Published: September 18, 2014
Brian Strong has spent the majority of his life in both skydiving and aviation. An entrepreneur at heart, Brian has lived a life that many can only dream about because he has followed the path less traveled, by following his passions.
As the owner of Skydive Coastal Carolinas, Brian is the "behind-the-scenes" guy who gets his joy from watching his first time students rave about their skydiving experience above Oak Island (arguably one of the most beautiful skydiving views in the United States). His journey to becoming the 'DZO' (drop zone owner) of this seaside skydive center began in the mid-1970s with the dream of jumping. How it came together is fascinating.
Where It Began
Raised in Farmington, Connecticut Brian had dreams of becoming a skydiver. With little money, he realized that the easiest way to jump was to do it on someone else's dime... so he joined the Army. The plan was to go to jump school and earn his 'wings.' It was during the 1970s and the Vietnam War was close to an end. Unfortunately, the Army had different plans and deployed Brian to Germany where he spent the better half of two years. At the end of his two year service (with no jumps under his belt), Brian left the Army. Shortly thereafter Brian received a gift from his parents that would forever change his life - a gift certificate to the historic Jumptown in Orange, MA.
Brian's first jump was a static line jump out of an old Beech 18 wearing some sketchy military surplus gear from 1942, a stylish Bell motorcycle helmet with Army boots to match. To say he was 'bitten' by the skydiving bug would be an understatement. Brian would be a fixture at Jumptown for three years jumping whenever the weather would allow before he learned about Connecticut Parachuting, Incorporated (CPI). Closer to home, Brian logged close to 500 jumps in three short years. It was during this time that Brian's curiosity got him involved with flying planes. Brian's new interest in aviation would propel him on a different path that would lead to more than five years buzzing around some of the most beautiful islands in the Caribbean.
Becoming a Pilot
With a freshly inked pilot's license and only 90 hours of flight time, Brian moved to Ocala, Florida as the new owner of Pilot Publications. If you're unfamiliar with Pilot Publications, it's THE aviator's Bible for all details related to flying into hundreds of obscure airports found both in the Bahamas and around the Caribbean. Having purchased the business from a friend, Brian spent six months each year flying over obscure Bahamian airports taking photographs and recording detailed notes of what pilots need to look for. Landing on remote, sketchy airports refined Brian's flying from good to truly great. Commercial pilots with thousands of hours would seek Brian out to ask advice on navigating to this island or that. To say Brian was living the dream, would be an understatement. For his wife back home, not so much. After five years of soaking up the sun's rays, Brian sold the business (it still thrives today) and started a landscaping business in Ocala, FL. It was during this time that he returned to hard core jumping at Keystone Heights Skydiving.
Starting a Drop Zone
By 1996 and after five years in the landscaping business, Brian wanted to turn his attention back to his first love, skydiving. He found an airport in Green Sea, SC and Skydive Myrtle Beach, Inc was born. Located 45 minutes from the Grand Strand, Brian hoped to capitalize on the busy Myrtle Beach market, but the tourist traffic never materialized. While trying to make ends meet, Brian started painting airplanes. In his youth, he used to sandblast and re-paint motorcycles. With this foundation, word quickly spread of his skill for painting planes which morphed into a whole new and unforeseen business venture. The paint shop took off, but the skydiving center never reached its potential. Five years later in 2001, Brian moved from Green Sea to Southport, NC where Skydive Myrtle Beach dba. Skydive Coastal Carolinas remains today as a staple in the aviation community at the Cape Fear Regional Jetport (with the two most beautiful jump planes in the skydiving world). Being in the center of a busy tourist spot, the skydiving center has thrived catering to visitors to Bald Head Island, Myrtle Beach, Oak Island, Wilmington and many military personnel from Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, NC.
So whether you plan to jump or not, feel free to stop in and meet Brian - he's got some great stories and an amazing drop zone.