Have you ever wished you could fly? For centuries, humans have been fascinated with flight; creating mythological beings that could soar through the air and inventing birdlike flying contraptions. Most little boys even attempt flight by donning red capes, imagining being Superman and frightening Mom by jumping from furniture.
Mandy and Tom Schroder are actually able to soar. As professional skydivers, they regularly experience the closest thing to flying, and through their company, the Blue Skies Parachute Team, Mandy and Tom have made the business of human flight a reality in our own McKinney backyard. With over 60 years of combined experience, the Schroders regularly parachute at air shows and public events throughout the area. Both rated through the US Parachute Association with a professional skydiving standing, Tom and Mandy are licensed and paid to bring the skydiving sport to the area.
Tom remembers, “When I was 18 years old, I wanted to try something exciting and live on the edge. So, some buddies and I decided to skydive. After my first jump, I knew it was in my blood, and I wanted to try it again and again. After high school, I joined the military and was a paratrooper. Even through other jobs, I’ve always parachuted. It’s what I do.”
Mandy and Tom Schroder (photo by B.J. Worth)
Mandy adds, “For me, I always knew I wanted to try it. I thought it would be like a roller coaster ride, but I was wrong. On my 21st birthday, I tandem skydived. The jump happened so fast, I wasn’t able to really enjoy it, and after I landed, I knew I wanted to do it again. Within a week, I had a second job to support my habit, and within a year, I was certified to teach others how to do it. It was love at first jump.”
“Skydiving is an absolutely satisfying experience, as it allows me to perfect my individual movements while having complete control as my body falls through space at 120 mph. It’s not like falling at all – it’s truly freeing and gives me the ability to shed my earthly bounds and just fly. It always keeps me coming back for more.”
Never planning to become a professional skydiver, Mandy originally was on the path to living the American Dream. She was striving for a steady income, big house, new car, dogs and a cat. Mandy says, “Before skydiving, I was a very success driven person, setting goals and attempting to accomplish what I was told made you a successful person. Through my experiences jumping and teaching others about skydiving, I have come to realize how this has all changed me for the better. It allows me to enjoy the simple pleasures of a beautiful day; good friends and being active together. Today, I deeply appreciate the things in my life I have worked hard to achieve. My definition of success has changed dramatically.”
Now 14 years working full time in the sport, Mandy and Tom regularly perform at air shows held at Dr. Pepper Park, Texas Motor Speedway as well as Cowboy Stadium for special events. They also participate with other skydivers in coordinated performances and hold several record setting skydives, including participation in the current world record, setting the largest skydive formation around the world via the Guinness Book.
When not managing the Landon Winery in Downtown McKinney, Mandy works with Tom laboring to create a professional image. Tom adds, “In the past, skydiving wasn’t regarded as a competent sport as it involved some less than positive ‘extracurricular activities’ with too many renegades to count. It just wasn’t organized or coherent. Our desire is to let the public see we are an able, qualified team with a desire to professionally communicate our art. We’re not just ‘yahoos’ throwing ourselves out of planes. That’s why our tagline is ‘On Time and On Target.’ We do what we say we will do, and we spend time doing it the right way, the first time.”
2004 Guinness 357-Way World record jump in Thailand.
As the only professional skydiving Company in Texas without a corporate sponsor, Blue Skies Parachute Team is free to jump in any and all approved venues with no specific ties to one company, in addition to keeping their costs manageable. With a team of seven individuals that rotate in, Mandy and Tom have a stable of qualified and reliable jumpers and ground crew with the skills and qualifications to complete the job masterfully, in addition to performing the air show “tricks” that often wow the crowd, utilizing streamer packs, flags and smoke.
Each member of their crew is thoroughly trained with a minimum of 10 years of experience and rated as professional skydivers with over 1,000 jumps. “We all trust each other immensely.” Tom says, “Our performance is a matter of pride for us and over time we have proven ourselves.”
The next time you look to the skies and think you spot Superman, remember its most likely Tom, Mandy or another member of the Blue Skies Parachute Team realizing their dreams to fly.