Airport/Facility ID : ORE 
Facility Key : 09187.*A 
Facility Name : ORANGE MUNI 
Facility Type : AIRPORT 
County : FRANKLIN 
City : ORANGE (01 miles SE)
State :  MA 
Lattitude/Longitude : 42.570116666667/-72.288605555556 (Estimated)
Elevation : 555 ft. (Surveyed)
Magnetic Variation : 15W 
Owner address : 6 PROSPECT ST, ORANGE MA 01364 
Owner telephone : 508-544-1106 
Manager address : 80 AIRPORT STREET, ORANGE MA 01364 
Manager telephone : 508-544-8189 
Sectional : NEW YORK 
Control tower : 
Lights : DUSK-DAWN 
Segmented circle : N 
Beacon : CG 
Landing fee : N 
UNICOM : 122.800 

The new and exciting sport of parachuting was growing by leaps and bounds, mostly leaps.  In 1956 only about 200 jumps were made in America.  By the end of the next year, 1957, that number had grown to 1,500 and in 1958 over 5,500 jumps were made!  Parachutes incorporated would make a major contribution to the 10,000+ jumps made in 1959.

1959 was an exciting year for the sport.  In August, the USA beat the Soviet team for the first time scoring 2nd place out of nine countries at the Adriatic Cup in Tivat, Yugoslavia.  Loy Broydon also set his personal records by beating the Russians by taking 2nd place in the overall performance catagory.

Previous to that we missed the first world meet in 1951, Fred Mason took 21st place in the 2nd World Championship (1954) in St. Yan, France and in 1956 at the 3rd World Championship held in Moscow, PI's founders Lew Sanborn and Jasques Istel lead the first complete US Team.  Lew was the meet high scorer.  Istel and Sanborn left their duties at Good Hill Farm DZ to attend the 1958 World Meet with 14 countries competing.  Jasques Istel was the high scorer.  1958 Parachute Club of America dues went up to $15 reflecting the groth of the organization and services to the members.

Lew and Jasques jumped in with both feet and in February 1959 Lew and Jacques signed a 20 year lease with the City of Orange, Mass. for the whole of Orange airport.  Jacques and Lew brought in two more stock holders and employees, George Flynn and Batch Pond's son, Nate (D-69).  They built a hanger, classrooms, training areas (Photo #1- click for photo or click on insert in big photo), rest rooms, outdoor packing tables and used the original airport admin building (Photo #2-Click for photo or click on insert in big photo) for airport business, communications with the aircraft, ticket and equipment sales and a general reception area.  They also had the use of the original red pre-war hanger, fire station and other small buildings (Photo #3-Click for photo or click on insert in big photo) at the other end of the flight line by runway 13 for aircraft and parts parts storage, an indoor loft, a bunk house and bar with rental lockers and the general business offices of Parachutes Incorporated.  The parachute area alone was 5400 square feet! 

Inside the triangle formed by the three 5000' runways was a 52-acre landing area with added sand for soft landing.  Loud speakers were purchased to help guide students into the target and a funny looking trainer was used to bring in the landing area equipment at night for storage (See left side of the first employees photo).

The Cessna 182 was joined by a Cessna 180, "84 Charlie", painted in the same company colors and the search for suitable 10-place Norseman began.  They also negotiated for stand by aircraft for busy days or when the Cessna were in need of service.  An old station weagon and a VW Van to bring students back from the DZ were purchased completing the PI hardware stable.

Parachute wise, PI bought 50 parachutes, a mixture of USAF surplus C-9 28'  mains and new 32' LoPo mains and matching 24' and 28' reserves.  The harness and containers were all new custom built by Pioneer Parachute for PI.  Helmets, coveralls, flotation gear and cushioned paraboots completed the gear for rent.

