MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Charlie Gittens wants to move his skydiving business from the New Market, Virginia, airport to the Eastern Regional Airport south of Martinsburg.
“We’ve outgrown that facility and we’re looking to relocate,” he told members of the Eastern Regional Airport Authority at their meeting Tuesday. “The facilities here are more than adequate. It’s a much better facility. And it would allow us to grow. We would expect to double our growth the first year.”
Gittens has operated Blue Ridge Skydiving Adventures for three years, he said, serving about 2,000 customers mainly on the weekends. He also operates a skydiving school, he said. He has two full-time employees and 10 instructors.
Currently, he has three airplanes: one twin-engine Piper Navajo that can carry eight skydivers and two single-engine Cessna 182s that can carry four skydivers each.
“Our skydivers are an adult, mature group of professionals,” Gittens said Tuesday. “We’re a professional organization that will bring customers to the airport.”
BRSA offers a range of services, including tandem jumps with certified instructors, accelerated free fall jumps and instructor-assisted deployment training jumps. BRSA supplies the equipment for jumps.
He expects to double the amount of fuel sold at the airport and double the amount of takeoffs and landings at the airport during BRSA’s first year of operations at the Eastern Regional Airport.
“We already draw from the (Washington, D.C.) area, but we would be 25 miles closer to D.C.,” Gittens said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “People who come skydiving usually always do something else – go to lunch or dinner, visit tourist attractions, stay in hotels or camp. We would bring a lot of people into the area.”
He is negotiating with Aero-Smith Inc. to lease space in the former Tiger Aircraft assembly plant in the Airport Authority’s business park. Aero-Smith recently bought the plant in a foreclosure sale.
Aero-Smith is the Eastern Regional Airport’s fixed base operator offering fuel sales, hangar rentals and maintenance as well as flight training, charter service and aircraft management.
Gittens would also like to negotiate a volume discount for fuel.
He has to get permission to operate his skydiving business at Eastern Regional Airport from the Federal Aviation Administration, but he does not foresee any problem with that requirement.
Gittens plans to return to the Airport Authority with a formal proposal in the near future and hopes to begin operations at Eastern Regional Airport in 60 days.
For more information about BRSA, go to skydivenewmarket.com.
“I was very happy with the reception from the authority members – they seem to be genuinely interested in aviation,” Gittens said. “I hope it works out. It’s a win-win situation for the airport and the business.”