Skydiving is a bucket list activity for many Montanans.

Others are terrified of heights and can't fathom the thought of jumping out of an airplane 10,000 above the ground. For me, I would LOVE to try skydiving and wish there was a place to do it closer to Billings.

Currently, there are just three companies that offer skydiving in Montana. DZONE Skydiving is based out of Three Forks, Skydive Whitefish in the Flathead Valley, and Meadow Peak Skydiving is located in Marion, MT. Those locations are a bit of a drive for us folks in Eastern Montana.

One man's mission is to bring skydiving back to the Billings area.

Mindlessly scrolling Facebook the other day, I ran across a post from a Laurel resident named Robert Atkinson that caught my attention and made me chuckle.

Instead of the cardboard signs that we frequently see around Billings, usually held by panhandlers begging for "gas money", "sick child", or "down on my luck", his sign is much more interesting... the guy just wants an airplane ride to 13,500 feet above sea level in Laurel.

Robert Atkinson visits the Mix 97.1 Studio. Credit Michael Foth, TSM
Robert Atkinson visits the Mix 97.1 Studio. Credit Michael Foth, TSM
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I invited Robert to stop by our studios for an interview earlier this week to learn more about skydiving in Montana, and his idea to bring a skydiving drop back to the Billings area.

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Atkinson jumped into the sport just a year ago and quickly became addicted to the hobby. Soon, he found himself skydiving 8 - 15 times a week (mostly in Arizona). He's now completed over 250 jumps.

Atkinsons parachute pack and helmet. Credit Michael Foth, TSM
Atkinsons parachute pack and helmet. Credit Michael Foth, TSM
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Hurdles for getting skydiving back at the Laurel airport.

Authorized skydiving requires several things to get off the ground again in the Billings area. Robert explained some of the steps that will be necessary, including:

  • Getting approval from the Laurel Municipal Airport Board for skydiving operations.
  • Line up pilot support for the skydiving business.
  • Research requirements and permits for operating out of the Laurel airport.
  • Conduct a feasibility study and business plan for the skydiving operation.
  • Apply for any necessary FAA approvals.

Atkinson believes there is a demand for the concept in Yellowstone County, and I tend to agree. His energy and enthusiasm for the sport of skydiving were contagious, and he's a fascinating individual. Take a listen to the interview below.

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