Fun at 14,000 feet: My first skydiving experience

///Fun at 14,000 feet: My first skydiving experience

Fun at 14,000 feet: My first skydiving experience

Looking for an adventure between trips, I decided to try skydiving near Chicago. Here’s what it was like to jump out of an airplane.

My interest in adventure activities began years ago (most likely when I went jet skiing on Lake Michigan on my second-ever day in the USA in 1999), but didn’t fully develop until a trip to Baños, Ecuador in 2013. That’s where I tried ziplining and bridge jumping for the first time – and knew that more outdoor thrills were in the cards.

After ziplining in Wisconsin, I wanted to see what else there was to do near home. I found Chicagoland Skydiving Center (CSC) in Rochelle, Illinois – about a 1.5-hour drive west of Chicago – and made plans to jump.


Chicagoland Skydiving Center


It was clear I would be in good hands the moment I arrived at the CSC campus. The modern facility features an aircraft hangar, three landing areas, a spectator courtyard with picnic tables, and the Flight Deck Bar & Grill (great name). It is also home to the Freefall University Skydive School.

“We know that people are nervous about the experience,” said Douglas Smith, President and CEO of the Center, when I talked to him over roaring engines. “It’s fear of the unknown and fear of jumping out of an airplane. Our goal is to decrease fear and increase excitement by taking care of customers throughout the process.”

I was definitely excited. After signing disclaimer forms and browsing the gear store (how cool would it be to have a skydiving logbook?), I went to the hangar to gear up and wait my turn.

First-timers do tandem skydiving. I was introduced to my instructor Beau, who helped with the jumpsuit, harness, and altimeter, then explained what could be expected in the air. We would climb up to 14,000 feet (4,270 m), which takes 15-20 minutes, free-fall for about one minute at 120 mph (193 km/h), and spend five minutes under the parachute.

Before long, we were boarding.

Chicago Skydiving (5)


You might say we were on a party plane! If any of the jumpers were nervous, you couldn’t tell. We chatted and joked around, while the videographer Javier got everything on camera.

I looked out the window. We seemed to be very high up, yet there were at least five more minutes left. “OK this is really happening,” I thought to myself as I felt the first butterflies in my stomach. Then the door opened and before I had a chance to process the adrenaline, we were second in line to jump.

I wasn’t scared, but I had a brief “whoa!” moment when I looked down from the edge of the plane. No turning back now… Javier indicated to smile for the camera, then off we went!


The wind. I remember the deafening wind and a blast of cold air on my ears and face. But all that mattered was that I was flying! I wanted to laugh, shout, and do flips in the air (if only I knew how).

Overwhelmed by the sensation, I almost didn’t notice when Beau tapped my arm. It was time to pull the parachute cord. One quick jolt and everything slowed down. We were suspended in mid-air.

Ah… relax, breathe, enjoy the view, do a few 360-degree turns.

Prepare for landing.

Does it have to end?

Skydiving Chicago

Skydiving Chicago (2)


I did not want to be back on the ground. Even before my feet touched the grass, I knew that I was hooked. As I was getting out of the jumpsuit, all I could think of was, “When am I going to be back up there?”

It took a while for the adrenaline rush to subside, but I was in no hurry to drive back to Chicago. I ordered a snack at Flight Deck, found a seat in the courtyard, and stuck around to watch more jumps. Anything to prolong the experience.

Maybe I should get a 10-jump pass…?


Watch the whole action in this video, including footage from the sky and my post-skydive reaction. In a girly moment, I commented about my hair being all messed up, to which Beau replied, “You just jumped out of an airplane!” Fair point.

If you go:

  • Chicagoland Skydiving Center is open April-November
  • Participants must be over 18 years old and weigh no more than 240 lbs. (108 kg)
  • Tandem pricing (as of August 2015): $159.99 (exit altitude 9,000 ft.), $209.99 (14,000 ft.), $259.99 (18,000 ft. with oxygen mask); optional multimedia packages start at $99.99
  • Group discounts and weekly specials are available
  • CSC also offers engagement packages, observation rides, and event space rentals

Getting there and links:

Chicagoland Skydiving Center | 1207 W Gurler Rd. Rochelle, IL 61068
Phone: (815) 561-3663 | Website | Facebook

[mappress mapid=”49″]

I was a guest of Chicagoland Skydiving Center. All opinions expressed in this post are mine.
Photos and video: Javier Ortiz Photography

By | 2017-03-04T18:33:12+00:00 August 6th, 2015|Around Cities|38 Comments

About the Author:

Pola Henderson is a travel writer, city explorer, expat, and event host. Traveling has been a part of her life since she was three. Pola grew up in Krakow, lived in Chicago for many years and is currently based in Paris, where she teaches Business English.


