Skydive Suffolk expands

Published 7:53 pm Saturday, May 14, 2011

City officials and staff of Skydive Suffolk gather to cut the ribbon on an expanded hangar for the business. From left, airport manager Kent Marshall, City Councilman Curtis Milteer, Skydive Suffolk owner Larry Pennington and Vice Mayor Charles Brown help snip the ribbon.

One of the city’s most unique businesses held the official ribbon-cutting for its expanded ground-floor space on Saturday.

The new space increases the company’s first-floor square footage by more than eight times over. But the amount of space available in the upper floors has always remained the same — clear blue sky.

“As soon as this hangar become available, we put in a bid and I was lucky enough to get it,” said Larry Pennington, owner of Skydive Suffolk.

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Pennington celebrated with his staff and City Council members Saturday morning. He had planned to offer reduced-price tandem jumps, but the cloudy weather precluded parachuting.

“You’ve got to have clear weather,” he said, apologizing to some 30 people who had signed up. “You’ve got to obey the rules. I can sure show you what happens when you don’t, and it ain’t pretty.”

The business, which takes everyone from novices to experts on about 12,000 jumps a year over the Suffolk Executive Airport, moved from its prior 1,200-square-foot building to one with about 10,000 square feet of available space.

“It was built as a short-term thing,” Pennington said. However, the company wound up staying in the red buildings on the other side of the airport for 15 years. It has been at the Suffolk airport for a total of 30 years.

The old buildings barely had room for office space and a training area. However, the new building features a hangar larger than the old building, as well as a spacious office, employee area and several training rooms.

Pennington said the increased space will allow him to make more revenue. He’s the largest single consumer of fuel among all the businesses based at the airport and employs one full-time and 22 part-time employees.

“It brings a lot of people here,” he said.