Bringing the extreme to the mainstream
Since 1968, Chicagoland Skydiving Center has been in the business of jumping out of perfectly good airplanes. They have since introduced more than 400,000 people to the sport of skydiving – bringing the extreme to the mainstream.
Take a roadtrip to Rochelle
Their award-winning, purpose-built, 20,000 square foot campus is located at the Rochelle Municipal Airport, a 200-acre airport in Rochelle, Illinois (halfway between Chicago + Quad Cities), giving it easy access from just about anywhere in the Midwest.
“With a perfect student safety record, world-class training program, ultra modern facilities, and on-site bar and restaurant, there truly is no where else like it in the US.”
The old stories you may have heard about military-style training and equipment are a thing of the past. You will not be jumping alone on your first skydive. Your certified instructor is with you every step of the way. Tandem skydiving is the safest training method for first-time jumpers and has made the sport accessible to millions of people worldwide. Whether your goal is to become a United States Parachute Association (USPA) certified skydiver or you just want to give it a try, this is where you begin.
Sometimes it's fun just to watch from the ground
The campus allows opportunities to take to the sky for skydiving or just watching those who choose to jump and land at the drop-zone. All this can be done from the comfort of the outside seating at the Flight Deck Bar & Grill located next to the skydiving center. This award-winning restaurant is located on-site and provides top-notch service, a broad food and drink menu, and perfect views of the skydivers. There are plenty of special events and live entertainment nights. The open-air design and Flight Deck Beer Garden allows you to be in the action without actually jumping out of the plane.
Going Outside My Comfort Zone
Let me start by saying this, I have acrophobia. I am terrified of heights and flying. I arrived at CSC with the intentions of watching the jumpers in the comfort of a patio chair. I walked into the skydiving center and was eagerly greeted by the desk clerk ready to check me in and sign ME up to jump out of the perfectly good airplane. I nervously laughed and politely declined his (only minor) peer pressure. I mean, that’s why most people walk into the skydiving center – to sign up to jump out of the plane. Instead, I signed up for an Observation Ride, which they said is ALMOST as fun as jumping. My fear of flying, especially in small planes, was still very much in the back of my head, but hey – do it for the Travel Blog! I was briefed on the basics of skydiving, what to expect, signed the waivers, and out the door, I went. I was escorted to the aircraft with a handful of fearless jumpers, given a headset so I could listen to traffic control and talk with the pilot, and nervously anticipated this 14,000 feet climb into the sky.
While still on the ground, I had the chance to meet Bart Pillen, the man of many jobs who has been with CSC longer than most. He happily showed me around the facility, told me a little history on the center, and even let me try on the skydiving gear. I admitted my nervous fear of flying to him so after the plane doors closed, I heard him through my headset, “We have a skeptical flyer with you today. Be easy on her.” Thanks Bart! We reached 15,000 feet and I could feel my ears pop. The instructors start strapping the jumpers onto them -- ensuring everything is attached and hooked properly. As I sit there I'm nervous for the jumpers until I see the giant smiles on the instructors' faces who do this all day – every day. In fact, almost every single instructor who works seasonally at CSC isn’t from the area or even the country, but we will get to that later.
We drop to 14,000 feet. As one of the instructors opens the door and gets ready to jump out – I feel my heart drop. Out goes the first jumpers, then the second, and one by one they all go flying out the door and I feel the plane getting lighter each time. The last jumper flies out and I spin around to face the front of the plane and pilot. That’s when the plane drops and we start heading straight for the skydiving center. The pilot is smiling and I’m gripping the seat with my eyes wide open. They weren't kidding when they said it’s ALMOST as fun as jumping out of a perfectly good airplane. What a rush! The pilot lands the plane and I let out a sigh of relief. We did it.
Fun Fact: If you want a more extreme experience, CSC offers jumps from 18,000 ft, the highest you can go in the Midwest United States.
Video and photo multimedia packages are available for jumpers who want to relive the experience over and over again. Professional aerial photographers go up in the plane and jump out just to record your adventure with HD video and still photos. I eavesdropped on one of the instructors, Klash, interviewing a couple with a GoPro attached to his wrist. Whether you’re a professional or a first-timer, they made the experience professional and, of course, super fun. CSC is known for having a fun and friendly team. Most of the instructors actually live in campers and RV on-site and work as the facility seasonally. They are all from different countries such as Australia, Columbia, etc. They work at CSC during the warm Midwest summer months and travel to different countries as skydive instructors during our cold season.
Chicagoland Skydiving Center was exhilarating, scary, and wonderful. If you’re looking for a place to skydive, have lunch while watching skydivers, or ride in the cockpit as I did – make the trip!
Chicagoland Skydiving Center
1207 West Gurler Road
Rochelle, IL 61068
Flight Deck Bar & Grill: http://flightdeckbar.com/