  1. avatar
    Marek i Kasia August 6, 2015 at 4:56 pm

    What can we say…


    If not the price….
    Marek i Kasia recently posted..São Miguel (II) – summary of our Azorean trip in photos – part IIMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around August 7, 2015 at 2:17 am

      Ha, I’m eyeing their Ladies’ Day pricing for next time. ;)

  2. avatar
    Ania August 7, 2015 at 2:16 am

    You look so relaxed, as if you’ve jumped many times. I envy, I would like to try but I must admit that I’m a bit scared :)
    Ania recently posted..Komancze – władcy Wielkich RówninMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around August 7, 2015 at 2:21 am

      Thanks, Ania! This is something I’d wanted to do for a long time and I was really happy to have the opportunity. And compared to bridge jumping, skydiving wasn’t that scary…

  3. avatar
    Darek August 7, 2015 at 2:28 am

    Kudos, I am sure it was an unforgettable experience! I don’t like heights, but – – strangely enough – if I had to choose between bungee jumping and skydiving, I would go for sky diving for sure…
    Darek recently posted..Kino australijskie: Filmy biograficzne i historyczneMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around August 7, 2015 at 2:36 am

      Good choice, Darek! Both are great, but for me skydiving has the added thrill of going up in a plane, and the experience lasts longer. Glad I tried.

  4. avatar
    PatTravel August 7, 2015 at 2:44 am

    Wygląda super, ale sama tego absolutnie nie zrobię

    • avatar
      Jetting Around August 7, 2015 at 2:56 am

      Rozumiem, bo ja np. w powietrzu czuję się świetnie, za to już gorzej mam z wodą…

  5. avatar
    Sianna August 8, 2015 at 2:01 am

    Looks amazing and I’m sure it’s an unforgettable experience. I would also like to try though I think I will get quite nervous when it’s time :D

    • avatar
      Jetting Around August 9, 2015 at 6:13 pm

      Hi Sianna. If you’re considering it, go for it! Skydiving pros know how nervous people get can, and I’m sure they’d do everything to make you enjoy the experience.

  6. avatar
    Revati August 8, 2015 at 2:06 am

    OMG! Wow. This looks absolutely exhilarating and umm scary. So glad you survived to tell the tale! Don’t think I would, I’d probably pass out from the fear!
    Revati recently posted..Comment on 10 Ways to Make Your Home Feel Like a Luxury Hotel by AlexisMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around August 9, 2015 at 6:11 pm

      If it makes you feel any better, I found it less scary than bridge jumping… Having the instructor and parachute definitely gave me a peace of mind.

  7. avatar
    Holly August 8, 2015 at 11:47 am

    Awesome! I am sure that was an amazing experience, but I am not sure I can bring myself to jump out of a plane. I don’t have a fear of heights, but I am not a fan at the thought of falling.

    • avatar
      Jetting Around August 9, 2015 at 6:09 pm

      It really was amazing, Holly! But I understand that there are people who’d never ever want to jump.

  8. avatar
    Joe Ankenbauer | Joeography August 9, 2015 at 5:30 pm

    As a veteran skydiver, I approve this post haha! Fair warning, it can get addicting! I’ve never jumped near Chicago, so thanks for the numbers of places to go when I get there! Awesome post!
    Joe Ankenbauer | Joeography recently posted..Apocalypse Now: The Ruins of Bombay BeachMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around August 9, 2015 at 6:08 pm

      Haha great! Skydiving is definitely addictive, and I’m already thinking about doing it again. Drop me a line if you jump in Chicago, Joe.

