The weather forecast for spring looks promising, and our great spring skydive prices will help you save money! From opening day (April 15) through April 30, you can get our best price of the year for 2 jumpers with video and pictures. Weekends or Weekdays, it doesn't matter, 2 people skydive close to Chicago for $464, video and pictures included! Thats only $232 each. Hold the phone.... you can save another $10 per person by booking online and completing your online waiver (emailed to you after you book). If you can't make your Chicago skydive in April, the super deal extends to weekdays only in May. Weekend skydive 2 jumper packages cost $520 ($500 if you book online and do the online waiver) on weekends in May. The view in the spring is incredible, slightly cooler weather generally means better visibility. Chicago is just 30 miles away across Lake Michigan, and is usually clearly visible and an impressive vista. Skydive Windy City Chicago is conveniently located just of I-94 (exit 40B) about 1 hour drive from downtown Chicago. We are also accessible via South Shore Line (Carroll St. station), so you don't even need a car to come skydive with us. We hope to see you this spring!
There is a lot of great information on this blog about Chicago Skydiving. Here is a promo for our dropzone that you may find entertaining and informative.
Making a skydive in the Chicago area is convenient and affordable. Not only is Skydive Windy City Chicago the most convenient skydiving center to Chicago, but also have the best view of Lake Michigan and the Dowtown Chicago skyline, great pricing packages as low as $222 per person (video and pictures are included in that price), and one of the fastest service times in the skydiving industry (you don't have to spend all day with us). We expect to run at near capacity for most of the season, so make your reservations early to ensure you get the date/time you want. Some dates are already filling up.
Skydive Windy City Chicago prides itself on unbeatable customer service, a top safety record in the industry (5 years in business and we finished 2015 with zero (0) injuries), the best video and pictures packages, and a life-changing experience for you.
If you live in the Chicagoland area, Northwest Indiana, or Southwest Michigan, we are the no-brainer choice for your skydiving experience. Check out our facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/skydivewindycitychicago to see pictures and videos of our operation and customers. More pictures are available at our Instagram page and our Pinterest page.
If skydiving videos are your thing, you must checkout our Youtube channel. Every week during the season we compile a weekly highlights video with everyone who jumped with us, making them superstars. Friends can't belive you did it, prove it to them with our professional video and pictures packages (you take the video and pictures with you when you leave... usually they are ready within 30 minutes of you landing from your tandem skydive).
See you soon!
Our engine is back now, and we are hanging it on the airplane today. At a cost of almost $30,000.00, this type of maintenance is not cheap, but it is imperrative to maintain performance and safety. Skydiving Safely is always our #1 goal. We skydive with you, so we have as much to lose as you do.
The skydiving business is a tricky one. As many entrepeneurs have learned, just because you can do something doesn't mean you can run a business doing that thing (this applies to all aspects of business). From a business perspective, the entity has relatively low fixed costs (as a proportion of sales) and very high variable costs. Fixed costs are defined as those that recur regularly (i.e. rent, utilities, insurance, licensing, etc...) Variable costs are defined as those costs that a business incurs based upon volume (for skydiving that is the cost of flying the airplane, packing & maintaining parachutes, etc...). These facts are one reason that so many dropzones start (and fail) each year (often times taking customer's money with them).
Groupon, Living Social, and all of the others on the bandwagon of social couponing greatly assist a dropzone in startup needs, but also directly lead to the eventual collapse (usually within one season) of the dropzone because the revenue is not sufficient to sustain the business. Other companies that hurt the sport, and increase the cost are those that resell the service (Rushcube, Spot, Adrenaline365 to name a few). These companies act as a middleman and sell you a product they cannot provide, then find a skydive center to provide the service (and charge you extra for their time). You should always deal directly with the skydiving center (whereever you choose to jump).
The average cost of a tandem skydive is between $200 and $230, and here is why it seems to cost so much:
- The smallest aircraft generally used for skydiving costs upwards of $120 per flight, the bigger the aircraft, the more it costs per flight, but more customers can share that cost, so the cost per customer decreases.
- The equipment used for tandem skydiving costs nearly double to purchase as personal skydiving equipment. One can buy a new parachute system (middle of the road) for about $8,000.00, but a tandem system costs nearly $16,000. Tandem skydiving is hard on equipment, with repetitive jumps and heavy loads. One can tack on an additional $2700 to the purchase cost for average maintenance costs over the effective lifespan. Tandem systems are generally used for about 5 years or 2000 skydives, which results in a nearly $10/jump cost to own/operate a tandem parachute system.
