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York Sport Parachuting Center

Submitted by Cliff Weaver

The York Sport Parachute Center in York Pa was established in the early 1960's By George Bolen a United States Postal Service employee. Using leased aircraft from Paul Supan and other local parachute clubs . Bolen rented the second floor of the York Airport to set up shop. The loft had 4 long packing tables, sewing machine area, pool table, Soda machine (with Papst Blue Ribbon in the top 3 rows) a hanging harness with a mattress under it, a step ladder served as a PLF platform, and at one end there was a divider/counter that served as office and movie viewing room. The amenities were above average for the times. First jump courses were held every weekend and cost 35 bucks..The York Skydivers club, a social jumping group, called Bolen's dz their home. Initially jumping activities were done directly onto the York airport but after many complaints from the local pilots the LZ was moved to a private runway In East Berlin Pa owned by Merle Laird. During the winter months a VW bus would shuttle the jumpers the 7 mile ride back to the loft to warm up and repack. During the summer months jumping would go on all day at Laird's airfield and at the end of the day everyone went back to the loft to pack up and socialize. In 1966 Bolen and 4 partners, One being Gene Weaver, Put there money together and purchased a brand new Cessna 185 N4558F which they picked up in Wichita KS. The 185 was a work horse that carried 6 jumpers on a regular basis. The business grew and in the early seventies 10 way speed star was all the rage. After much prodding from the local jumpers Bolen purchased a Beech 18 N3666G in 1973. Initially Bolen talked the York airport into allowing jumping back at the airport because the parachutes had become more controllable and could be landed in a more confined areas. During this time a 10 man team, Circle of Fear, from the Herd started to practice at the dz. After a short time the partying and complaints from the local pilots became too much and jumping was again banned at the York airport. Bolen went in search of a new location with a long enough runway to operate the Beech. The Hanover Airport just outside McSherrystown Pa, Owned by Buzz and Betty Gebhart, had just opened up and agreed to allow jumping at their facility. Soon there were a couple of 10 man teams, one being The Whirling Dirt Bags made up of York Skydivers members, Practicing at the Hanover airport. The dz became a hot spot for rw and very few style and accuracy jumpers remained. Bolen Maintained the lease for the loft at the York Airport basing the 185 and other equipment there. It wasn't long before there was trouble again. The land surrounding the airport on 3 sides was owned by the owner of a large manufacturing company. He had a stick up his ass about something and wanted the jumping stopped. After a long court battle, the factory owner won and there was a "no jumping" injunction placed on the airport. The LZ was moved 3 miles down the road to A large farm owned by the Hostetters. Shuttling back to the airport from the landing area was too much for practicing 10 man teams and they moved on to another dz. Business slowed and eventually the Beech was parked and operations continued with the 185. The Beech was eventually sold to George Kabeller of Chambersburg Parachute Center. Shortly after that time Bolen and Weaver had a falling out and Bolens stepson John Macabee "Ratso" took over as lead pilot after just earning his commercial rating. Bolen had his business spread out from the loft in york to the Hanover airport. He struck a deal with the Hostetter's to base the loft in the barn at there race track, Trail Ways Speedway, which was 5 miles from the Hanover airport . Bolen moved everything out of the loft at York and set up shop in the barn at the racetrack. It was as good a set up as he could find at the time, Loads were shuttled in the VW bus to the Hanover airport and jumped back into the race track which was surrounded by hundreds of acres of farm land owned by the Hostetter's. But again disaster struck in 1981 and the barn along with all the equipment burned to the ground. Bolen then bought a dilapidated house trailer and located it about 1/2 a mile from the barn on the corner of the Hostetter's property. The dz was at an all time low, the majority of the remaining York Skydivers Club had a falling out with a new member and current pilot of Bolen's and left the DZ to start jumping at Maytown Sport Parachute Club. A hand full of jumpers remained and to top it off Hanover airport owner Buzz Gephart denied use of the runway for Bolen to use as a takeoff point for the 185. Shutteling to Devener airport on the north side of Hanover began. It was a 20 minute shuttle drive to the airport and the local jumpers were about to give up. Around 1982 new management took over the Devener Airport and Bolen, with the help of local jumper Cliff Weaver, secured use of the airport for jump operations. Bolen moved the trailer from Hostetter's farm to the Devener airport and jumping resumed on the airport. The facilities were less than perfect