When Anne and I moved to Chicago in 2010 we had not competed in 4-way formation skydiving (FS) since 2007. We were living in Virginia, and it was not easy to find competitive skydivers in the area around that time. The wind tunnels were a long drive and the economy was in a downward spiral. Backpacking in the Shenandoah made a lot more sense on the weekends. Based on a friend's recommendation, we started jumping at Chicagoland Skydiving Center (CSC) in Hinckley when we moved to Northern Illinois that summer. Getting back to competitive skydiving was something we wanted to do but it would take a couple more years before we had the time to dedicate.
Fast forward 6 years and a lot has changed. CSC moved from the small facility in Hinckley to an amazing purpose built skydiving facility in Rochelle. Three wind tunnels also sprung up in the Chicagoland area, making the region a much better training environment. It may not be sunny every day in the midwest, but the weather is always great in the tube. Moving to Chicago was primarily a career choice but there are distinct dropzone and wind tunnel benefits for a competitive skydiver. Along the way, we got back into competitive 4-way FS and have been training in Advanced/AAA class at CSC with our team, CSC Survival Instinct.
There is a lot to CSC that makes it easy For Experienced Jumpers to Train
We are able to manifest the entire day first thing in the morning, which gives us predictable days. We like to turn 20s all day, and we have confidence manifest is taking care of us. Manifest does a great job managing the loads for us so we don’t need to do anything but prep our dive and get on the next load. If there is a shut down, we get moved up. Someone lands off, we get moved back. We appreciate this when we're trying to make the most of good weather days in Chicago.
Both the Twin Otter and PAC are fast and in excellent condition. It's nice to have peace of mind about the aircraft you're in while trying to focus on training. Like any other 4-way team, we prefer the Super Otter and do most of our jumps from it. The pilots are trained well and have consistency among how each flies. The routes, spots and cuts tend to be predictable which helps lower the work-load for Outside Center who picks up the brunt of door, spotting and wind blocking duties.
We use packers on training days and have trust in crew CSC has hired. With no more than 20 minutes between loads it keeps the packers on their toes, but they always get it done so the load isn’t waiting. Grazing on snacks and staying hydrated during our breaks is helped by the campground being only 20 yards from the hangar in one direction or in the other direction is the full service Flight Deck Grill.
In the last few years tunnel training has become a much more critical piece of our overall plan. Most semi-competitive (and better) teams can't do without it anymore. iFLY Naperville is 45 minutes from CSC, iFLY Rosemont is an hour. Weather looks bad; book some tunnel time. Need to clean up a block; put it in the tunnel in the morning and the sky in the afternoon. Two feet of snow in January; train all winter indoors. The arrival of the Rosemont and Naperville tunnels have made training much more efficient overall especially with Northern Illinois’s short outdoor season.
Having Chicago O’Hare an hour away adds a lot to convenience to training as well. We can bring in a coach on Friday morning, fly Friday afternoon in the tunnel, both iFLY locations are basically on the way to Rochelle, continue on to CSC, then spend Saturday and Sunday outdoors. This region really offers a lot of flexibility for us to word toward our goals.
COMFORTS OF "HOME"
The team did a good job of planning the DZ so visitors could really live there during a visit. Words like "family" and "home" get used a lot to describe being at CSC. After a long day of training there are large private shower rooms and team rooms for those without RVs. The onsite restaurant, Flight Deck Bar & Grill, is full service with an outdoor bar and patio. It's much more than a DZ snack bar, it's the real deal. There will normally be a bonfire and live music to unwind with before resting up for
We aren't an open-level team and may never be. But let's be honest, most teams are like us, wanting and needing support from their dropzone to enjoy their hobby and work toward goals. It's nice to have dropzone management interested in working with up-and-comers and looking for ways to involve us in events, load organizing, etc in exchange for sponsorship. Knowing you're supported by your DZO and management team is important to us, and it's something we found at CSC.
VISIT US SOMETIME
If you're interested in starting a 4-way FS skydiving career, or want to learn more about being on a team, we welcome you to come talk to us. We are regularly load organizing during events and love meeting and mentoring newer jumpers. If you're a team looking for a home, give CSC a shot. We'd be happy to share a training day with you, but we want to get out first!