Next came a pricing structure:

Static Line Jump $2.50
Free Fall jump $3
1 to 10 second delay $3
11 to 15 second delay $3.50
16 to 20 second delay $4
21 to 25 second delay $4.50
26 to 30 second delay $5
45 second delay $6.50
60 second Delay $7.50
Rent LoPo main chute (Targeteer, Titan or Tern) $5
Rent Main Chute (28' C-9) $4
Rent Standard Reserve  $1
Rent Boots $1 per day
Rent Helmet $1 per day
Rent Coveralls $1 per day
Rent instruments $1 per day
Pack Jumpers' Main $2 to $2.50
Pack Jumpers' Reserve $3
First Jump Course $30
Private training per jump $4
Packing lesson $4
Course 101 (5 jumps) $30
Course 201 Free Fall Course (10 jumps) $60
Course 202 Intermediate Freefall (10 jumps) $85
Course 401 Advanced Free Fall
(10 jumps)
Course 403 Manuvers (10 jumps) $100
Pilot Bail out course $15
The final step was employees. Istel, Pond, Sanborn and Flynn (in white below) were supplimented by 5 desert rats, packers and other types plus ??? who ran the office.
Left to right (front in white):  Nate Pond, Lew Sanborn, Jasques Istel and George Flynn.  We are still researching whose in the back row but we believe the person in dark coveralls, 4th from the left is Douglas Craighead.

With all their ducks in a row, Istel, Sanborn, Pond and Flynn opened the first purpose built commercial Sport Parachute Center in the USA at 9am on May 2, 1959! (Click for early photo)

. .

In Early 1962 they added to the facility and built a huge Para-Bowl for the 1962 World Meet.

The following article previously appeared in the May 7, 1959 issue of the 
Enterprise and Journal (Enterprise Vol 77, No. 45; Journal Vol. 89), a weekly newspaper, published every Thursday in Orange, Massachusetts Serving Orange and Vicinity since March 25, 1871; price Ten Cents.

Opening of First U.S. Parachuting Center Here Saturday  is Milestone for New Sport in This Country. 

General Gavin Presents Two National Awards at Ceremonies

A race was started in earnest at the Orange Airport Saturday afternoon. a race in which the United States hopes to overtake Russia in a sport which that country now dominates in the world.

No doubt it will be  a long and hard road, but the youth of America will come forth and meet the challenge, and one day top the famed Russians in a sport that might be called their own.

The race started with the opening of the first Parachuting Center in the United States (France has 20 such centers and no doubt Russia has hundreds) at the Orange Airport Saturday with an impressive program.

Heading the list of dignitaries here for the program was Lieutenant General James M. Gavin, famed wartime commander of the 82nd Airborne Division and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Parachute Club of America.

It was General Gavin who told of the importance of the sport of parachuting to the youth of our country, and of the benefits the military will derive from lessons learned as the sport grows and becomes popular throughout the country.  During the day between 3,000 and 4,000 persons attended the activities and watched the jumpers. Not only did the visitors come by car but 25 visiting aircraft were listed on the Airport Log by midafternoon for Saturday alone.

During the ceremonies, which took place on the flight line near the main hangar, General Gavin spoke briefly about the sport of parachuting and its importance, and made two national awards.

The first was the Parachute Club of Americaâ€ôs annual award which was given to Joe Crane, chairman of the International Parachuting Commission, the highest post in world parachuting. Mr. Crane has made 689 parachute jumps in the past 35 years. He was given the award as being the member of the Parachute Club of America who has made the most contribution to the sport.

In presenting the Leo Stevens Award to Mr. Jacques Istel, General Gavin said that Mr. Istel had done more than anyone else to bring about the recognition of parachuting in the United States and its development as a sport in this country. He said that the U.S. Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps are being aided by the techniques developed by Mr. Istel to overcome the hazards encountered in long-delay free falls.

Accepting the award, which in 1948 was first given to Joe Crane for 25 years of instruction and safety in parachuting,

Mr. Istel praised General Gavin for the strong stand the General has taken in behalf of parachuting in the United States, and for being one of the first leaders in this country to recognize parachuting as a sport.  Mr. Istel also thanked the Orange Airport Commission for their cooperation in making it possible to locate the parachuting center in Orange.

Also speaking on the program was Governor's Councillor Michael Savelli, of Worcester, and Secretary of State Joseph Ward, the latter having made a quick flight from Boston to attend the event. Both brought congratulations from Governor Foster Furcolo, who had been invited but was unable to attend, and spoke briefly.

Richard L. Bow, Chairman of the Orange Airport Commission, and members Lee Shipman, Frank Foskett, Jr., and Harold Blake, all spoke briefly.

