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Vancouver Island sky diving company goes into free fall to test out new gear

Rob MacNeill was one of the test jumpers for new parachute container
L to R: Mike Cyr (cameraman), Rob MacNeill (test jumper), Eric Coco Leocardio (pilot), Gavan Jones (Cameraman), Bob Verret (Cameraman and owner) before they take to the skies for a Flying High Manufacturing parachute container test. Contributed photo

Rob McNeill was lucky enough to try out his latest creation on his birthday.

The co-owner of Flying High Manufacturing was giving its new parachute container a test run by diving out of a plane over Campbell River.

The jump took place Saturday, May 21, and the long weekend fates provided clear conditions.

“It was amazing,” MacNeill said. “The jump was from 12,500 feet, and we flew over the mountains, which was pretty cool as well.

“The other guys in the plane were all veterans, so that was kind of cool being a veteran myself.”

Three jumpers with cameras captured MacNeill’s descent from all different angles, so the product’s performance can be analyzed properly.

MacNeill said the business is the only one of its kind in Canada, and noted it competes in the world market. The company was purchased from Alberta’s Al MacDonald in October, 2021.

“We moved it here to Campbell River and since then my team and I worked hard to modernize it and make it more marketable,” said MacNeill.

The new container - which is the backpack and harness a skydiver would wear – is called the Sidewinder, and is the first product created since MacNeill and his partner, Bob Verret, bought the business. They had been designing the product since October.

“I can’t tell you how many changes we did,” MacNeill joked, “And there are still a few more changes that we’ll have to do before the next one.”

The long-range goal for the firm is to cater to both the civilian and military markets. Currently it’s only making the container, but it would like to start manufacturing parachutes, so Flying High is a full system manufacturer.

“We’re going to hire more people and have a nice high tech business here in Campbell River,” he said.

Right now there are four certified riggers, including Corina Jones, 19, one of the youngest parachute riggers in Canada.

“The future’s looking bright,” MacNeill said.

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