Falling Illini, an RSO at new heights


Photo courtesy of Cody McClintock

Cody McClintock, President of the Falling Illini, skydives at the Illinois Skydiving Center.

By Marissa Plescia, Staff Writer

For Cody McClintock, senior in Engineering, there is nothing more exciting than standing at the edge of an airplane, thousands of feet above ground and stepping out.

The Falling Illini is a University RSO that allows students to learn the art of skydiving in a safe and enjoyable way. The club travels to Illinois Skydiving Center in Paxton, Illinois, which is about a 30 minute drive from Champaign, to outdoor skydive.

McClintock founded the RSO three years ago because he wanted to share his love for skydiving with the rest of the campus community. Since then, McClintock said he has found a family with the RSO of people who share a similar love for skydiving that he has.

“I wanted to spread the sport of skydiving,” McClintock said. “Skydiving is amazing in general, but it becomes more fun when you jump with people you know.”

Today the Falling Illini currently has 354 members and makes regular trips to the Illinois Skydiving Center. 

“You will never experience anything like it,” Jef LeRette, owner of Illinois Skydiving Center, said. “Everyone should do it once, even if it’s only one time. It teaches you to overcome fear, gives you a sense of accomplishment, and will give you the memory of a lifetime.”

Most members of the club do tandem jumps, which is when the skydiver is attached to an instructor. However, for people who want to become licensed, they have to attend a four hour training session before doing any solo jumps.

“Most of our members are only interested in doing a tandem jump. We have a few students who are certified, though,” McClintock said.

Since most students are strapped to an instructor when jumping, all of the training is done the day of the jump. Skydivers also given goggles and a jumpsuit if it is cold. After getting harnessed, people are checked to make sure all their equipment is on correctly.

“Every jumper is taught that before every dive, they go through a series of equipment safety checks and practice their emergency procedures,” LeRette said. 

While skydiving is something that definitely takes a lot of courage and bravery, it is not out of the norm for members of the Falling Illini to experience butterflies before jumping.

“Being nervous helps make sure that you do all of your safety checks before ever getting into the plane,” McClintock said. “The instructors do a great job in making sure everyone is comfortable with the jump before the plane takes off, so it isn’t normally an issue.”

LeRette even admits to being afraid of heights, and said that one of the biggest challenges of skydiving is not letting tandem students know that he’s nervous too.

“It takes a lot to overcome fear, but we are professionals with an impeccable safety record – not just my facility, but the sport as a whole – so let us give you the time of your life,” LeRette said.

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