# Distance and Time to Reach Terminal Velocity While Skydiving

Oct 10, 2022

## Distance and Time to Reach Terminal Velocity While Skydiving

Falling At Terminal Velocity

Skydiving is an adrenaline pumping and fun activity specifically due to the awesome feeling of falling at terminal velocity through the air. As people often lose perspective for distances and time when skydiving, the question arises what distance and time are needed to reach terminal velocity.

A typical skydiver on a belly-to-earth position will reach terminal velocity at a speed of approximately 120 mph (193 km/h) after 12 seconds of freefall and a fallen distance of 1,500 feet (450m). Skydivers can also attain higher speed and distance depending on the following four factors.

### The Four Factors That Determine The Terminal Velocity (And How To Manipulate Them)

#### How The Jump Height Defines Terminal Velocity For Skydivers

The first important factor is jumping altitude. In theory, it should hold true that the higher the jumping altitude is, the longer the freefall and the higher the terminal velocity will be.

In practice, however, normal skydives are not likely to recognize this effect.

For example, the normal skydiving altitude for beginners is between 10,000-15,000 feet which will allow the jumper between 30-60 seconds of free fall. The skydiver is expected to reach a terminal velocity of 127.893 mp/h (206 km/h) after 12 seconds and a fallen distance of 1,500ft (450 m).

In comparison, experienced divers can go as high as 16,000 feet without oxygen support and would be able to enjoy at least 70 seconds of freefall. Despite the higher jumping altitude, they would only reach a terminal velocity of 127.894 mp/h which will not feel any different to 127.893 mp/h.

If skydivers want to reach higher speeds, they can either change their body position or they can increase their jump height tremendously by performing a so-called HALO jump.

A HALO jump classifies a jump with an altitude above 30,000 feet. This is so high that the skydiver will require special equipment for breathing and navigating.

Skydivers reach a higher terminal velocity during a HALO jump not only because of a longer free fall but also because of less air resistance. Air resistance is the force that works contrary to the gravitational pull of the earth i.e. it limits the terminal velocity skydivers can reach. (I will explain this relationship in more detail later in this post.)

Because air density decreases with increasing altitude skydivers will face less air resistance when jumping from 30,000 ft than from 10,000 ft. As a result, they will accelerate faster and to a higher terminal velocity. However, skydivers really need to increase their height by huge distances in order to recognize an effect.

On 24 October 2014, at the age of 57, Google’s Senior Vice President Alan Eustace set a new exit altitude record of 135,898ft (41,422 m) above Roswell, New Mexico, USA. As normal planes do not fly this high, he reached the desired altitude with the help of a helium-filled balloon.

Once he reached his desired altitude, he detached himself and fell to the earth at a speed of 808 mp/h (1,300km/h). The increased jump height together with less air resistance helped him to accelerate to this speed and to achieve the highest and longest free fall in human history (4 minutes and 27 seconds).

If you want to achieve higher terminal velocity you “just” need to jump from a much higher altitude! If you are interested in knowing more about the biggest altitude that humans can jump from (including whether we can jump from space), check this post.

#### How The Jumpers Weight Impacts How Fast You Can Fall

The overall weight of the skydiver (i.e. weight of the jumper + skydiving equipment) also increases the maximum achievable terminal velocity.

The average skydiving equipment weighs 55 pounds (25 kg). If the skydiver weighs 175 pounds (80 kg), his overall weight will be 230 pounds (105 kg). As a result, he will be able to achieve a terminal velocity of 147 mp/h (235 km/h) after 13-14 seconds of free fall and after a fallen distance 1,700ft (540 m).

In contrast, a skydiver who weighs 220 pounds (100 kg) will be able to reach a terminal velocity of 160 mp/h.

In order to leverage this effect, small skydivers sometimes choose to wear weight belts that will increase their speed. More specifically, during formation jump, it is really important that the skydivers fall at the same speed – otherwise, it would be nearly impossible to grab each other and to stabilize the formation during the fall. As a result, skydivers need to wear weight belts in order to have the same weight.

In competitions like speed skydiving, the jumper’s weight will also matter since the goal is to achieve and maintain the highest possible terminal velocity over a given distance.

Most skydiving centers in the US set their weight limit at 240 pounds for solo jumps and at 220 – 250 pounds for tandem jumps. If you are overweight and want to perform a tandem jump, I have written a post that explains the weight limits and presents ways to jump even if you exceed those limits. You can find the post here.

