Virginia Dropzones Explained

As a Tunnel Instructor with a background in Skydiving, I get a lot of people with a strictly tunnel background asking me about learning to skydive. I wanted to offer my opinion on the leading dropzones in Virginia.

Full Disclosure: I work at a Tandem Only Dropzone in Fredericksburg, VA, that feeds its students into Virginia Skydiving Center (VSC). I have done pickup work at Skydive Suffolk (S2) and VSC. I made my first and second jumps at Skydive Orange (SO) in 2008, where I have friends in the management, instructional, manifest, rigging, and packing side of the business. I trained an instructor who works at DC Skydiving Center (DCSC) and have a highly valued client who is a raving fan. I have visited twice but never made a jump, but have met their instructors at the tunnel. A previous coworker and current coworker worked at Blue Ridge Skydiving Adventures (BRSA) in manifest and instructor positions and I have jumped there once and met the owner. My current boss is the previous boss of the owner of No Limits Skydiving Center (NLSC), and a previous student of mine did the first part of his A-license there. I’ve never been to either of their two locations.

TLDR: I have had meaningful connections key people at almost all dropzones in the state.

In no specific order..

1) Virginia Skydiving Center
Petersburg, Virginia

Aircraft: King Air (holds 14), Cessna 182 (holds 4)
Facilities: Hangar, Access to Airport Classroom
Landing Area: Large, plenty of options. 3-5 minute walk from hangar
Student Program: IAD or AFF
Rental rigs: Student Javelins, nice gear
Gear store: Small, offering log books, etc
Accommodation: Camping five minutes off site. Hotels are a bit of a drive.
Price of a Tandem: $259 (value option available, military/group rates available)
Tandem Video: Outside Video/Stills $125
Price of AFF:
FJC/Cat A: $355
First 8 Jumps: $1878 (8 jump program to solo, first 7 jumps end up at $1669, for comparison) (does not include USPA Fees)
First 25 Jumps: $3232 (does not include USPA Fees)

Opinion:

The Good: I find this dropzone to be so charming. The King Air is the fastest jump plane in Virginia. It also offers a 182, which is great if there are not enough people to send the bigger plane. The off site camping is the place to be at night! The last load often lands at the camp ground, swooping the pond, and people bond over BBQ. The Tandems and AFF Program are reasonably priced compared to the nationwide industry standard. Offers a budget tandem option. Jim Crouch, owner, is an industry leader in safety and training. Runs continuous education courses. Probably the best value for AFF. Offers IAD.

The Bad: South of Richmond, which is quite a ways from Northern Virginia/Tidewater areas. The dropzone is for the most part weekends only, and therefore so are the staff. Can’t always fill the King Air. Freefly scene is hit and miss.

2) Skydive Orange
Orange, Virginia

Aircraft: Twin Otter (holds 22)
Facilities: Brand new main hangar, club house hangar, showers, class room, nice training aids
Landing Area: Large. Right next to hangar. Has a ditch right through the middle. Other options available.
Student Program: AFF
Rental rigs: New
Gear store: On site gear store, probably the best in Virginia. Carries helmets and Audibles.
Accommodation: Club House Hangar, camping. Hotels in town.
Price of a Tandem: $270 (Cash Discount available: $15)
Tandem Video: Outside Video/Stills $125
Weight Limit/Tax?: $35 every 10lbs over 220
Price of AFF:
FJC/Cat A: $430
First 7 Jumps: $1840 “cash price”, not including USPA membership
First 25 Jumps: $3620 “cash price”, not including USPA membership/license fees, altimeter/goggle rental, or packing class

Opinion:

The Good:
Strongest Dropzone community in Virginia. Brand new facility. Twin Otter Aircraft. Strict A-License plan. Excellent training aids. Old hangar for camping. Rigging loft. Best gear store in the state. Popular boogies. Open more days a week than any other dropzone. Runs continuing education courses. Larry Lieber, dropzone manager, has a background of visiting A LOT of dropzones as an Icarus representative, and has a worldclass network in the skydiving industry. Kevin Gibson is possibly the best rigger in the state.

The Bad:
Most expensive dropzone I’ve seen in the U.S. for tandems and AFF. Misleadingly advertises “cash prices.” Doesn’t always have the business to justify a Twin Otter. Lacks a 182.

NOTE: I received feedback from a reader which I’d like to add. He mentioned that in practice, altimeter/goggle rental is not added on to the price of a skydive after the coach jumps. The website seems to point otherwise. In my experience I made a jump there last weekend and was able to borrow goggles and an altimeter at no charge when I asked a friend on staff.

He also wanted to point out that upon graduation Orange gives six free skydives as a graduation incentive. This is advertised as a $600 value. I asked him how much gear rental was once you have your A-license, and he said $35 per jump or $100 per day. A jump ticket on the credit card is $27. I asked about the extra $38 to no reply.

