Skydiver's soaring international career celebrated
JUST the thought of jumping out of a plane at 5,000ft is enough give some people the wobbles.
Skydive Australia Owner Rod Benson has managed to rack up over 6,000 jumps throughout his 30-year international career as a professional Skydiver.
On Saturday, September 14 the South Burnett local will be bringing his unique skills to the Blackbutt Avocado Festival.
Along with two other team members, they will launch themselves out of a plane to entertain the crowd whilst participating in the 'Avo Drop Tombola.'
Now specialising in parachuting with huge flag displays for corporate events and festivals, Mr Benson's career dates back to his early childhood days.
"My dad start jumping a long time ago in Sydney in New South Wales,” Mr Benson said.
"From the age of nine I used to go out to parachute centres with him every week.”
"I just loved being outdoors and being around that environment.”
Mr Benson took off on his first jump when he was 16-years-old and has been travelling around the world ever since.
Along with his father Dave Benson, who originally started the family business Skydive Australia in 1980, together they managed to push the limits of their sport.
In 1990 the father and son combo saw an article in an American parachuting magazine about flag displays and had a brain wave that they could go bigger and better than the original size.
The keen adventurers spent the next couple of years travelling out to western NSW to try develop a successful flag display system where no body else would clue on to what they were creating.
"We launched the flag display at the Eastern Creek Race Way on Australia Day in 1992,” Mr Benson said.
"It was the largest flag ever flown under a parachute and it was about 10 times the size of the biggest parachute flown in the world.”
With a hefty amount of jumps under his belt, Mr Benson said he loves the jumping element although he said the response from crowd is always unbeatable, especially when they showcase the Australian flag.
"I love the parachuting side of my job, but it's more about the showmanship on the ground that I really enjoy,” Mr Benson said.
"We might do a country show like Kingaroy and you have people who have lived there their whole lives.”
"They love their country and the Australian flag means so much to them, so when they see you parachuting with a huge flag it sparks so many emotions.”
"When I have gone up and talked to people after the jump, they have actually had tears running from their eyes,” he said.
It would be hard to miss his Australian flag as it is 15 by 30 metres long and because of the size and nature of the job, Mr Benson said they call them banners in the sky.
"A flag should never touch the ground and sometimes we have no choice for them to touch it.”
"Out of respect we try to pick them up as soon as possible when we land.”
In a career laced with the potential for danger, the professional skydiver said the most challenging part of his job is creating awareness around the sport.
"When we were busy, we were doing around 70-75 displays a year through out Australia,” Mr Benson said.
"People were seeing us and we were getting a lot more enquires.”
"I think Australia's economy at the moment is not the best and money is tight.”
"I seem to be doing a lot more overseas jobs like the Middle East, U.S.A and Canada,” he said.
When Mr Benson's father passed away he took over the family business and has been operating it out of the South Burnett.
Calling the quieter life in Blackbutt home for the past two and a half years, Mr Benson said he had always wanted to contribute something back to his community
"For me it's about showing the local people that yes, we're from the country and we can have the exact same in the country entertainment wise,” Mr Benson said.
"If I can show just one kid that there's more to life than getting off your mobile device and exploring what's out there then my job's done.”
"That's the bit I really enjoy,” he said.
With a continuously tight schedule, Mr Benson said at this stage he will be jumping at the Avocado festival, although he might have to land at the Blackbutt Showgrounds and then race off to catch a flight to Papua New Guinea.
As he prepares to celebrate 30 years in the industry later this year, the avid skydiver's career has really taken off since his first jump as a young teenager.