#### How You Can Play Around With Your Falling Position To Be Faster

The third factor that defines the terminal velocity of skydivers is their position in the air. If skydivers fly in a head-down or feet-down position they have much less air resistance than in a belly-to-earth position.

The different positions can result in a speed difference of up to 40 mp/h (65 km/h).

If you are beginner, you need to start with a stable belly-to-earth position and slowly experiment with movements in the air. Once you have performed enough jumps, you can move to the feet-down position and finally to the head-down position. It is important to progress slowly here as any mistake can result in a wrong parachute deployment.

In competitions and formation jumps, skydivers often fly in a vertical position because it is essential to track through the air.

For example, on 31 July 2015, 164 skydivers broke the head down world record in Illinois. They fell at a speed between 190-240 mph and formed a vertical head down formation in the shape of a giant flower at a jump height of 19,700 feet.

Read Post  Number of Skydiving Deaths Per Year

#### Why You Should Choose Good Weather Condition To Jump

Last but not least: weather conditions. Depending on the weather conditions, skydivers will again face a different air density and air resistance. Hotter air for example is less dense than cold air. Therefore, skydivers cut through hot air more easily and reach a higher terminal velocity.

In addition, skydivers can avoid jumping in areas of ascending wind. Ascending wind does not only slow you down but is quite unpredictable and therefore dangerous.

You can achieve a higher terminal velocity if you jump during warm weather. However, this effect is probably too small to be noticed.

### The Underlying Physical Forces of Terminal Velocity

If you are interested in understanding why the four factors determine the terminal velocity, I explained the physical mechanisms below.

Air drag – sometimes called air resistance, it is a force acting upon the opposite of a solid object. When there’s air resistance, heavy objects will have a higher terminal velocity than light objects. When a skydiver jumps from an airplane there is no air drag force yet. He will continue to accelerate to higher speeds until he encounters an amount of air resistance that is equal to his weight.

Gravity – is the universal force that attracts objects to each other (i.e. to the center of the earth). The downward force of gravity remains constant regardless of the velocity at which the object is moving but increases with increases proximity. As the skydiver speeds up and comes close to the earth, he will experience a larger force of gravity that pulls him down and makes him fall faster.

Air Drag Force = Force Of Gravity
When the air drag force is equal to the force of gravity, the object reaches zero acceleration and falls into terminal velocity.

For skydivers, achieving a state of zero acceleration does not feel like falling but actually floating or even flying through the air. It is one of the feelings that skydivers enjoy most besides the breathtaking and majestic view.

### What Is The Terminal Velocity On A Skydive Tandem Jump

During tandem jumps, we need to take into account the combined weight of the jumper and the instructor since each skydiving company has different weight limits. For example, a 165 lbs (75 kg) jumper with an instructor of the same weight at a jump altitude of 10,000ft will reach a terminal velocity of 170 mph.

If the same jumper jumped with an instructor that weighs 209 lbs (95 kg), he would achieve a speed of 270 mph and would experience a free fall of between 30-60 seconds.

If you perform a tandem jump, you will be much faster than during a solo jump due to the increased weight.

### What Is The Highest Recorded Falling Speed Of A Human?

On 14 October 2012, at the age of 43, Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner broke the World’s record by becoming the first skydiver to reach a supersonic speed of 843.6 mph (1,357.6 km/h) and by becoming the first human to break the sound barrier (768 mph; 1,235.98 km/h;) in freefall.

He was able to achieve a speed much higher than the normal terminal velocity of a skydiver due to the much higher height and because of less air resistance at the exit altitude of 127,852ft (38,969.4 m).

This jump is not something that will be easily repeated. The Red Bull Stratos Project took five years of preparation including developing new equipment, finding the best jumping spot and training physically for the extreme conditions of the jump.

During this jump, Felix Baumgartner smashed eight world records in a span of three hours. His free fall lasted for about 4 minutes and 20 seconds and the whole journey took 9 minutes and 9 seconds.

Hi, I’m Kai. The first time I jumped out of an airplane and experienced free fall was one of the most amazing moments of my life. For me, skydiving does not only stand for freedom and independence but being present in the moment and being respectful to others and oneself. Now I want to share what I’ve learned with you.

### Recent Content

For first-time jumpers, skydiving can be scary. This is because they don’t know how it feels, and they rely on someone else to bring them down safely. People also often lose perspective for time.

Once you become a skydiving “D” license holder, you can apply to be a tandem instructor and make a living by jumping out of planes. But what is the salary of a skydiving tandem instructor?

