About Sky Diving
Last year thousands of
people of all ages and professions ventured forth into
the world of sport parachuting. Many have since embraced
it as their favorite sport. Some will go on to
professional competitors and instructors. Others simply
found it is a terrific way to spend a weekend. Newcomers
to the sport have a lot of questions. Here are some every
Skydiving is a high-speed
aerial sport that exposes its participants to the real
risk of injury and death. Each year in the U.S. about 35
people die while making approximately 2 million parachute
jumps. Other skydivers are sometimes killed while riding
aboard jump aircraft.
Analysis of skydiving
accidents show that most are caused by jumpers who make
mistakes of procedure or judgment. Contrary to popular
belief, very few skydiving accidents or injuries are
caused by random or unexpected equipment failure.
Those skydivers who are
trained well, who stay current and who take a
conservative approach to the sport are involved in very
few accidents and suffer few -- if any -- injuries.
Some people prefer not to
expose themselves to significant risks, while others
accept the risk in exchange for the enjoyment the
Most parachute centers
require that each customer sign a legally binding
assumption-of-risk agreement. The document makes it clear
that the sport has its risks and that the jumper is
electing to jump in spite of those risks.
What are the
As far as the government
is concerned, there is no minimum age for skydiving in
the U.S. But most parachute centers require their
customers be at least the "age of legal
majority" in their state -- typically 18 years of
There is no upper limit.
There are many active skydivers who are in the 60s and
What are the
Although skydiving is not
a strenuous sport, people who are in reasonably good
shape enjoy it more and are less likely to suffer an
injury. Certain conditions -- epilepsy, obesity, heart
problems and others -- might preclude someone from
Anyone who thinks he has a
medical condition that would interfere with his safe
enjoyment of flying and skydiving should check with his
physician before jumping.
Where can I
make my first jump?
There are about 400
skydiving centers scattered across the U.S. Most are
located on smaller outlying airports. Some are large
commercial centers and others are small private clubs.
Many are opened year around, while those in the northern
states are usually closed in the winter. Some operate
only on weekends, but others are open during the week,
Most drop zones advertise
in the yellow pages of telephone directories under
"parachuting" and "skydiving."
Another option is
to call 1-800-SKY-DIVE. This toll-free number will automatically connect
you with a parachute center in your area. (As of early this year the network didn't yet cover the entire
U.S., but it did cover much of it.)
The Web offers plenty of
resources. Here are some links that are useful:
Skydiving Magazine's classified
ads. Includes many
of the country's better parachute centers, as well as
some in other countries, too.
Skydiving Magazine's advertisers. Links to parachute centers,
equipment manufacturers, dealers and others.
methods are used?
There are more than one
way to learn to jump. Over the years three ways have
proven to be effective:
Tandem jumping allows first-time jumpers to experience
the thrill and excitement of the sport without the
preparation and knowledge required for a solo jump. The
instructor controls the jump from exit to opening and
landing, so training for a tandem jump is minimal --
usually under one hour.
The student wears a
harness which attaches to the instructor's parachute
system. The pair exits the aircraft for a controlled
freefall of up to 45 seconds. The instructor deploys the
parachute approximately 4,000 feet above the ground and
guides you to a safe, soft landing under an extra-large
"ram-air" parachute. The parachute ride lasts
about five minutes.
Training: This conventional method is often used
by the military but is also used in sport parachuting as
the first step in skydiving training. A first static line
jump course lasts from four to six hours.
Most static line jumps are
made approximately 3,000 feet above the ground. A line
attached from the parachute to the aircraft opens the
parachute as the student falls away. It takes about 300
feet before the parachute inflates completely. The
parachute ride will take about three minutes, during
which the student is guided to the ground by either radio
contact or ground signals.
Fall (AFF) Training: This method of instruction
was designed as a safe and effective way to progress
students through freefall training rapidly. It is often
used by those seriously interested in becoming a trained
skydiver. The program typically requires a full day of
training before the first jump. Most AFF courses are
taught privately or in small groups, with personal
attention given to each student.
