PROSSER, Wash. - A new company in Benton County is bringing adrenaline and entertainment to several areas across Washington state. All you have to do is take the leap of faith from 11,000 feet above the ground.
Rattlesnake Mountain Skydiving has been in the works since September 2018. The brains behind the operation -- Chad Riddell and Tri-Cities native, Jon Schwarder.
“We've just been fortunate enough to have a lot of people pushing and supporting us,” co-owner Jon Schwarder said. “And we were able to get this up and running very quickly.”
Schwarder has been skydiving since 2012, and has more than 1,000 jumps on his resume. Prior to opening Rattlesnake Mountain Skydiving, Schwarder was a part-time skydiving instructor at another company.
“I just developed such a passion for skydiving and I wanted to be able to share that with the Tri-Cities and the lower valley community.,” he explained.
Schwarder and his team brainstormed the best area to host their company. They decided it would be best stationed at the Prosser Airport.
“Being out here in the middle, we're able to meet the Tri-Cities market,” Schwarder said. “Reach out to the lower valley Yakima market.”
From the Tri-Cities, it’s about 27 miles. If you’re heading from Yakima, the drive is only 45 minutes. If you’re coming from Hermiston, about an hour. Schwarder said he wanted to meet both markets in the middle but also find a place where they wouldn’t interrupt commercial airplane traffic.
Schwarder says the only other areas to tandem skydive are in Ritzville or Lake Chelan.
So what can you expect on a tandem skydive? First, you must sign liability waivers. Next, all passengers must watch a safety video. Finally, a rundown of what to expect when you’re on the ground, in the air and when you’re heading back to the ground.
Schwarder says the safety of their passenger is one of the top priorities.
“We make sure that the harness is properly fitting the person. We check and double check that routinely,” Schwarder said. “Just that constant communication with the team and the passenger that helps make this such a safe activity.”
It’s not only about talking to the passenger about safety, but the entire team. Schwarder and all the employees will get together before opening the day for business. They talk about weather conditions, winds, altitude and landing patterns.
After all the safety checks are done on the ground, it’s time to head up.
“On average, we typically get out at about 11,000 feet above the ground,” Schwarder explained. “To trust a complete stranger to take you to 11 or 12,000 feet and jump out of an airplane with you, and for them to trust that you're going to get them on the ground in one piece is really humbling.”
Once you’re up in the air, the instructors will continue to communicate with the passenger regarding safety and what to do before jumping. More safety checks are done too.
When the pilot and instructor decide it is safe to leave the plane, you take that leap of faith.
“We have just under a minute of free-fall and we're going about 120 miles per hour,” Schwarder said. “We deploy the parachute at about 5,000 feet and then we have a five to seven minute canopy ride down to the ground.”
The canopy ride down gives you the opportunity to enjoy the view of Prosser and wine country.
“To me, it means that I'm giving people another opportunity to experience some entertainment and some excitement in their life,” Schwarder said.
After you land, other members of the company are there to welcome you back from your trip. One person waiting for you at the bottom is Lindsay Brown, Director of Marketing and Media for the company.
“To really just see a customer come flying in, come landing. --it's just so exciting to see a smile on their face,” Brown said. “To capture that moment for them and just really express how excited they are.”
Brown is also a skydiver. She says not only is it a life-changing experience, but it also helps you grow as a person.
“Skydiving for me is all about building confidence. That's why I think I really -- it translated into my life in so many different areas,” Brown said. “It's about getting the customer feeling safe, feeling secure but also just having a good time.”
Schwarder says not only is his team made up of other instructors, but pilots as well.
“It's awesome to be apart of something where you can build it from the ground up,” said Tim Smith, a pilot and coach with the company. “We've got a great plane, great staff, great crew and we're mobile, so we're going to be making some adventures.”
Smith, who has been skydiving since 2010, says all your stress is left inside the plane once you make the leap of faith.
“It's a life reset button. It really is,” he explained. “Once you touch the ground, all your stress and angst and everything is all gone for a minute. It puts perspective back into everything you do.”
Schwarder is hoping his passion and love for the sport will be conveyed to others across Washington state.
“I'm a believer that everyone should experience skydiving,” he said. “We have hopes obviously to expand and to start a student program where we can start teaching students how to skydive.”
On May 4, Rattlesnake Mountain Skydiving will have a grand opening at the Prosser Airport located at 111 Nunn Road at the north edge of the airport along Old Inland Empire Highway.
They’ll have food, music, prizes, specials, a ribbon cutting. And to check out the company in action, they’ll be doing a demonstration jump. Employees will also be there to answer any questions you may have before booking your tandem jump.
The grand opening starts at 3:30 p.m. followed by an after-party reception at Horse Heaven Saloon in downtown Prosser.
To book your jump with Rattlesnake Mountain Skydiving or for more information, click here.
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