Parachuting into the Sunset

On Monday, social media feeds of theme park enthusiasts were on fire. Following the discovery that a popular, long-standing, family-favorite ride had been removed from the Six Flags Great Adventure list of attractions on their web site and mobile app.

(Google Street View)
(Google Street View)

The Parachute Training Center: Edwards AFB Jump Tower has been a landmark attraction at the Jackson, N.J. amusement park for almost 40 years. Formerly known as Parachuter's Perch and familiarly called The Parachutes, the enormous, colorful tower stood as a beacon visible from the parking lot and most places across the 160-acre theme park.

Not for the faint of heart — or those terrified of heights — the parachutes ride transports guests almost 250 feet into the air for an excellent overview of the theme park, water park, safari park, and surroundings. Then the parachute gently descends, returning to the ground. The entire experience takes a little less than a minute.

This was apparently one of several rides removed from the online portals of Six Flags 27 parks worldwide. According to those familiar with the ride, maintenance on the aging ride became increasingly difficult over the last decade due to the availability of parts. The Parachutes were also notorious for mechanical breakdowns, and closing in any degree of stormy or windy weather.

Stats & History

"Parachuter's Perch" was opened in the middle of Great Adventure's 1983 season, at the end of the Boardwalk section of the park. A press release fact sheet described it as "a favorite family thrill ride" based on "the Parachute Jump at Coney Island... introduced to the world at the 1939 New York World's Fair."

(Dan Zarrow, Townsquare Media / Canva)
(Dan Zarrow, Townsquare Media / Canva)

A parachute ride was a remarkably appropriate choice for the park. The Switlik family, who originally owned the land upon which Great Adventure sits, was renowned for founding a preeminent parachute company in the early 20th century.

In 1994, the ride was renamed as "Parachute Training Center: Edwards Air Force Base Jump Tower" to coincide with the opening of The Right Stuff Mach 1 Adventure motion simulator attraction. (Edwards Air Force Base, in California, was the site of Chuck Yaeger's flight that broke the sound barrier in 1947.)

(Dan Zarrow, Townsquare Media)
(Dan Zarrow, Townsquare Media)

For a long time, the Parachutes stood as one of the world's tallest thrill rides. It was the largest in New Jersey, until neighboring stratacoaster Kingda Ka was erected in 2005. At 246 feet tall, it remains the second tallest point at Six Flags Great Adventure, behind Kingda Ka (456 feet), but ahead of Skyscreamer (242 feet) and Nitro (230 feet).

For a ton more fascinating historical facts and photos on the ride (and much more), I recommend the incredibly thorough site.

Will It Be Torn Down?

So what happens next? Unless there are other ride closures and demolitions scheduled, I highly doubt the Parachutes are shutting down to make way for a new attraction. (Which is unlikely, given Six Flags' shaky financial footing these days.) The Parachutes footprint is too small for anything other than a small flat ride. And there are tons of other locations for such a ride in the park.

Tearing down the tower would also be expensive and difficult. Especially with Six Flags Great Adventure scheduled to open for the season in just 46 days.

Therefore, I suspect the Parachutes tower will be in a "Standing But Not Operating" status throughout this year, at least. (The park has a history of letting decommissioned rides just sit and rot.)

Personally, I hope they keep the tower itself, as it is an important part of the park's skyline and history. And such an easy-to-spot landmark for guests navigating the park. Maybe they have plans to turn it into a brand new ride or attraction — although there have been no announcements or indications that is the case.

The Parachute Training Center is not the only Great Adventure attraction with an unknown future. The El Toro wooden roller coaster suffered a serious incident in August 2022, which injured nineteen riders and forced an immediate closure of the ride. Reportedly, repairs have been underway during the off-season.

Six Flags Great Adventure is scheduled to open for the 2023 season on Saturday, April 1st.

Dan Zarrow is Chief Meteorologist for Townsquare Media New Jersey. Follow Dan on Facebook or Twitter for your latest weather forecast updates.

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