Utah-based nonprofit brings people to new heights with adaptive paragliding program

Utah-based non profit offers paragliding free of charge for those who ‘need a lift’

Project Airtime offers free paragliding sessions to anyone from individuals with special needs, people suffering with illnesses, and those who are wheelchair-bound to veterans free of charge.

For the last six years, Chris Santacroce and his team at Project Airtime have been bringing people to new heights with their adaptive paragliding program. 

The nonprofit, Project Airtime, is free for everyone – individuals with special needs, people with brain and spinal cord injuries or other illnesses, their caregivers, the elderly and veterans, according to Santacroce.

He told FOX News that they are looking for anyone who just “needs a boost” or is willing to “rise to the occasion.” 

Project Airtime, a adaptive paragliding program, offers free flying sessions to dozens of people in Salt Lake City, Utah. 
(Nicole Mickelson)

Although Santacroce created the program six years ago, he’s been a full-time paragliding professional for nearly three decades. For 13 years, he was also a Red Bull athlete where he showcased free-flying sports. 

Over 10 years ago, Santacroce injured his spinal cord while attempting one of his tricks, landing him in a wheelchair for a couple of weeks. 

“I always did this trick where you sort of drag your wingtip on the ground and then straighten up and land,” he said. “And one day I just was out flying [and] I got it wrong.” 

Spending time in the wheelchair changed his perspective on life. 

Project Airtime, a adaptive paragliding program, offers free flying sessions to dozens of people in Salt Lake City, Utah. 
(Nicole Mickelson)

In light of getting a “second chance,” he recalled asking himself one very important question: “What am I supposed to be doing with my life?” 

“The answer was quite clear,” he said. 

When Santacroce isn’t running Super Fly paragliding, which offers equipment sales, paragliding lessons, tours and clinics, he dedicates his time to Project Airtime, reminding those, that no matter what, they can still “have a radical experience.” 

Project Airtime does about 80 flights a year at its location in Salt Lake City, Utah, 40 of which are for the individuals who sign up and another 40 are for their caregivers, Santacroce said.  

Project Airtime, a adaptive paragliding program, offers free flying sessions to dozens of people in Salt Lake City, Utah. 

They also have chairs around the country, in Seattle; Bend, Oregon; and Austin, Texas. 

The pilot and passenger get strapped in and usually fly roughly 20 to 30 minutes “depending on how much fun they’re having,” he said, adding that  “some people are quite happy to go for 15 minutes.” 

He’s even had a handful of participants that have gone on to fly solo over the years. 

Santacroce says it’s the best thing he has ever done. For his participants, however, it means infinitely more. 

Project Airtime, a adaptive paragliding program, offers free flying sessions to dozens of people in Salt Lake City, Utah. 
(Nicole Mickelson)

They “just want to have freedom and they want to be able to pursue this stuff and not be at a disadvantage,” Santacroce said. 

And when they’re in the air, “they’re at zero disadvantage compared to the next guy,” he added. 

In fact, it can even feel liberating for those who spend much of their time in a wheelchair.

“They get to leave that chair at least behind. And that doesn’t happen very often,” he said. “So they find themselves quite at ease and they find themselves in the grips of a brand new experience.” 

For a lot of people, “they tend to forget their disability altogether,” he added. 

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