Earl Sylvester of the Orange Chamber of Commerce, speaking for President Norman Batchelor who was in Florida, said the chamber and the community wished to extend a warm welcome to Orange, to Parachutes, Inc., and all who attended the opening day ceremonies. One of the most spectacular events of the afternoon was a colorful free fall demonstration by 1958 U.S. Parachuting Team members Lewis Sanborn (captain), Nathan Pond, and Dana Smith. Jumping from a high altitude, the three men fell more than 5,000 feet, trailing red, white, and blue smoke streaks before opening their parachutes.

Informal competition between West Point and Yale University parachutists took place with Yale declared the unofficial winner when George Flynn  landed within 100 yards of the target.

Fred Terry, a West Point cadet from Worcester, Massachusetts had the only mishap of the day when he landed in the top of a tall pine tree. He was not injured but it took some time to free the parachute from the branches.

Free fall demonstrations by Jacques Istel and Madame Monique Laroche Lamare were thrilling as both displayed top form in the free fall and exceptional accuracy in hitting the target.

Among the class of 12 students trained at the new center who made their first jumps were Lee Shipman of Orange (see separate story) and Crocker Snow, chairman of the Massachusetts Aeronautical Commission.

Another entertaining event was the introduction of a new U.S. sport parachute in comparison with Soviet, Yugoslav, and Hungarian parachutes. Jumping from two airplanes in formation, the four men stayed in free fall for about 10 seconds and then opened their parachutes.

The new United States and the Russian parachutes seemed to be the more stable of the four, but it would take an expert to tell which of the four is the best. The Soviet parachute used is the only one in this country, and only one of two in use outside of Russia.

Still another new flying activity took place Saturday at the airport when the Gliding Club of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology demonstrated the sport of gliding. A number of times through the day the glider, towed by an automobile, took off [from] the runway in front of the spectators, climbed to several hundred feet, cut itself loose from the tow-line, and soared for several minutes before gliding in for a landing. 

Mr. Istel pointed out that by bringing together all the needed facilities for parachutists, and making the sport of parachuting safe, comfortable, and economical, the Parachuting Center will be opening the door to parachutists as a major sport in America. It might be added that  the new facility will make it possible for parachutists to train under ideal conditions and speed us in our race to overtake the Soviets in this, their own game.

The crowd was also thrilled by a short field takeoff and salute by a 
turbo-jet C-130, believed to be the largest plane to land at the Orange airport.


The layout of the new center was a product of the new philosopy of the company.  Though aimed at the civilian sport market, there were still many military style aspects to the physical and psychological make up of the center.  For one thing, everything was very orderly compared to other drop zones of the day.  Students were looked after efficiently and a dress/color code that indentified the function of the employees was adopted.  All PI employees wore PI designed clothing and jumpsuits were color coded in white or dark and later white, yellow and pink. 

Rather than someone running around with a clip board, the manifest was big and easy to read.  Every jumper and his friends or family could see where they stood on a load and how far they were from it.  The manifest area also had a radio and could keep in touch with the aircraft and pilots usually contacted the manifest to tell them they were empty and coming down. .

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. The 1968 photo above shows the manifest area virtually unchanged in 9 years!  Students are in white and the manifester is in PI livery.  The loft is in the background as well as the packing tables, phones to the other areas of the center, the radio and antenna, verious signs with opening altitudes, jump rates and center hours and the manifest board with space for 18 loads.  Click here for an enlargement, but we warn you its 83kb and could take a while to load.

The one very special thing about the new center was a training method they developed called the TELSANTM Method (the word TELSAN stood for "isTELSANborn", the combination of their names).  Up till that time and for many years afterwards, civilian and military clubs took days or weeks to train first jumpers.  They not only learned the basics but also things like packing parachutes and most made their first jump on a parachute they packed themselves.  The TELSAN Method took only three hours and trained the first timer only to make the first jump.  Each successive jump required new training which the jumper paid $2 for.  This saved the company (as well as the student) much time and money since most first jump course students don't come back for a second jump.  "Been there, done that, bragged about it at the Fraternity House till everyone is sick of hearing about it!"  :-)

Kenny Benson giving a first jump class

PI also had the best equipment rental system.  You could rent cushioned boots, helmets and jumpsuits as well as your main and reserve.  The photo below shows the equipment rental ticket.  More on this aspect of the company in the Lakewood section.


