What to Ask Before Jumping Out of a “perfectly good airplane”?
Before making your first jump, make sure you are ready by knowing what to expect.
Click Here to read more….
How does one learn to skydive?
There are several different methods of training you can take in order to learn to skydive. They are: Static Line Accelerated Freefall, or Tandem . They are described below in greater detail. However, not all drop zones offer all these options, so you should ask the DZ which type(s) of training they provide.
It is your safety at stake and your responsibility to look after it. If you have reservations about making your first jump, make the effort to visit the DZ, check it out, meet the people and staff. They will be glad to see you, and you will be much more confident and comfortable having done so, and consequently have a much better time!
What are the age requirements?
16 and up. On the other hand, most Dropzones will require you to be 18 years of age to make a skydive. Some dropzones in some states will allow 16 year olds to jump with parental consent. So, if you are under 16, you will just have to wait; take up some odd jobs, and start saving your money.
On the other side, there is no maximum age. See the following question to determine if skydiving is appropriate for you.
What are the physical requirements?
In general, the prospective student should be in reasonably good physical shape, this is a sport after all. You will be required wear around 25 lbs of equipment, endure opening shock, maneuver the canopy, land, and possibly trudge great distances on foot. You will experience 30 degree swings in temperature, atmospheric pressure changes, 4 hours of lecture, and lots of beer after your jump! It’s grueling (:-).
But seriously, problems may arise where a prospect is too heavy (over ~250lbs/ 110kg, see below) or if they have medical conditions which may impair them during the activity. Someone who experiences fainting spells, blackouts, or has a weak heart should not be jumping. Someone with respiratory illness or sinus congestion may have a problem due to atmospheric changes at altitude. The better your physical condition, the more you will enjoy the experience. This being said, very few people have medical or physical conditions which actually preclude jumping.
Dropzones will try to work with you. If you have a question, ask them. As always, consult your physician. You may be surprised at the relatively few physical constraints involved!
Concerning Weight Restrictions, there are two primary concerns.
First, does the drop zone have a parachute system which you can both legally use and safely land?
Second, if you are going to be at the top-end of the safe weight range for a particular parachute, are you in relatively good shape? An imperfect landing will be much less likely to injure an athletic person. If this is unclear, consider the difference between a 5’10″ linebacker who weighs 240lbs, and a 5’10″ 240lb couch potato. If the linebacker has a bad landing, he’ll probably brush himself off and get up. The couch potato may very well injure himself substantially, lacking both the strength to withstand landing and coordination to do a good Parachute Landing Fall(PLF). With this in mind, use the following table as a guide.
Almost every DZ should be willing to let you jump. 200-230lbs The majority of DZ’s should be willing to let you jump. Being in relatively good shape is a plus.
Some DZ’s may take you, but will likely insist that you be in good shape, i.e. not a couch-potato. You must recognize that there is a greater chance of injury, particularly if you are not somewhat athletic.
A few DZ’s will be able to let you skydive. Without this type of equipment, you will need to be in excellent physical condition, and be willing to accept a greatly increased chance of injury in case of a bad landing.
Please note that this table is only a guideline. Call your local Drop Zone and discuss the matter with them. Also, there are experienced skydivers who are quite heavy — however, they likely learned when they were lighter and had mastered landing before they gaining the additional weight.
Can my friend and I share the same video?
The videographer jumps with each skydiver individually. You will not be in freefall close enough to anyone else except your jumpmaster for them to appear in your video. However, if you ask your cameraman, he may be able to get some ground footage of the other people in your group.
What does the training consist of?
There are three different ways of making your first jump: Accelerated Freefall, Tandem, and Static-line. For the Accelerated Freefall(or Solo Freefall) and for Static-line, you will be doing the jump yourself, so you will take a First-Jump Course in the morning and jump in the afternoon. The FJC teaches the student everything they need to know to safely make their first jump. The Freefall is a higher-altitude jump, and the Static-line is a lower-altitude jump. If you choose the Tandem jump, you will be with a jumpmaster the whole time and your training will take place in the air during the jump. Therefore, there is no first-jump course for the Tandem skydive. The differences of each are summarized below:
Static-line has evolved over the last ~30 years from its military origins into a successful method for training sport parachutists. The student gets hours of ground training and is then taken to an altitude of about 3000 feet for the jump. The jump itself consists of a simple “poised” exit from the strut of a small single engine Cessna aircraft. As the student falls away from the plane, the main canopy is deployed by a line attached to the aircraft. The student will experience about two to three seconds of falling as the parachute opens.