Hi, I’m Kai. The first time I jumped out of an airplane and experienced free fall was one of the most amazing moments of my life. For me, skydiving does not only stand for freedom and independence but being present in the moment and being respectful to others and oneself. Now I want to share what I’ve learned with you.

## LEGAL INFORMATION

This site is owned and operated by Kai Schmidt. Enjoyfreefall.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This site also participates in other affiliate programs and is compensated for referring traffic and business to these companies.

## How Fast Do You Fall When Skydiving?

It is very likely that your brain understands when you freefall from an airplane, you will go fast. But how fast? This is a good question as the answer involves a bit about how skydiving works. The scientific word for the maximum speed an object can achieve while falling is ‘terminal velocity’, but this speed is not the same for different objects (like people). So, how do terminal velocity, acceleration, wind speed, jump angles, and all of the other fascinating physical factors work while skydiving? Let’s have a look.

## The (brief) Science of Objects in Freefall

Gravity is a constant force generated by our planet, and if our falling objects were all exactly the same size, they would indeed fall at the same speed. The overall mass of an object—how big and how heavy it is—is what causes it to speed up. At the same time, the shape of an object and how big it is causes drag as it travels through the air, thus causing it to slow down again. The combined effect of these forces is what determines the terminal velocity of an object.

## The Freefall Skills of a Skydiver Can Change Terminal Velocity

It is possible for a skydiver to control their terminal velocity. While you cannot change your weight in freefall, you can change your shape and therefore how much drag you create. Managing drag allows skydivers to control their speed, meaning they can match their fall rates. Very basically, if you make yourself smaller, you go faster because of less drag. And vice versa.

In skydiving, you can also use drag to control how you move around in the sky. As you fall through the air the wind resistance amounts to a physical force that can be manipulated to move you in different directions. The best way to feel this on the ground is by sticking your hand out of a car window as the car is moving and paying attention to what happens when the air hits you at various angles. Again, very basically, if you want to go forward, you angle your body to push air away behind you.

## Different Methods Of Skydiving Produce Different Speeds

The most common number associated with skydiving speed is 120mph (200kph). This is both accurate and not really very accurate. Although freefall speed is a little bit different for everybody, having a number in your brain with which to make comparisons is important and 120mph is an approximate medium speed for the belly-down orientation used for skydiving either solo or tandem (the method for a first-time skydiver).

But there are other, more advanced ways to fall through the air that involve greater speed.

Freeflying’ is when you use your body and the wind to hold your body in head-up and head-down orientations, and has a medium speed of around 160mph (+/- 260kph). ‘Tracking’ involves moving some distance across the sky in formation (or solo) and, depending on the angle, the flight can have very different vertical speeds. Most impressive of all is speed skydiving, where the goal is to point your head at the ground and go as fast as possible. The world record for speed skydiving is currently 373mph (601kph)!

## Speed in Freefall is Like Nothing Else

The most important thing to understand about how fast you fall is that it feels like nothing else. There are ways to go faster than 120mph without leaving the ground, but there is no way by which to compare the sensation of the speed generated by using only your body and gravity.

Exiting the plane at 14,000ft altitude is the best bit, as you are already traveling forward at about 100mph (160kph). As you jump, your forward speed gradually turns into vertical speed over the course of the first 1,000ft (300m)—about 10 seconds into your skydive (100 feet per second!)—as you travel ‘down the hill’ in a great big graceful arc. It’s a beautiful thing.

## Slowing Down With Your Parachute and Getting To Ground Safely

The duration of freefall in a skydive from 14,000ft lasts about one euphoric minute, after which (at about 4000ft) you deploy your parachute to descend the rest of the way, safely and gently touching down in the landing area a few minutes later. A parachute operates under the same forces as a human when falling (weight, drag, shape, etc.), but functions more like an airplane wing. An average parachute has a vertical descent rate of around 17mph (although much faster and sportier ones are available) with a glide ratio of 1:1. This means they fly at approximately a 45-degree angle.

While 120mph is thrown around a lot for marketing purposes, the true answer is much more involved in skydiving speed. This is the great thing about skydiving. It seems very simple and is in a lot of ways (go up > jump out > land) but there is so much to understand if you want to dig deeper. You can spend a whole life involved in the sport of skydiving and learn new things every day.

## Distance and Time to Reach Terminal Velocity While Skydiving

Falling At Terminal Velocity

Skydiving is an adrenaline pumping and fun activity specifically due to the awesome feeling of falling at terminal velocity through the air. As people often lose perspective for distances and time when skydiving, the question arises what distance and time are needed to reach terminal velocity.