The 182 was far from capable of handling the volume of jumping they hoped for and they decided they needed a single engine aircraft capable of handling 8-10 jumpers.  Only two civilian AC types would fit the bill, the Fairchild Model 71 (which were few and far between by 1959-60) and the Canadian Noorduyn Norseman (US Army Air Forced UC-64A).

Over 750 Norseman had been manufactured before and during the war and were surplused from the Canadian and US military with the introduction of the "Otter".  PI found and bought 4 of them from Alaska and Canada.  They modified the doors and steps for jumping and removed all the right side windows.  It was a slow, noisy, fabric covered aircraft with a 600hp Pratt & Whitney R-1340 radial engine but it had a very good useful payload and was the only aircraft that could fit the bill in that day.  With over 750 manufactured, it was also quite available at a reasonable price PI could afford.  PI aquired one from Western Alaska Airlines (complete with floats) and a second from Wien Alaska Airlines.

They experimented with several color schemes and standardized on two and eventually to one by 1970.  More on the Norseman and other jump planes in the aircraft section of this site.

(The top photo shows the Norseman in the UC-64a configuration.  The photo below it shows the open door and seating configuration in N1207, (that's me by the way fastening the helmet)  The door was probably the largest jump door in the USA at the time.  The Russians had us beat though with the door on the huge bi-plane transport, the AN-2 COLT which was and still is a very popular jump plane in the "East".  A short history of it is in the section on the 6th World Parachute Meet.
PI was the successful bidder for the site of the 1962 World Meet where the  Americans walked off with the majority of medals.  The over-all world champ was Oklahoma born Sgt. Jim Arender, an Army jumper who was occasionally seen at Lakewood and Orange.  They also hosted the 1962 Governor's Cup Meet soon after.

After the meet, jumpers returning home spread the word about this "super center" and people came from all over the world to jump there including the French Woman's Champion.

The original pea pit in the middle of the triangle of runways (Photo) was vastly enlarged and modified for the Meet with a large rim for spectators  to sit on, and was named "The Para-Bowl".  Though weather worn, a good deal of it was still there in 1980 when I was last there. (see photo at the bottom of the 1962 World Meet page)  When PI closed the FAA asked that the airport commission remove the rim for safety.

I must note that this site is being created in Melbourne, Australia.  PI had one Australian jumpmaster/instructor named Don West.  Don looked more like the typical blonde Australian superstud lifeguard than a skydiver.   Don represented Australia at the World Meet in 1962 along with Bill Molloy and Kathy Ann Henderson.   It was the first team to represent Australia at a world meet.

Don stayed on in the USA to further his parachuting career at Orange and Lakewood.  He came back to Australia to compete in the 1964 Australian Nationals.  Before that though, Don and a team from South Australia were out to beat the World Baton Passing Record.  Don and Joe Larkin went low to try and make the last and record setting pass.  Don let the other jumper open so they wouldn't entangle and his reserve didn't fully open in time.  He is buried in Adelaide next to his girl friend who had been killed in an auto accident. Kip and Lee Zervos (see people page) both met his sister when she came to the States after his death.  Don was Kips' FJC instructor.

Claude Gillard (the current Australia Parachute Federation, president) kept Don's Pioneer LoPo (which he bought at Orange) which was black and white candy stripes with a red lobster tail and his memory was further kept alive when Claude had all of the Labatouche Centres "Gilstars" (also called the  Argosy) made in the same color pattern.  Claude, like many foreign jumpers came to the Lakewood and Orange DZ's and saw them as Super Centers which in fact they were.

One of the more interesting aspects of jumping at Orange was the famous INN JUMP.  The Orange jumpers used two local pubs, one was "Mike's Place" and not far from the airport, was the INN at ORANGE .  Both had small DZ's but the INN was better.  It had a long thin grassy area and "Chosen One's" would jump in at the end of the day for the entertain- ment of the masses inside.  The INN was owned by Jacques Istel and his wife and closed in the mid-70's.

In later years Orange SPC had it's problems with the city over the noise of the Norseman and the city failed in an attempt to forbid the use of them at Orange Airport because the airport was partially federally funded.

