump out of a plane.
Paragon Skydive at Grand Canyon Airport is offering the first skydiving adventure with a view of the Canyon.
The grand opening is scheduled for the first week in April. Arizona's only state-owned airport is outside the park boundary, about 7 miles from the South Rim. A $299 tandem jump will give brave visitors wide views, including of the Canyon.
Of course, the unique vantage point won’t last long as jumpers free-fall toward Earth, reaching speeds of more than 100 mph before the chute opens and a more leisurely glide begins.
The planes don't enter the national park's air space and jumpers will not float over the Canyon. There are several reasons for that, said Paragon co-owner Aiofe Murphy.
First, the park's air space is strictly regulated for reasons relating to noise and safety. Second, park officials frown on anyone attempting to skydive anywhere near potentially deadly terrain.
Murphy said she and and business partner Jason Theuma worked nearly three years to secure the necessary permits from Arizona and the Federal Aviation Administration.
“There certainly were a lot of delays because we were presenting something brand new,” Murphy said. “Concerns were raised, but we never considered giving up. It just took a lot longer than we expected.”
Murphy and Theuma, from Ireland and Australia respectively, first laid eyes on the Canyon in 2013. Murphy said the pair of world travelers were amazed, and it wasn’t long before they were devising a way to live nearby.
Theuma, a skydiving enthusiast with hundreds of jumps, noted a lack of nearby aerial thrills. There were, in fact, none. The closest skydiving operation — Skydive Las Vegas — flew out of Boulder City, Nevada.
Murphy said she and Theuma, who have each started businesses before, looked into the possibilities. They knew there would be hurdles ahead, but not three years’ worth.
“Even if we had known it would take that long, we wouldn’t have given up,” Murphy said. “This business is unprecedented."
Paragon is limited to tandem jumps, which serves two purposes: Tourists can skydive with minimal training, and it eliminates the possibility that a solo jumper will attempt a rogue landing in the Canyon.
Even if solo jumps were permitted, Murphy said, the company would stick to tandem leaps.
“There are a lot of great skydiving areas in Arizona and we don’t want to compete with them,” she said. “We’re more of a tourist destination, giving people an alternative when they visit the Grand Canyon.”
Several test flights have proven that the view is spectacular, Murphy said. The 15,000-foot altitude will provide for a 30-second free fall and five-minute glide before landing. Once the chute opens, instructors will point out scenic highlights.
Quickly, of course.
Paragon will offer photos and videos for additional fees. Murphy hopes to add 360-degree cameras that will allow customers to relive their jumps via virtual reality.
What: Tandem skydiving at Grand Canyon National Park Airport.
When: Sunrise to sunset daily. Grand opening scheduled for the first week of April.
Where: 871 Liberator Drive, Grand Canyon Village.
Cost: $299 for tandem jump; $398 with photos; $429 with photos and video. Discounts for groups, military and those who book early.
Details: 928 224 9661, www.paragon-skydive.com.
Forbes' 11 Places to Skydive in 2016
Forbes included Paragon Skydive's tandem jumps near Grand Canyon as among the world's most scenic. The rest of the list:
• Waialua, Hawaii: www.skydiveharaii.com.
• Palm Jumeirah, United Arab Emirates: www.skydivedubai.ae.
• Mount Everest, Nepal: www.everest-skydive.com.
• Key West, Fla.: www.skydivekeywest.com.
• Livingstone, Zambia: www.victoriafallsadventures.com/activities_air_tandem_skydiving.php.
• Queenstown, New Zealand: nzoneskydive.co.nz/home.
• Cape Town, South Africa: www.skydivecapetown.co.za.
• Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland: www.skydive-lauterbrunnen.com/skydive-lauterbrunnen.html.
• Cairns, Australia: www.skydive.com.au/cairns.
• Empuriabrava, Spain: www.skydiveempuriabrava.com/en/.