AIRFIELD bosses marking a quarter of a century in business are taking a group of lucky 25-year-olds along for the ride.
Peterlee Parachute Club, based at Shotton Airfield, turns 25 this year and a host of celebrations are planned.
As well as an anniversary dinner at Shotton Hall Banqueting Suites, in Peterlee, in September, for everyone connected to the airfield, centre bosses are offering a once-in-a-lifetime giveaway to the community.
The centre is offering two 25-year-olds from each of the surrounding areas of Peterlee, Easington, Haswell and Shotton, either a free tandem or solo parachute experience or the opportunity to go up in a plane for free.
Jim Barnes brought parachuting to the former colliery site in Shotton in 1987, having previously run Sunderland Airfield.
With support from the then-Easington District Council and Sport England, he built a 2,300ft-long runway and a single hangar.
Eleven years later current owner Ian Rosenvinge took over the site.
A second hangar was built and other improvements included investments in quieter aircraft and a bigger car park.
Mr Rosenvinge said: “When Jim first came to the centre, he would be training between 800 and 900 people a year to parachute.
“Last year we trained 1,700 people.”
Mr Rosenvinge added: “When you think we have been here 25 years, that’s a great milestone.
“There are people who grew up in Shotton and Haswell who are used to us being here, and kids going to school are just used to having an airfield next to them.
“We are part of everyday life and feel part of the community.
“We are delighted to be offering 25-year-olds from the area this fantastic opportunity too.”
Enthusiasts travel from all over the country to the airfield, which has successfully fought off planning applications from companies wanting to build turbines in or near its flight path.
To apply for the free anniversary experience, call the airfield on 517 1234.
Places will be drawn randomly for flights on the weekend of August 25 and 26.