Subsequent S/L jumps require about 15 minutes of preparation. After 2 good static line jumps, the student will be trained to pull their ripcord for themselves. The student is then cleared to do their first actual freefall.
AFF or Solo Freefall was instituted in 1982 as an “accelerated” learning process as compared to the traditional static line progression. The AFF program will give you a true taste of modern sport skydiving.
The ground training is a bit more extensive than S/L (~4 hours) because the student will be doing a 50+ second freefall (that’s right!) on his/her very first jump. The student will exit the aircraft at 10,000-12,000 feet along with two AFF Jumpmasters (JM) who will assist the student during freefall. The jumpmasters maintain grips on the student from the moment they leave the aircraft until opening, assisting the student as necessary to fall stable, perform practice ripcord pulls, monitor altitude, etc. The student then pulls his/her own ripcord at about 4500 ft.
The AFF program is a 7-level program. Levels 1, 2, & 3 require two freefall Jumpmasters to accompany the student. These dives concentrate on teaching basic safety skills such as altitude awareness, body position, stability during freefall and during the pull sequence, and most importantly- successful ripcord pull. On level 3, the JMs will release the student in freefall for the first time, to fly completely on their own.
Levels 4, 5, 6, & 7 require only one freefall JM (less $$) and teach the student air skills such as turns, forward movement and docking on other people, frontloops, backloops, “superman” exits from the plane, etc.
Each AFF level is designed to take one jump, and requires about 45 minutes of training. After successfully performing the objectives of each level, the student moves on to the next level.
After graduating Level 7, the student is cleared to jump without a jumpmaster, to practice and hone their skills by themselves or with a coach until they qualify for a license.
Tandem jumps are meant to offer an introduction to the sport. They allow the neophyte to “take a ride” with an experienced jumper. A tandem jump requires from 15 to 45 minutes of ground preparation (it is not a First Jump Course). The student and tandem instructor each wear a harness, however only the master wears the parachutes. The student’s harness attaches to the front of the instructor’s harness and the two of them freefall together for 45 seconds, open together, and land together under one Really_BIG_Parachute.
Tandem jumping provides an obvious advantage for the adventurous spirit who cannot adequately meet the physical or proficiency requirements for the Static Line or AFF jumps. By relying on Tandem Instructor’s skills, they will still be able to experience the thrill of skydiving.
You can make several tandem skydives, learning more about freefall and the parachute on each jump, and then merge into the AFF program at Level 3.
In all of these training methods, students are taught normal and emergency procedures for all aspects of the jump – climb to altitude, exit, opening, canopy control, and landing. They are also shown the equipment and go over it so that they understand how it works.
Students have light-weight harness/container systems in aesthetically coordinated colors, as well as high performance canopies designed for students. No more paraboots — students use their own tennis shoes. No more heavy motorcycle helmets — students use lightweight sporting helmets. Ground-to-air radio for canopy control assistance, air-to-air video, on and on…
How do I tell a good Drop Zone from poor one?
Most dropzones that provide regular student training are “USPA Affiliated”. The United States Parachute Association (USPA) is the representative body for sport parachuting within the US, and a member of the FAI (the international equivalent). The USPA defends the sport’s interests before the FAA and other regulating/lawmaking bodies at all levels of government. It also develops and monitors safety and training doctrine for the sport. Other benefits include liability insurance for students and DZs in the case of damage to property, the monthly magazine Parachutist, etc.
The USPA has had tremendous success instituting rating programs for Jumpmasters, Instructors, and Instructor-Examiners to ensure that only properly trained and qualified personnel work with students. You should insist on USPA Instructors and Jumpmasters.