  9. avatar
    Tomek August 10, 2015 at 3:40 am

    Zawsze podziwiałem ludzi odważnych tak bardzo, by skoczyć z samolotu! Mi pozostaje tylko popatrzeć, bo to absolutnie atrakcja nie dla mnie! :P

    • avatar
      Jetting Around August 10, 2015 at 2:11 pm

      Nie wiem, czy to odwaga, czy po prostu pęd za adrenaliną… Chyba jednak to drugie. ;)

  10. avatar
    Maaike - August 12, 2015 at 2:39 am

    So cool Pola! And how lovely for you to get this keep this memory through that amazing video!
    Maaike – recently posted..Budapest: the Ruin Pubs, Margaret Island, Sziget Eye and the SynagogueMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around August 12, 2015 at 1:41 pm

      Hi Maaike :) I’m so glad the videographer was there! Watching the clip definitely makes me want to jump again.

  11. avatar
    craig zabransky (@StayAdventurous) August 17, 2015 at 8:17 am

    Wow, awesome…. definitely an amazing experience, I concur. I recently took my first jump and when I read your article it made me wonder when I can do it again…. It is a bit addicting.

    And don’t worry, most guys like wind blown hair, probably in more so in the windy city, right?

    Stay Jumping Out of Planes, Craig
    craig zabransky (@StayAdventurous) recently posted..The Long Lake Sunset, an Adirondack Sunset Adventure in WeatherMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around August 17, 2015 at 12:40 pm

      I didn’t know you jumped, Craig! Very cool. Next time we meet we should chat.

  12. avatar
    lola August 17, 2015 at 12:16 pm

    Good for you Pola. I have zero interest in skydiving but I know so many people love it.
    lola recently posted..Boston Bacon and Beer Festival 2015My Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around August 17, 2015 at 12:39 pm

      Thanks, Lola. I loved it. :)

  13. avatar
    Erin Marie at The World Wanderer August 17, 2015 at 6:01 pm

    Girl, you are brave! When I was 13, I couldn’t wait to get old enough to sky dive, and then I got older, and completely lost interest, haha. I’ve watched countless videos of friends doing it, but I don’t think I’ll ever actually do so myself. Who knows though!

    You look super glamorous the whole time, and not nervous at all! So impressed by you!
    Erin Marie at The World Wanderer recently posted..Backpacking the Appalachian Trail in North CarolinaMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around August 17, 2015 at 9:00 pm

      Erin, you’re one of the most adventurous people I know! Case in point: scuba diving. I have a feeling you’ll skydive at some point. ;) And glamorous is not how I would describe myself during the jump, so thank you!
      Jetting Around recently posted..Giveaway: Travel tote by Catrinka ProjectMy Profile

  14. avatar
    Traveling Ted October 14, 2015 at 9:59 pm

    This is something I will never do, but I enjoyed the video.
    Traveling Ted recently posted..Stanley trailgating after outdoor adventureMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around October 14, 2015 at 11:08 pm

      Glad you liked the clip. And yeah, you seem more a water person to me. :)

  15. avatar
    Jess November 10, 2015 at 1:05 am

    One for the bucket list that’s for sure. Looks amazing!
    Jess recently posted..The Wonders of RussiaMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around November 10, 2015 at 3:01 pm

      Do it, Jess! :) I can’t wait to try again.

  16. avatar
    sara December 11, 2015 at 4:18 am

    Looks stunning pictures are really good inspired me to do the skydiving.
    sara recently posted..A Safari to the Territory of ElephantsMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around December 11, 2015 at 12:53 pm

      Glad to hear that, Sara! I hope you get to jump soon – incredible experience.

  17. avatar
    Sun Life Water Sports January 11, 2016 at 9:58 am

    Now that is a adventure you guys had! We do Parasailing here in Florida for a living how ever parachuting is something we always love to do.
    Sun Life Water Sports recently posted..Fort Lauderdale Attractions for TouristsMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around January 11, 2016 at 10:44 am

      I’d love to try parachuting and maybe parasailing… Hmm, thanks for the idea!

  18. avatar
    YSA Sailing January 22, 2016 at 8:49 pm

    Those are some nice photos looks like you guys had a blast.

  19. avatar
    Tania @ Larger Family Life February 27, 2016 at 10:29 am

    Oh my goodness, what an amazing experience. I’d like to do it but then I wonder if I’d actually have the bottle to go through with it. Well done!
    Tania @ Larger Family Life recently posted..10 Beach Safety Tips to Remember on HolidayMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around February 29, 2016 at 5:32 pm

      I hope you’ll give it a try, Tania! Instructors know how much people fear the jump and do everything to make it enjoyable.

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