- Generally skydiving workers are hired as contractors, and migrate south in the winter. They get paid per jump, per pack, or per flight. The instructor can get paid between $30 and $70 per jump depending on experience and video duties
- Marketing costs can be substantial. Competition is fierce, and small dropzones like ours must compete with giants in the same market area.
The larger the dropzone, the larger the fixed cost, but the lower the variable cost (per customer). At a large dropzone, the profit may be $100 or more on a $200 tandem, while at a small dropzone it may be $30 or less. You may think... $30 per customer that isn't bad! What will help you understand is volume. A small dropzone may only complete 800 tandems per year. Larger dropzones can serve 5000 customers or more. In our area of the country we also only operate between 6 and 7 months each year, so we need to use our profit to survive the downtime in winter.
Why do small dropzones even operate if they barely scrape by? The primary reason is the love of skydiving. Skydivers break-away from large centers to provide a better experinece. Smaller skydiving centers are generally more receptive to individuals and can provide the best customer service. At the smaller dropzones your instructor generally establishes a bond with you, if not a friendship. Larger dropzones must do high-volume, and therefore it is more often than not like a cattle-call. Larger dropzones can also only be supported around major metropolitan areas, where the volume is large.
Small skydiving centers generally compete on quality and customer service, whilst the larger dropzones can compete on price.
Skydive Windy City Chicago is one of 6 skydiving centers in the Chicagoland area that operate sustainably. We are one of the smallest, but we have the best customer service, location, and view.
One of the most frequent questions we receive from prospective jumpers is "What do I wear?" For first-time jumpers or solo students, what to wear is simple. You can wear whatever clothes are comfortable for the day (i.e. long pants and sweatshirt or jacket on colder days, or shorts and t-shirt on warmer days). Most dropzones require lace-up tennis shoes (sneakers) and prohibit the wearing of hard-soled shoes or sandals. Most skydiving centers will provide all other attire-related items that you need, including a jumpsuit, goggles, altimeter, helmet (for solo students) and gloves/hat (if cold enough to warrant them). Wearing of jumpsuits is generally optional for tandem skydivers, but not for solo students. If the weather is suitable for you, most skydiving centers will allow you to jump in shorts and a t-shirt, and some may allow you to jump with no clothes at all! If you wear corrective lenses (glasses or contacts), the skydiving center will provide suitable eye protection so that you may wear the corrective lenses.
The jumpsuit is designed to hold-up in the high-wind environment and protect you and your clothing in freefall and on landing. The jumpsuit also helps to deter the cold. As a general rule, the temperature will decrease by 3 degrees Farenheight for every 1000 feet of altitude, so for a 10,000' skydive, the temperature at altitude will be approximately 30 degrees less than on the ground.
The experienced skydivers you see at the dropzone will be wearing a variety of different clothing items, depending on what they are doing on the jump. Belly-flying jumpsuits are designed for belly-to-earth flying and look different than a free-flying jumpsuit (for vertical flying, i.e. head down or feet first). Some experienced skydivers wear gloves on every jump, regardless of the temperature. Helmets are optional for experienced skydivers. There are additional suits that instructors and camera persons wear. Most tandem instructors wear street clothes or jump pants and a t-shirt, while most videographers have camera-wings on their suits to give them more range in freefall (to capture that special moment). Bigger suits with wings on the upper and lower body are called wingsuits (the public often refers to these suits as bird-man or flying squirrel suits), and allow the skydiver to slow his/her fall rate and increase forward speed. Wearing the extra drag a wingsuit provides can increase a normal freefall from 60 to 240 seconds.
Whatever you wear, skydive near chicago and chicago area skydiving is the most fun you can have with your clothes on!
Skydivers come from all walks of life, and can complete in amatueur or professional competitions. Amatueur competitions are held nearly every weekend at various skydiving centers around the country. Professional level competitions are held annually and include the US National Championships (which also has amatuer level classes), the World Cup of Skydiving, and the Skydiving World Championships. The above mentioned competitions offer no purses for winning athletes or teams, akin to the Olympic Games. Professional level competitions also exist around the globe that do offer purses for winning athletes or teams.
A multitude of disciplines exist for competition, and athletes can compete in multiple disciplines much like the Olympics.
Formation skydiving is the discipline most known to the public, and involves teams of 4, 8, and 16 jumpers race against the clock to complete as many predesignated geometric formations as possible in a set time period after exit from the aircraft. One other formation skydiving discipline involves 10 person teams trying to complete one predesignated formation in as little time as possible after exit from the aircraft.
