Skydive Chicago was founded in Ottawa, IL in 1993 at the old Ottawa airport. When it became clear that space for expansion was limited, Skydive Chicago embarked on an ambitious plan to build a new airport, from scratch, just north of Dayton, adjacent to the beautiful Fox River valley. The new airport, campgrounds, and canoeing center opened in 1998, and has been a large destination for visitors to the Ottawa area.
Prior to building the airport, Skydive Chicago went through a number of reviews and public hearings. In those hearings, the Illinois Department of Transportation representatives were quite happy to boast about the safe layout of the airport, with regard to the lack of nearby obstructions. They loved the availability of nearby emergency landing areas, and commented that this was a very safe airport layout.
As a busy skydiving center, Skydive Chicago has trained literally thousands of skydiving students. With modern training and radio assistance, these students normally land in the primary landing area. It is always possible, however, that students or even other skydivers may not always be able to land in the designated area. This may be due to:
In these situations, skydivers may need to land to the east, directly in the path of the proposed power lines. A landing aircraft, when presented with an obstacle, can add power and “go around”. An unpowered parachute cannot. If these power lines would have been built as planned, these people would have been presented with the poor choices of trying to land near the wires without dying from electrocution, or landing in the Fox River, without dying from drowning. It is clear that construction of these lines could have been a significant factor in numerous serious injuries or fatalities. In the end, it could have shut down one of Ottawa's major tourist attractions and major source of revenue for the area. Other routes never presented this same hazard to the public, nor this negative economic impact to the community.
This public safety hazard had been ignored by the planning that led to the stipulated route. Thanks to our untiring efforts, Judge Albers has recognized that this is an important consideration and reflects that in his ruling.