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Skydiving business finds new home in Madras

Madras will possess Central Oregon's only skydiving operation
News Editor
   The gateway to Central Oregon will soon have bragging rights to its only skydiving business.
   Bob Daughs of Redmond has negotiated a lease agreement with city officials to construct a $70,000, 60-by-60 foot hangar at the Madras Airport to be the new site of his Central Oregon Sky Sports operation.
   For 15 years, Daughs and his wife Annie have run their family-owned business out of Redmond's Cline Falls Airport. They said they've outgrown that location and it was high time for a move anyway.
   "It's getting more and more congested here," Bob Daughs said. "For skydivers, there's too many hazards to land in. We have to land in my front yard or in the runway. Some students land any-old-where."
   Growth in Redmond has led to the construction of many new homes in an area around the airport that used to be sparsely populated.
   With many newcomers there, the complaints began adding up, Daughs said, and a fairly recent event proved to be the icing on the cake.
   "We had a lady go into the power lines," he said. "She wound up OK, but the neighbors didn't appreciate it."
   The Madras airport offers less hazards and more open spaces for skydivers to touchdown. But Daughs and his experienced staff are trained to land in small spaces.
   Daughs' Central Oregon Sky Sports fleet includes two Cessna planes. He has a staff of seven instructors, including himself and another man as pilots.
   The most popular service Central Oregon Sky Sports provides is tandem jumping, where amateurs dive out of planes while strapped to experienced skydivers. The price is $150 per jump.
   His skydivers begin their jump at 10,000 feet above ground level, free fall for 30 seconds then pull their parachute chord when they're 5,000 feet from the ground. The free fall lasts 30 seconds, the rest of the descent takes five minutes.
   Daughs will pay $1,200 per year on the lease. His application is currently being reviewed by the Jefferson County Community Development Department.
   "The City of Madras has been great to work with," Daughs said. "They accepted us easily. Most people think skydivers are barn-burners and wild and crazy so instantly they don't want anything to do with us."
   City Administrator Steve Bogart said bringing the skydiving business to Madras will have local benefits.
   "It'll stimulate more activity at the airport," he said. "He'll have pilots, they'll buy fuel and airports are rated by how many planes touch down. This will help the city qualify for more funding."
   The operation will run year-round. Central Oregon Sky Sports has close ties with a skydiving club called Cline Falls Skydivers, which has a nucleus of 15 members who make regular use of Daughs' two aircraft.
   In May, they began using the Madras Airport but did not have the benefit of full facilities.
   "Business will be better out there," Daughs said. With a classroom and pilot lounge in the to-be-constructed hangar, it will also be a marked improvement from the gutted trailer he currently uses to instruct clients. He and his wife also plan to move to the area in the near future.
   Daughs said 90 percent of his customers come from either Bend, Sunriver or the Eagle Crest resort just outside of Redmond.
   At 61, Daughs has been skydiving for more than 43 years. He first jumped out of a plane in 1958 when he was with the U.S. Army at Fort Brag, N.C.
   "I was scared to death," he recalled. But that was more than 4,000 jumps ago.