3) Skydive Suffolk
Suffolk, Virginia

Aircraft: PAC 750XL (holds 13), Skyvan (holds 22)
Facilities: Main Hangar, Military Hangar
Landing Area: Best in Virginia. Wide, Long, unobstructed
Student Program: AFF
Rental rigs: Recently Updated
Gear store: Primitive, mostly T-shirts, etc
Accommodation: Close to Suffolk, VA
Price of a Tandem: $249 (Student/Military Discount Available, $10-$50)
Tandem Video: Handcam video/stills $100, Outside video/Stills $125
Weight Limit/Tax?: Fee over 220lbs
Price of AFF:
FJC/Cat A: $325
First 7 Jumps: Not listed
First 25 Jumps: Not listed

Opinion:

The Good:
Lead Instructor Tom Deacon is a world class instructor/examiner and manager. Awesome, well rounded PAC aircraft. Offers world class military accommodation. Has two turbine aircraft. Home DZ of iFly VA Beach Instructors. Runs continuing education courses. Offers excellent AFF/Wind tunnel combination training.

The Bad:
Has a hard time keeping experienced instructors as they are not a super busy facility. It is uncommon to see the Skyvan fly civilians. Sport jumper skills are still developing, made up mostly of transient military jumpers without a civilian skydiving background. Lacks a 182.

4) Blue Ridge Skydiving Adventures
New Market, Virginia

Aircraft: Navajo (midsized aircraft), Cessna 182
Facilities: Small Hangar, Classroom
Landing Area: Medium Sized
Student Program: AFF, IAD
Rental rigs: Don’t know
Gear store: Don’t know
Accommodation: Don’t know
Price of a Tandem: $250 (Cash discount available, Groupon available: $359 for 2 or $179.50ea)
Tandem Video: Unspecified, $120
Weight Limit/Tax?: Fee over 220lbs
Price of AFF:
FJC/Cat A: $395
First 7 Jumps: $1775, not including USPA membership
First 25 jumps: $3665

Opinion:

The Good:
Scenic dropzone in the Shenandoah Valley. Clean. Close knit family atmosphere that is very welcoming to outsiders. Very competitive Tandem pricing for two jumpers through Groupon, although these deals are not always available.

The Bad:
Not a lot of sport jumpers. Still very much a growing dropzone. I’m personally not a fan of the Navajo. Located right next to a chicken farm.

5) DC Skydiving Center

Aircraft: Pac 750XL
Facilities: Semi-Outdoor dropzone
Landing Area: Medium Sized
Student Program: AFF
Rental rigs: Mirage RTS
Gear store: No
Accommodation: Don’t Know
Price of a Tandem: $299 ($159 Groupon occasionally available)
Tandem Video: Handcam video/stills $198 (Cash, Military, and Student Discounts Available)
Weight Limit/Tax?: Fee over 200 lbs, 240 limit – but call anyway..
Price of AFF:
FJC/Cat A: $410
First 7 Jumps: $1840 “cash price”, does not include USPA membership or altimeter/goggles rental
First 25 jumps: $3820 “cash price”

Opinion:

The Good:
Cheapest tandems in the state if you go through Groupon, although these are not always available. Offers AFF. Tandem instructors perhaps the most current jumpers in the state.

The Bad:
High volume. Limited facilities. Video upcharge is pricey. AFF program is new and expensive. DZ will generally not be open if there are no tandems on the books. (I’ve shown up 2-3 times without calling and no one was there on Friday evenings, etc.)

6) No Limits Skydiving Center
West Point, VA

Aircraft: Cessna 182
Facilities: Unsure
Landing Area: Unsure
Student Program: AFF
Rental rigs: Unsure
Gear store: Unsure
Accommodation: Unsure
Price of a Tandem: $220 (birthday, military, and group discounts)
Tandem Video:
Weight Limit/Tax?:
Tandem Video: Handcam Video/Stills $85
Price of AFF: Not Posted

Opinion:

The Good:
I can’t say too much about this place as I have not been there. I only know what I’ve heard from trusted sources. I imagine the views are amazing, as it is located just on the York river. There used to be a major dropzone here but it rebranded as VSC and the community moved to Petersburg. There’s a lot to like about jumping a 182. They also have a second location in Victoria, VA.

The Bad:
Again, not much to say on this topic as I have not been there. As far as I know it does not have a sport jumper community and in 2012 I had met their first and only AFF student at the time — who knows if they have continued to produce other students. Does not offer outside video.

7) Fredericksburg Skydiving Center
Fredericksburg, VA

Aircraft: Cessna 182
Facilities: Simple Hangar, Access to FBO with restaurant
Landing Area: Small, Tandem only
Student Program: Feeds into Virginia Skydiving Center
Rental rigs: Tandem Only
Gear store: No
Accommodation: Less than 10 minutes from downtown Fredericksburg
Price of a Tandem: $219
Tandem Video: Handcam Video/Stills $100
Weight Limit/Tax?: 230 for men, 200 for women
Price of AFF: Feeds into Virginia Skydiving Center

Opinion:

The Good:
This is the closest you can get to D.C. to Skydive. We are located just off I-95, minutes from downtown Fredericksburg. We jump over a historical battle field. Very competitive price for a non-groupon dropzone. Amazing on site restaurant.

The Bad:
Tandem only. We are in the process of developing the facilities. Does not offer outside video.

In Summary:

Best Value Tandem: FSC
Best Tandem Deal: DCSC Groupon (not always available)
Best Value FJC/Cat A: S2
Best Value A-license: VSC
Newest Equipment: SDO
Most Current Tandem Instructors: DCSC
Most Luxurious Facility: SDO