A typical skydiver on a belly-to-earth position will reach terminal velocity at a speed of approximately 120 mph (193 km/h) after 12 seconds of freefall and a fallen distance of 1,500 feet (450m). Skydivers can also attain higher speed and distance depending on the following four factors.

### The Four Factors That Determine The Terminal Velocity (And How To Manipulate Them)

#### How The Jump Height Defines Terminal Velocity For Skydivers

The first important factor is jumping altitude. In theory, it should hold true that the higher the jumping altitude is, the longer the freefall and the higher the terminal velocity will be.

In practice, however, normal skydives are not likely to recognize this effect.

For example, the normal skydiving altitude for beginners is between 10,000-15,000 feet which will allow the jumper between 30-60 seconds of free fall. The skydiver is expected to reach a terminal velocity of 127.893 mp/h (206 km/h) after 12 seconds and a fallen distance of 1,500ft (450 m).

In comparison, experienced divers can go as high as 16,000 feet without oxygen support and would be able to enjoy at least 70 seconds of freefall. Despite the higher jumping altitude, they would only reach a terminal velocity of 127.894 mp/h which will not feel any different to 127.893 mp/h.

If skydivers want to reach higher speeds, they can either change their body position or they can increase their jump height tremendously by performing a so-called HALO jump.

A HALO jump classifies a jump with an altitude above 30,000 feet. This is so high that the skydiver will require special equipment for breathing and navigating.

Skydivers reach a higher terminal velocity during a HALO jump not only because of a longer free fall but also because of less air resistance. Air resistance is the force that works contrary to the gravitational pull of the earth i.e. it limits the terminal velocity skydivers can reach. (I will explain this relationship in more detail later in this post.)

Because air density decreases with increasing altitude skydivers will face less air resistance when jumping from 30,000 ft than from 10,000 ft. As a result, they will accelerate faster and to a higher terminal velocity. However, skydivers really need to increase their height by huge distances in order to recognize an effect.

On 24 October 2014, at the age of 57, Google’s Senior Vice President Alan Eustace set a new exit altitude record of 135,898ft (41,422 m) above Roswell, New Mexico, USA. As normal planes do not fly this high, he reached the desired altitude with the help of a helium-filled balloon.

Once he reached his desired altitude, he detached himself and fell to the earth at a speed of 808 mp/h (1,300km/h). The increased jump height together with less air resistance helped him to accelerate to this speed and to achieve the highest and longest free fall in human history (4 minutes and 27 seconds).

If you want to achieve higher terminal velocity you “just” need to jump from a much higher altitude! If you are interested in knowing more about the biggest altitude that humans can jump from (including whether we can jump from space), check this post.

#### How The Jumpers Weight Impacts How Fast You Can Fall

The overall weight of the skydiver (i.e. weight of the jumper + skydiving equipment) also increases the maximum achievable terminal velocity.

The average skydiving equipment weighs 55 pounds (25 kg). If the skydiver weighs 175 pounds (80 kg), his overall weight will be 230 pounds (105 kg). As a result, he will be able to achieve a terminal velocity of 147 mp/h (235 km/h) after 13-14 seconds of free fall and after a fallen distance 1,700ft (540 m).

In contrast, a skydiver who weighs 220 pounds (100 kg) will be able to reach a terminal velocity of 160 mp/h.

In order to leverage this effect, small skydivers sometimes choose to wear weight belts that will increase their speed. More specifically, during formation jump, it is really important that the skydivers fall at the same speed – otherwise, it would be nearly impossible to grab each other and to stabilize the formation during the fall. As a result, skydivers need to wear weight belts in order to have the same weight.

Read Post  Solo and AFF Course Costs

In competitions like speed skydiving, the jumper’s weight will also matter since the goal is to achieve and maintain the highest possible terminal velocity over a given distance.

Most skydiving centers in the US set their weight limit at 240 pounds for solo jumps and at 220 – 250 pounds for tandem jumps. If you are overweight and want to perform a tandem jump, I have written a post that explains the weight limits and presents ways to jump even if you exceed those limits. You can find the post here.

#### How You Can Play Around With Your Falling Position To Be Faster

The third factor that defines the terminal velocity of skydivers is their position in the air. If skydivers fly in a head-down or feet-down position they have much less air resistance than in a belly-to-earth position.

The different positions can result in a speed difference of up to 40 mp/h (65 km/h).