Vertical formation skydiving involves 4 person teams performing acrobatic maneuvers on upright and upside-down axes to complete as many predesignated formations as possible in 50 seconds.
Freeflying is a radical and truly 3-dimensional competition where 3 person teams freefall together in every imaginable orientation, carefully choreographed for speed and excitement.
Freestyle is a discipline where one jumper combines the dynamics of gymnastics witht he elegance of dance in a aerial performance.
Style and Accuracy is a competition where competitors perform a series of loops and turns in freefall as quickly as possible. Then on separate jumps they try to land precisely on a target the size of a quarter.
Canopy Formation involves teams of 2, 4, or 8 jumpers building geometric formations with their parachutes as quickly as possible.
High Performance Canopy Competitions are the most spectator friendly competition. Skydiving's most advanced athletes fly their high-performance parachutes through narrow courses over ground or water at speeds approaching those of freefall. Events include speed, distance, and accuracy. Other high-performance canopy competitions exist where competitors perform tricks while skimming across the ground (called Freestyle).
Hello: Winter is a time we don't make a lot of posts to this blog, but nonetheless things continue to move forward in preparation for the following season. This year the only team member around is Troy, as he works on the aircraft and (hopefully) the new building construction in prep for the 2016 season. We sold quite a few gift certificates and took many reservations for the 2016 season before Christmas.
The full season's schedule is up, so if you have a date in mind, pick it early and make your reservation. You need only leave a $50 deposit per person (it will be applied to your skydive), and it ensures the date and time you want to make your skydive will be reserved. Your money is in good hands, in 5 full seasons, we have never siezed a deposit. We want you to skydive. If we have weather-related reschedules, or if you need to reschedule for your own reasons and give us fair notice (we ask for 5 days), your money will move with your reservation.
The airplane maintenance is coming along, although it has been delayed. It turns out we spun a main bearing in the engine (not entirely uncommon, but involves more work), so we needed to get the case repaired and get a new crankshaft. We don't know when this happened, but a new (albeit minor) oil leak developed a couple years ago, and we think that is when it happened. Goes to show you how durable these motors are. Since the airplane is down longer than expected, Troy is cleaning up the interior and installing the trim we planned. Once the engine is done and reinstalled, Troy will fly it to FL to visit his family (this trip was planned for over Xmas & New Years but the delay changed that) and break in the $30K overhauled engine. The updated engine will take the airplane from 235 horsepower to 285 HP, resulting in faster climb times and less waiting for customers. The updated engine should last us 5 seasons before it needs major work again. Exciting times!
Skydiving Instructors come from all walks of life, and also may specialize in specific methods of instruction. In the early days of sport parachuting, nearly everyone learned using Static Line Progression. As the sport developed, additional methods of instruction were developed, including IAD, AFF and Tandem.
Static Line Progression is a method of instruction where, after an extensive ground school (6-10 hours of ground training), the student boards the aircraft supervised by a Static Line Instructor. The aircraft climbs to an altitude between 1800 and 4000 feet above the ground (3000 feet is pretty standard) for the exit. The student's parachute is attached to the airplane with a device called a static line. The student climbs out of the airplane and jumps off as he/she was taught during the ground school. The parachute opens automaticallybecause as the student falls away from the airplane, the static line extracts his/her main parachute. There is no significant freefall involved in the early levels of static line jumps. The instructor must meet minimum requirements (200 jumps experience, hold a "C" license, and complete a supervised proficiency card) to become a static line instructor Static line instructors do not jump with their students, only observe their exits and openings from the aircraft.
IAD (Instructor Assisted Deployment) is another method of instruction that is closely tied to Static Line Progression. The instructor rating is the same as for the Static Line Progression (the USPA instructor rating is Static Line/ IAD). The student still attends an extensive ground school (6-10 hours of ground training). The difference between static line and IAD is that the student's parachute is not attached to the aircraft, but the instructor holds the student's pilot chute in hand until the main parachute is open and he/she cannot hang on to it any longer. IAD instructors do not jump with their students, only observe their exits and openings from the aircraft. Jump altitudes are similar to those used for static line progression.
AFF (Accellerated Free Fall) is a method of instruction where the instructor(s) jump with the student. AFF involves an extensive ground school just like the static line and IAD methods, but is a bit more involved because of the freefall aspect. AFF students enjoy a full freefall (up to one minute) from the very first jump. AFF instructors need much more experience and must pass a rigorous course to earn their AFF instructor rating. Candidates must hold a "C" license, hold a USPA Coach rating or an instructor rating from another discipline (and have at least 500 jumps if the coach rating has been held for less than 12 months), have a minimum of 6 hours of freefall time, and complete a supervised proficiency card. The AFF rating is widely held to be the hardest instructor rating to attain. AFF instructors must be able to manage their own body flight, and assess and correct that of the student. Some skydiving centers have chosen to develop their own training program (such as AFP or STP) which exceeds the USPA requirements for AFF training, but the instructors must still hold the AFF instructor rating.