Using this method, two
instructors securely hold on to you while you leave the
aircraft together at 10,000 feet or above. The
instructors hold on through the entire freefall of 40-50
seconds, supervising the student as he or she performs
what was practiced on the ground. The student opens his
own parachute at 4,500 feet and follows ground or radio
signals to the landing zone. The parachute ride lasts
about four minutes.
A few other programs have
been developed using variations of these methods. Most
centers offer one or all of these training methods.
The more a student knows
about the sport, the better he or she will perform and
the more enjoyable skydiving becomes. New jumpers are
encouraged to take advantage of resources available on
the Web, in bookstores and in video catalogs.
This question is most
often asked, but hardest to answer. For a variety of
reasons, different centers will quote different prices.
It also depends on which training method used.
speaking, you can expect to pay anywhere from $85 to $125 for your first
static line jump and $100 to $200 for a tandem
jump. The AFF program is sometimes sold as a complete
package of seven to 10 jumps, costing around $1,500. The
first AFF jump normally runs about $250. These prices
include all equipment, instruction and the ride to
consider other factors besides just price. Different
centers have different facilities. Some are open only on
weekends and others more often. Some are close to home
and some are quite distant.
It make sense to visit a
parachute center before deciding to jump there. Pick a
day when the weather is good so you'll be able to see the
facility in action. Ask questions.
Experienced jumpers buy
their own gear. A complete set of state-of-the-art
equipment costs about $5000 and will last for thousands
of jumps if given reasonable care. Less expensive gear is
also available. It's every bit as safe as the high-tech
stuff, but it doesn't provide the excitement.
Many new jumpers, like
many new skiers, purchased used gear. It's less expensive
and serves the jumper well while he or she gains
freefall feel like?
Freefall is not the
"roller coaster drop" feeling most people
expect it would be. It is a comfortable sensation of
floating and support, with a slight pressure of air
against your body.
Freefall is the closest
thing to human flight, especially when falling
"relative" with other skydivers. In relation to
other skydivers in the air, a jumper can move forward,
backwards, up, down and all around in the sky. He or she
can dive vertically over 200 mph or achieve horizontal
movement over the ground up to 60 mph. The constant air
flow allows aerial maneuvers with precision and control.
If you want to experience
many of the same sensations of freefall without making a
parachute jump, visit a vertical wind tunnel or
"skydiving simulator." There are only a few
available around the world, including about five in the
U.S. Here is a link to a directory of these facilities: Wind tunnels.
opening and flying the parachute like?
"shock" of the parachute is much like jumping
feet-first into a pool of water. The opening takes about
two to five seconds and is not uncomfortable.
Square parachutes are
simple to maneuver and steer to the ground. Steering
lines are attached to the rear right and left side of the
parachute. By taking the controls in each hand, one
steers the parachute by pulling on one control. To turn
left, simply pull down the left control. To stop the
turn, simply return the control to its original position.
With the new, modern
square parachutes, a proper parachute landing is now just
like stepping off the curb. Parachutes used by beginners
are typically much larger and more docile than an
experienced jumper's parachute. Thus, landings are
generally soft in most conditions. This doesn't mean
jumpers don't get hurt while landing; they sometimes do,
just like participants in other active sports get
In the U.S., parachuting
is regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration by
Part 105 of the Federal Aviation Regulations.
The FAA allows sport
parachuting to monitor itself in training and operational
requirements. After all, it is a sport just like SCUBA
diving or rock climbing. The U.S. Parachute Association
has developed standards called "Basic Safety
Requirements" which all USPA affiliates pledge to
follow. BSRs represent the commonly accepted standards
for a high level of safety. They cover equipment,
training, DZ requirements, wind limits, and so forth.
After my first
jump, what's next?
Basic parachute training
consists of a series of jumps made under the direct
supervision of an instructor. Each jump is preceded by a
session on the ground followed by a jump. It takes from
about 10 to 15 jumps until the student is competent
enough to be cleared to jump without instructor
supervision. Since most students are weekend skydivers
who make two or three jumps a day, the typical student
takes about a month to graduate.
After graduation, the new
jumper practices his skills and learns new ones. He or
she becomes eligible to earn licenses that attest to the
From there the sky is the
limit. The new skydiver has the freedom of the sky to
share with others who enjoy the exciting sport of