Some USPA-affiliated DZ’s have not been diligent in using only Currently-rated Instructors and Jumpmasters. Do not be afraid to ask to see your Instructor or Jumpmaster’s rating card. It should show the appropriate rating and expiration date. Also note that currently, Tandem Jumpmasters are certified by the equipment manufacturer, not USPA.
USPA affiliation is not required, and does not guarantee a DZ to be a “good” DZ, and non-affiliation does not mean the DZ is “bad”. However, the USPA, through their diligence and caution, has compiled an excellent safety record over the years. Other affiliating organizations include Skydive University and Parachute Industry Assn.
These are just guidelines. You should always check it out before you jump.
What if your parachute doesn’t open?
Clearly, this is the most Frequently-Asked-Question posed by all prospective jumpers.
By law (FAA regulations), all intentional parachute jumps must be made with a single harness, dual parachute system with both a main canopy AND a reserve canopy. In other words, you have a second (or spare) canopy in case the first one fails to open properly.
Additionally, it must be noted that the technology utilized in today’s sport parachuting equipment is light years ahead of the old military surplus gear used in the ’60s and ’70s. The canopies are drastically different from the classic “G.I. Joe” round parachutes. The materials are stronger, lighter and last longer. Modern packing procedures are simpler, and the deployment sequence is much more refined, providing smoother openings and softer landings.
The reserve canopies are even more carefully designed and packed. The reserve parachute must be inspected and repacked every 120 days by an FAA rated parachute Rigger – even if it has not been used during that time.
The student’s main canopy is always packed either by a rigger or under a rigger’s direct supervision by experienced packers.
There are also additional safety features employed to ensure canopy deployment such as Automatic Activation Devices (AAD) and Reserve Static Lines (RSL) which exponentially increase the level of safety.
How fast do you fall?
When you leave the aircraft, you are moving horizontally at the same speed as the aircraft, typically 90-110MPH. During the first 10 seconds, a skydiver accelerates up to about 115-130MPH straight down. (A tandem jump pair uses a drogue chute to keep them from falling much faster than this). It is possible to change your body position to vary your rate of fall. In a standard face-to-earth position, you can change your fall rate up or down a few (10-20) miles per hour. However, by diving or “standing up” in freefall, an experienced skydiver can learn to reach speeds of over 160-180MPH. Speeds of over 200MPH require significant practice to achieve. The record freefall speed, done without any special equipment, is 321MPH. For obvious reason, it is desirable to slow back down to 110MPH before parachute opening.
Once under canopy, descent rates of 1000ft./min. are typical. A lighter student with a bigger canopy may come down much more slowly, and, obviously, a heavier person may have a faster descent. Experienced jumpers’ canopies descend (in normal glide) at up to 1500ft./min. During radical turns, the descent rate can exceed 2000ft./min.
How hard is the landing?
The canopies used today bear little resemblance to the classic round canopies of years gone by. Today, nearly all jumpers and jump schools use “square” canopies for parachuting. These canopies are actually rectangular in shape, and when open, act like an airplane wing (or an airfoil). They are more like gliders than umbrellas.
The aerodynamics of the square canopy provide it with exceptional maneuverability, allowing the jumpers to land almost anywhere they wish. This wing shape also provides tip-toe soft landings for even the novice jumper. The days of landing like a sand bag are history. Most first jump students land standing up.
How much does it cost?
See our pricing schedule
Where can I try Skysurfing or BASE jumping?
In a nutshell, you can’t — unless you’re already a very experienced skydiver.
“Skysurfing” or “Skyboarding” refers to skydiving with a small board, similar to a snowboard, attached to your feet. This allows for some radical maneauvers in freefall. However, such jumps should only be attempted by expert skydivers, and preferably after long discussion with one of the many skysurfers who have experience. Some board manufacturers and experienced skydsurfers offer instructional classes or videotapes.
BASE jumping involves jumping off of fixed objects (like Buildings, Antennas, Spans (bridges), or Earth (cliffs)), and landing under a parachute. While being an expert skydiver isn’t an absolute requirement, you need a great deal of experience in parachute packing, canopy control, quick reflexes, and body position awareness before this can be attempted with any real safety. Start with skydiving, and then go from there. Furthermore, there are very few places where one may BASE jump legally, as most locations are private property.