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New parachute school set to open

PUBLISHED: 11:29 01 December 2008 | UPDATED: 21:55 05 July 2010

IT is hoped that daredevils and plucky charity fundraisers could help boost business after plans to open a parachuting school at the old Ellough airfield were unveiled.

IT is hoped that daredevils and plucky charity fundraisers could help boost business after plans to open a parachuting school at the old Ellough airfield were unveiled.

RainAir, a family business whose owners run the airstrip, wants to relocate its parachuting school from Old Buckenham Airfield to Beccles and attract thrill-seekers from across the country with the promise of an adrenalin-pumping leap from a plane and spectacular free-fall over the Suffolk countryside.

Rob Gooderham, head of operations at the airfield, said the school would offer 10,000ft tandem jumps to first-timers as well as programmes for people wanting to qualify in solo jumping.

And he believes that with jumpers being given on-the-ground training at the airfield the day before making their leap, visitors will spend time and money in the area.

“It should bring a lot of people into Beccles and the surrounding area and they will visit the local towns and business and support the shops,” he said.

“Ipswich Airport lost everything and this is the last licensed airfield in Suffolk, so the one thing we are 100pc desperate to happen is that the airfield will never be turned into houses.”

He added that much of the work would be with people who pay to do sponsored jumps for charity.

Concerns over traffic and noise have been raised by Worlingham Parish Council, which has recommended the proposal to be refused, although RainAir says a new £1m Cessna Caravan will cause a “minimum of disturbance” and that the flight path is mainly over countryside.

It wants to be able to operate during daylight hours six days a week, not before 11am.

The company is also seeking to upgrade the temporary permission it holds to run a light-aircraft flying school at the airstrip, into a permanent agreement.

Beccles Town Council supports both applications, which will be decided by Waveney District Council. Beccles councillor Brian Woodruff said: “It would be another attraction in the town. There are not that many parachuting schools around the UK and I think anything that helps that little airstrip stay open is a good thing.”

He said he believed it would enhance the ongoing development of the old airfield. Sir Alan Sugar is one of the many wealthy businessmen with private aircraft who have made use of the airstrip, which was previously used as a helicopter base to transport workers to offshore platforms. Princes William and Harry have also undergone military training there.

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