Tandem progression has allowed so many people to safely experience the sport of skydiving with little investment of time and money. When jumping tandem, you will be attached to a qualified instructor, and you will freefall together and land under the same parachute. Tandem classes last between 5 minutes and 30 minutes, depending on how involved the skydiving center you have chosen allows tandem jumpers to participate in their skydive. Tandem instructors must have at least 500 jumps experience, 3 years in the sport, hold a "D" license, hold an instructional rating, hold a valid FAA class 3 medical certificate, and complete a supervised proficiency card. Tandem instructors are often friendly and outgoing, as they work directly with the public.
The USPA Coach rating has been mentioned a couple times in this article. The USPA coach rating is a stepping stone to a USPA instructional rating, and allows coach rating holders to jump with upper-level students and recent license holders. To be a USPA coach, the candidate must hold a USPA "B" license or higher, have a minimum of 100 jumps, and complete a supervised proficiency card.
In order to skydive, we must use aircraft to climb to a safe altitude. The most common aircraft used for skydiving is still the Cessna 182 Skylane. Cessna has produced the piston-powered 182 Skylane since 1956. Other piston-powered Cessna aircraft regularly used for skydiving include the 205, 206, and 207 ( known variously as the Super Skywagon, Skywagon, Stationair, and Super Skylane). Skydivers have also jumped out of other Cessna piston-powered aircraft, including the 140, 150, 172, 180, and the 210. Cessna also builds a turbine-powered aircraft under model designations 208 (Caravan) and 208B (grand Caravan) that are commonly used at medium to large volume skydiving centers. Other manufacturers also build aircraft that is used for skydiving. DeHaviland built the Beaver and Twin Otter. The Twin Otter is the aircraft of choice at very large skydiving centers. Pilatus built an aircraft called the Porter, which has been converted from a piston to a turbine, and is used at a few skydiving centers in the USA, but is quite popular in Europe. Gippsland makes the GA8, which is primarily used down-under. Pacific Aerospace builds the PAC-750XL, which is becoming more popular in the USA due to its capacity and speed of climb. Finally Piper, who build the PA-31-310 (Navajo) and the PA-31-350 (Chieftan... we have one of these we are getting ready to use as a jumpship). In 2010, Quest started delivering the Kodiak, which is used at one USA dropzone already. Other specialty aircraft used include the Casa C-212 Aviocar and the Short SC-7 Skyvan. Skydivers have also exited from some very exotic aircraft including the Pitts Biplane, Steerman Biplane, B-17, B-29, and C-130 just to name a few. Most skydiving aircraft flying today (with the exception of the PAC750XL and the Kodiak) are from the 1950s through the 1970s, which seems very old, but the aircraft are very durable and well maintained.
Skydiving Aircraft Operations are followed closely by the FAA, and the majority of skydiving centers operate under Part 91 (General operating and flight rules) and Part 105 (Parachute operations) of the Federal Aviation Regulations. Aircraft is rigorously and routinely inspected, and operators must adhere to strict maintenance schedules, with complete inspections required as often as each 100 hours of flight time (as little as two weeks at busy centers). Skydiving aircraft at reputable dropzones is among the best maintained aircraft in the country.
Flying these airplanes are very skilled pilots, who generally hold commercial pilot designations. Flying skydivers is true hands-on flying. Quick climbs and descents are needed to keep costs down. So often we take-off very heavy (near the gross weight rating of the aircraft) and in tough wind-conditions. The load is shifting often during the climb, keeping pilots on their toes. During the exit, skydivers can produce an immense amount of parasitic drag on the aircraft, slowing it to near its stall point and requiring the pilot to compensate with the controls to keep it flying level and straight. Once the skydivers have left, the pilot must descend quickly to pick up the next load of jumpers, normally landing empty. The pilot must not only fly efficiently, they must protect the aircraft from damage/failure. On the climb to altitude, the engine(s) get very hot because they are working hard. On the descent, the engine(s) are rarely under load, and want to cool too quickly, which can cause engine damage. Remember, the pilot needs the airplane to work, so they take great care to fly it properly, while still adhering the Federal Aviation Regulations.