As the prop engine murmurs and the plane reaches its cruising altitude, there's a moment when one of two things happens. Either your stomach drops, even before the rest of your body does, or a calming sensation takes over and a moment of zen occurs. Regardless of how you react to the anticipation of jumping out of the plane, the actual experience of flying is worth the uncertainty. As soon as you emerge from the aircraft, you'll enter an exhilarating free fall before deploying a parachute and gliding safely back to land, finally proving to your middle school sweetheart that you are, in fact, not a bird.
The certified instructors at Illinois Skydiving Center can fly with beginners during tandem jumps or train students to skydive on their own through programs that teach safety, jumping techniques, and parachute deployment. Flights can also be recorded so that students return home with a DVD copy of their flights.
After three years of soaring through the air with paragliders and skydiving equipment, Marc Radloff realized that simply flying wasn't enough—he wanted to teach other people how to do it, too. He opened On the Marc Paragliding to help the citizens of St. Louis and visitors alike climb even higher than the apex of the city's famed arch, guiding them through classes and clinics on the fundamentals of paragliding. Marc's courses accommodate both novice and experienced paragliders, whom can schedule trips to Whitwell, Tennessee, for scenic glides through the mountains.
Every single member of Fly Free Skydiving's large staff has gone skydiving before, even the pilots, and the most experienced instructors boast upward of 7,000 jumps. They all remember the feeling of being a beginner, though, and they cater to first-timers with their tandem-jump programs.
Such experiences begin before the plane's tires ever leave the runway. Instructors describe the experience in great detail: how the plane flies at 80 miles per hour, how maximum free fall speed is 120 miles per hour, and how, after jumping, the transition between the two speeds happens so gradually it feels like floating. Afterward, instructors and skydivers head to a Cessna 182 aircraft and zip up to higher altitudes. Once there, instructors and students, who are strapped together, take the plunge and freefall for up to 40 seconds before the teacher deploys the parachute. Because the teachers control the descent, students can simply relax and enjoy the views of the rolling hills and Mississippi River or focus their energy on trying to high-five any passing birds.