It was June 1992 when Target Skysports moved to Hibaldstow Airfield North Lincolnshire, and some 30 years since, skydiving still takes place, bringing a lot of joy to our adrenaline-seeking community. The landowner, Clifford Ellis and dropzone operator, Steve Swallow had talks, shook hands and Skydive Hibaldstow was born, and to think, some thought ‘it would never last”, how wrong they were.
In those 30 years it has gone from strength to strength; starting with one aircraft, the Piper Cherokee 6 affectionately named Jay Vee, she would carry 5 jumpers to 10,000ft after a short ride of 35 minutes! Things are a bit quicker nowadays and our Dornier / Super Caravan fleet only takes around 15 minutes to 15,000ft.
Move on 30 years, a name change and Skydive Hibaldstow has manifested itself into a true powerhouse in the world of skydiving. The dropzone has held pretty much all the skydiving disciplines at regional and national level. Large formation loads are regularly held throughout the year along with tandem and first-time jumper courses held daily; we have also trained countless instructors.
We think that over those 30 years, we have seen a staggering 750,000 parachutes open above our heads.
We’ve team trained, partied, broken quite a few UK records, made life-long friends, found husbands & wives, changed careers to become full-time skydivers, supported British University Skydiving, raised literally millions for pounds for hundreds of charities, organised boogies and become a part of life in the village of Hibaldstow.
Skydivers have visited Hibaldstow Airfield from all over the world and it is now recognised globally.
Skydive Hibaldstow has a fantastic club house where everyone is always welcome (skydiver or not) and the fleet of fast modern turbine engine aircraft can now lift our skydivers to 15000ft which is the highest altitude in the UK and ready to be dropped over the beautiful North Lincolnshire countryside.
Of course, all this would not have been possible without the help of so many people: The Ellis family, the local council, our local community, our hard-working staff and all of course all of our customers.
Skydive Hibaldstow would like to say huge thank you to every single one of you……THANK YOU.
We’ve had a dig around to show you what life was like during those 30 years and in no particular order, you may spot plenty of the old faces. And even if you don’t, the strength of our community is present in all the thousands of faces we’ve seen come to visit, be that a year or even 30.
We’ve also collected some memories of those early days for you to read and whilst some of those names may not be familiar, their spirit for skydiving and antics are just as readily identifiable today as they were back then.
“The dropzone has changed a lot since the early 90s when we first arrived at Hibaldstow airfield. We used to jump out of various small aircraft like the Cessna 206, the Piper Chrokee and the Piper Lance. Quite often they had no door, so we’d spend a good half hour riding to 10 or 11,000ft shivering away. Despite that, they were good times and we even on some occasions did 3 airplane piston formations.
During the 90s we had Dave Ruffle, Chris Lyall and Trevor Dobson and Chief Instructors. They each had their own characteristics which really made the place run well. Back then, we could get away with a lot more “adventures” and even when the weather was bad, we’d go clay pigeon shooting or go karting. I remember one time 2 local police officers turned up. Bren Jones a regular, hid their motorbikes and substituted them with 2 kids motorbikes instead! In fairness, they took it well and rode those up and down the runway before having their real bikes returned.
I did over 5000 jumps and 1600 tandems, many of them at Hib with lots of friends.”
“I remember so many good things at Target Skysports. It always had a friendly club atmosphere and was one of those places where it didn’t matter what your job was or where you came from, it was just a collection of fun seekers looking to make a few skydives.
There were times when I remember setting up my tent and the rain was bucketing it down. It didn’t matter if the weather was bad, the regulars would still come together in the hope that we’d climb aboard the Cherokee. There’d also be racing our cars up the runway, playing beer bungee or climbing massive pyramids of hay bales. There were also lots of contact with the locals in the village – at the pub, the working man’s club, taking part in the raft races on the canal.
One year I remember we decided to do a demo during the raft race. Bren decided to land in the water and I landed nearby. They were fun times
I miss the camaraderie with characters like Steve, Lee Love, Scott Wileman, Pete Linley and so many others. They were good days.”
“I have many good memories of skydiving both at Hibaldstow and at Doncaster. Skydiving created lots of life-long friends and opportunities for work, while I only ever intended to do the one jump course on the older round parachutes back in 91, I got the bug and finished my training with Dave Ruffell and Steve Bartholemew on the first AFF course held at Hibaldstow with 8 jumps in 3 days, I was made up!
I helped move the club from Doncaster to Hibaldstow where I was given the opportunity to work full time at Hibaldstow- the same week I was offered a full time job with West Yorkshire Ambulance Service………The following week, I left Leeds, lived in a caravan and my I’ve never looked back.
I became an instructor then a little later took a different direction and became an aircraft engineer carrying out all types of maintenance on the planes operated at the airfield and throughout Europe.
30 years has flown but in that time the sport has changed so much, the skill level, the knowledge, new disciplines and more importantly it has become incredibly safe.
I have so many stories to tell but they sound so much better when told in the bar…..”
“I started jumping at university back in 93 and remember a lot of good times learning how to skydive on the round system, then RAPS, then AFF (after failing RAPS and getting put back on static line 3 times). The old bar was called the Titty Twister and we used to have some very vibrant parties with people like Baldrick (who is still jumping tandems today!), Andrea, Bren, Scott, Judy, Tony Keightley, Andy Ibbetson, Christian Hinchliffe, Goodie, JP, Stubert and many others. The atmosphere was friendly, you could jump with anyone and so I had many coaches whilst I was learning the basics.
As part of the university scene, the British Collegiate Parachute Association national championships were held for several years at Hibaldstow. Buckets were filled with the kitchen slops and anyone who had something to celebrate received the rough end of this vileness. This could be because you had just completed your 50th, 100th, your 4 point 4-way or simply because you were there. I remember during the 94 competition, the chairman of the BCPA (Dougie McLelland I think) announced that we had to adorn the underwear of the opposite sex for a day and that meant the whole dropzone. One poor student somehow managed to dislocate his shoulder and ended up taking a trip to hospital where his frilly lacy underwear was soon discovered!
There were lots of fun scrambles competitions, 10-way Halloween Frostbite Friendly, coaching weekends, 28-way sequential, Christmas parties, the first speed skydiving roadshow in 2001 and many other freefall activities to spend your money on. Happy days and they still are even in 2022.”
During my 2500 jump career, I came to know many people at the parachute club and for me, it was the people as much as the freefall that made the sport what it was it is. I helped to move the dropzone buildings when it moved from Doncaster to Hibaldstow airfield. There was a real club atmosphere based around a large number of caravans where we would hang out regardless of whether it was sunshine or rain. Many a time, I would be invited in for a cup of tea and a mini party would happen. There would always be someone making plans for the next prank to play on another skydiver, but it always done in a good spirit. It was that family atmosphere I loved about the airfield.
My thing was to teach skydiving and I can remember hundreds of students over the years, many of them who were at universities like Leeds, Bradford, Hull, Sheffield and Lincoln. Some went on to become instructors and national champions in their own right and so I could see the cycle continuing. In the early days, we only had the Cessna 206, but despite it only taking 5 jumpers, I felt nostalgic about it.
I loved teaching the RAPS system and even though progression took a bit longer, the students came through the system much rounder with a wider range of knowledge.