But, the operations were all done at one location and things leveled off. There was still a feud between the old York Skydivers and the Pilot/instructor of Bolen's who was now the president of the club and disliked by most people. The feud went on until 1987 when Cliff Weaver, returning from his 3 year commitment to the US Army Got Bolen and his father back on speaking terms. Cliff was stationed at Ft Bragg and spent his weekends at Raeford Parachute Center . Gene Paul Thacker had discovered the usefulness of the Beechcraft Twin Bonanza as a good jump platform. Gene Weaver had flown down to Raeford to visit Cliff a few times while he was stationed at Ft Bragg and fell in love with the Twin Bo. When Cliff returned he easily talked his Father into buying a Twin Bo. It was a very cold March day when the newly purchased and jump converted Twin bo flew it's first load of jumpers. Gene flew it light with only 6 jumpers on board. When the plane took off there were half a dozen cars and a total of 9 jumpers on the airport. While descending under canopy Cliff observed cars pulling into the parking lot of the airport. That morning some kind of blow out happened at Gordon Riner's dz in Ridgely MD. The entire crew of fun jumpers left his dz and headed to Devener Airport in Hanover PA because they heard a rumor that the dz was getting a twin. Before that first day was over the twin Bo and Cessna 185 flew Multiple loads.It was something that hadn't happened since the Beech 18 days at the Gephart's airport. The Ridgley jumpers were followed next by the Chambersburg gang, then the Old York Skydivers came back after the disliked president was voted out and lost his power to the new influx of jumpers who wouldn't put up with his crap. Times were good, The 185 and Twin bo were running constantly on the weekends so Gene converted his beloved cherry Cessna 180 for jumping and along with a 182 of Roger Klien's, the jumping activities climbed to an all time high. Several non boogie weekends would see 100 or more experienced jumpers at the dz making multiple jumps each. In 1988 Cliff partnered up with Dennis Beattie and bought out Bolen's student operation and took over the lease of the airport. Dennis and Cliff named their new business venture Extra Fine Skydives inc. (EFS inc.) The new management hired the best Aff and tandem instructors in the area to take care of the student operations. George Whittington Chuck Prodey, Terry Crowe, Al King, Bob Mehl, Terry Hoffman, Kevin Klunk, Terry Arnold, Mike Shultz, Rob Johnson, Roger Klien and many others joined the staff. Dennis and Cliff brought in a Twin Otter, DC-3 and other Twin Bo's for special events. Bolen continued to lease the 185 to the dz for the next 2 years until he was lured away by the former disliked pilot/instructor. Bolen finally left and attempted to run dz's in different locations but nothing ever panned out for him. . In 1989 the airport property was sold to a group of lawyers who immediately tripled the rent and put all airport up keep including mowing of the 30 acres of grass runway, On Dennis and Cliff. They were also on a month to month lease with a very unsecured future. Times were still good until 1990 when a storm blew through damaging the 180. Gene decided to sell the Twin Bo and trailered his 180 home for repairs. Cliff and Dennis parted ways with Dennis first leasing a 182 then later purchasing hi own 182. At the end of the 1991 season,the airport owners gave Dennis his eviction notice and closed the airport. It was the end of an era and the end of the York Skydivers Club. One year later, 1992, Cliff and Gene Weaver, with a freshly repaired and painted Cessna 180 began looking for a place to fly jumpers. They struck a deal with Carson Lamberson who owned a grass airstrip one mile north of the town of New Oxford PA. They quickly formed a Club, The New Oxford Skydivers, and began jump operations. A tractor shed was converted into a clubhouse. At the end of the 1992 season Cliff bought a 182 and the 1993 season saw considerable growth. The club grew and the Cessnas flew. At the beginning of the 1996 season Carson abruptly stopped all jumping because his insurance company was going to drop him because of the skydiving activity. The club attempted to secure insurance for the airfield but non satisfied Carson. Finding themselves homeless again, the Weavers leased their planes to Jim Smith who opened a DZ, The Skydivin' PLace at the Hanover airport. Jim ignored the no jumping injunction at the airport and started operations in the summer of 1996. Again Mr. Rice took Jim to court to stop the skydiving but this time Jim prevailed. Jumping continued on the Hanover airport until Jim bought an airfield in Littlestown Pa and moved his operation there. The Skydivin' Place continued in business in Littlestown until 2011 when Jim closed the doors and jumping ended in the area.

Gary Thompson D-4616 submitted a photo of the Twin Beech N3666G mentioned above. He jumped it with the York Skydivers when G Bolen owned it and later when G Kabeller had it in Chambersburg, Pa.  This photo is the Beech on the tarmac in Chambersburg shortly after Kabeller bought it.

Twin Beech