If you are beginner, you need to start with a stable belly-to-earth position and slowly experiment with movements in the air. Once you have performed enough jumps, you can move to the feet-down position and finally to the head-down position. It is important to progress slowly here as any mistake can result in a wrong parachute deployment.

In competitions and formation jumps, skydivers often fly in a vertical position because it is essential to track through the air.

For example, on 31 July 2015, 164 skydivers broke the head down world record in Illinois. They fell at a speed between 190-240 mph and formed a vertical head down formation in the shape of a giant flower at a jump height of 19,700 feet.

#### Why You Should Choose Good Weather Condition To Jump

Last but not least: weather conditions. Depending on the weather conditions, skydivers will again face a different air density and air resistance. Hotter air for example is less dense than cold air. Therefore, skydivers cut through hot air more easily and reach a higher terminal velocity.

In addition, skydivers can avoid jumping in areas of ascending wind. Ascending wind does not only slow you down but is quite unpredictable and therefore dangerous.

You can achieve a higher terminal velocity if you jump during warm weather. However, this effect is probably too small to be noticed.

### The Underlying Physical Forces of Terminal Velocity

If you are interested in understanding why the four factors determine the terminal velocity, I explained the physical mechanisms below.

Air drag – sometimes called air resistance, it is a force acting upon the opposite of a solid object. When there’s air resistance, heavy objects will have a higher terminal velocity than light objects. When a skydiver jumps from an airplane there is no air drag force yet. He will continue to accelerate to higher speeds until he encounters an amount of air resistance that is equal to his weight.

Gravity – is the universal force that attracts objects to each other (i.e. to the center of the earth). The downward force of gravity remains constant regardless of the velocity at which the object is moving but increases with increases proximity. As the skydiver speeds up and comes close to the earth, he will experience a larger force of gravity that pulls him down and makes him fall faster.

Air Drag Force = Force Of Gravity
When the air drag force is equal to the force of gravity, the object reaches zero acceleration and falls into terminal velocity.

For skydivers, achieving a state of zero acceleration does not feel like falling but actually floating or even flying through the air. It is one of the feelings that skydivers enjoy most besides the breathtaking and majestic view.

### What Is The Terminal Velocity On A Skydive Tandem Jump

During tandem jumps, we need to take into account the combined weight of the jumper and the instructor since each skydiving company has different weight limits. For example, a 165 lbs (75 kg) jumper with an instructor of the same weight at a jump altitude of 10,000ft will reach a terminal velocity of 170 mph.

If the same jumper jumped with an instructor that weighs 209 lbs (95 kg), he would achieve a speed of 270 mph and would experience a free fall of between 30-60 seconds.

If you perform a tandem jump, you will be much faster than during a solo jump due to the increased weight.

### What Is The Highest Recorded Falling Speed Of A Human?

On 14 October 2012, at the age of 43, Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner broke the World’s record by becoming the first skydiver to reach a supersonic speed of 843.6 mph (1,357.6 km/h) and by becoming the first human to break the sound barrier (768 mph; 1,235.98 km/h;) in freefall.

He was able to achieve a speed much higher than the normal terminal velocity of a skydiver due to the much higher height and because of less air resistance at the exit altitude of 127,852ft (38,969.4 m).

This jump is not something that will be easily repeated. The Red Bull Stratos Project took five years of preparation including developing new equipment, finding the best jumping spot and training physically for the extreme conditions of the jump.

During this jump, Felix Baumgartner smashed eight world records in a span of three hours. His free fall lasted for about 4 minutes and 20 seconds and the whole journey took 9 minutes and 9 seconds.

Hi, I’m Kai. The first time I jumped out of an airplane and experienced free fall was one of the most amazing moments of my life. For me, skydiving does not only stand for freedom and independence but being present in the moment and being respectful to others and oneself. Now I want to share what I’ve learned with you.

### Recent Content

For first-time jumpers, skydiving can be scary. This is because they don’t know how it feels, and they rely on someone else to bring them down safely. People also often lose perspective for time.

Once you become a skydiving “D” license holder, you can apply to be a tandem instructor and make a living by jumping out of planes. But what is the salary of a skydiving tandem instructor?

Hi, I’m Kai. The first time I jumped out of an airplane and experienced free fall was one of the most amazing moments of my life. For me, skydiving does not only stand for freedom and independence but being present in the moment and being respectful to others and oneself. Now I want to share what I’ve learned with you.

## LEGAL INFORMATION

This site is owned and operated by Kai Schmidt. Enjoyfreefall.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This site also participates in other affiliate programs and is compensated for referring traffic and business to these companies.

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