Orange also had it's fair share of aircraft mishaps but considering that takeoffs and landings are the most dangerous part of flight operations, and that an average jump flight lasted 45 minutes or so, that's a lot of takeoffs and landings per 100 flight hours vs. cross country flying, so that probably
explains the higher accident rate.

In late 1962 Norseman N1207 on it's back because of a break lock.  It was repaired and moved to Lakewood where it remained till  it was written off.

Later in the 60's while taxiing in after landing, a Norseman chewed right
down the wing of a Cessna 170 parked next to the taxiway. 

Two of the three Norseman that came to grief did so at Orange.  990K had a landing accident in 1974 and was sold to two Canadians who moved it "home" for rebuilding.  795 ("Red Lead") crashed and burned after loosing power at 400' taking off from runway 19 in July 1979.  No one was killed or even seriously injured.  Newspaper clippings can be found on the Norseman page.

With dwindling Norseman numbers and more DZ's to supply, PI added a Cessna 180, N2984C, with a Snohomish door to Orange in 1966, another Cessan to Lakewood, a leased Twin-Beech in the 60's and an SNB-5 Twin Beechcraft in 1978 and later a Cessna 195 and Cessna 205.  The Norseman remained the mainstay student aircraft till they closed their doors and the Beech was used for large stars (large for the day of course) and experienced jumpers. 

PI, along with "POP" Poppenhager's DZ in California, pioneered the use of the DC-3/C-47 for sport jumping.  The first time was in 1961 and again in 1963 using a white executive DC-3.  In 19?? they aquired 3 DC-3's from Texas and flew them at Orange, Elsinor and occassionally Lakewood.  These aircraft lifted 30 jumpers per load.

Orange Sport Parachute Center was also the home of CPI or Connecuit Parachutists Incorporated, form many years till they relocated to Ellicot CT.

Orange was open from 9am to sundown everyday of the week but Tuesday and survived the longest of the 5 DZ's.  The layout stayed the same for the entire time it was open and it is now operated by a club called "Jump Town" using newer facilities.  Members of the Pond family still jump there as do some of the PI jumpers and former employees, some of whom are helping with this project, Lew Sanborn even wrote once with some information.

Lew was seriously injured when his Luscomb crashed and burned in 19??.  He went thru some pretty radical facial restructuring and to his credit is still jumping in his 60's.  Recently he was the first man on earth to complete 50 years of skydiving.  He left the company in 1967 and currently lives in Imperial, Mo..  He is the best know of the PI pioneers.

The Parachute school itself did not survive after PI shut down.  In the mid eighties, after PI closed, a company called City Engines, who rebuilt aircraft engines, moved to Orange. The apron was extended approx. 200 yards to the east with a Federal grant, and a new building was erected on the old site.  Only the hanger and admin building survives today.  City Engines moved out of Orange in the early 90's and Jump Town know occupies part of that building. 

PI's central office was not at the airport itself but in an office in downtown Orange on Main Street.  The normal corporate functions were handled there as well as warehousing for the Pioneer distributorship they owned and the main loft was also located there (The DZ loft was in a quanset hut next to the training area).  A white PI van (shown in the photo of the aircraft page) made regular trips to Pioneer in Connecticut and the DZ to pick up and distribute new gear. 

In it's long history of almost a million jumps, Orange SPC had 4 fatalities during the period of operation from 1959-1982, the first on May 27, 1970.  By that time the DZ had over 150,000 jumps made there.

PI also operated a water jumping site at Lake Mattawa about 3 miles West of the airport.

PI's next DZ at Hemet

[ Home ] [ 1962 World Meet ] [ Good Hill Farm ] [ Orange ] [ Hemet ] [ The INN ]
[ Lakewood ] [ Crawfordsville ] [ Elsinore ] [ People Page ] [ Aircraft Page ]

Project PI is an online collaborative effort to document the first commercial parachute company, Parachutes Incorporated, its 6 DZ's, it's 15+ aircraft and as many of the personalities that worked or jumped there that we can find.  Anyone may contribute with stories, information and photographs and are encouraged to do so. Click on the logo above to send e-mail to Thom Lyons, Project coordinator in Melbourne, Australia