How Risky Is Skydiving?

Like everything in this life that’s worth doing, there’s some risk involved in skydiving. Chances are, if you’re asking yourself that question, you’re looking for a real answer –not just an offhand shrug-off. Good news: while tandem skydiving risks are real, it just takes a quick look at the USPA website–which has faithfully gathered skydiving risk statistics for half a century–to see just how risky modern skydiving isn’t .

Since the sport of skydiving is basically all about taking calculated risks in a way that inspires you and fuels your personal power, we’re really happy you’re asking this question! Here’s the answer, in the most thorough way we can express it.

Skydiving Risks Through The Years

In the sport of skydiving, we’re very proud of our safety record. Skydiving has been a widely practiced hobby since the 1970s, and we’ve made enormous strides since then as far as technology and procedures are concerned.

Back when leisure suits, architectural facial hair and disco were celebrated cultural treasures, the USPA logged 42.5 skydiving fatalities– total –per year. It’s important to note that, at that point, tandem skydiving hadn’t even been invented yet. (That landmark sits squarely in 1984.) That higher number probably owes to the fact that skydiving, in its early years as a sport, relied on its hobbyist jumpers to test the equipment as it was being developed: the “piggyback” main/reserve container systems, square parachutes and electronic lifesaving gadgetry that many of today’s jumpers take utterly for granted. Every jump, in a way, was an R&D jump, and the skydiving risk statistics make that fact rather evident.

Skydivers, however, are a hardy bunch. Even under the challenging constraints of less-reliable gear, knuckle-biting jump procedures and very little in the way of rules, that 42.5-per-year fatality rate was surprisingly low for the number of total jumps that were made under those gnarly conditions.

If you tear off a bunch of calendar pages, you’ll notice something awesome about skydiving risk: all that amateur “lab work” had a profound effect! The average fatality rate has steadily and significantly dropped with each passing decade. By 2009, that average had plummeted pretty much in half (25.8, if you’re curious).

Skydiving Risk Statistics Today

So, just yesterday–okay, 2015, if we’re being specific–the United States Parachute Association recorded 21 fatal skydiving accidents in the U.S. out of about 3.5 million sport skydives. If you throw that into a calculator, you’ll see that a sport skydiver–someone who throws themselves under their own parachute out of a perfectly good airplane, on the regular, in a wingsuit or alongside a group of 300 people or carrying an inflatable unicorn–has a 0.006% chance of dying from a skydive. That, dear reader, is the lowest rate in the history of the sport. Those are better odds than you enjoy when you’re driving to work.

Keep that in mind when you’re thinking about the risks of tandem skydiving. Tandem skydiving, as a matter of fact, has an even better safety record. Here’s the deal: there have been only 0.002 student fatalities per 1,000 tandem jumps, worldwide, over the past ten years. The National Safety Council makes the astute observation that you are significantly more likely to kick the bucket by being struck by lightning or by being stung by a bee. Our suggestion? Drive safely to and from the dropzone. That highway stuff is SCARY.

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Skydiving Injuries Factor In, Too

Dying–on the unicorn-prancing-across-a-triple-rainbow chance that it happened–would obviously suck. But that’s not the only thing you’re considering, right? You’re worried about potential tandem skydiving injuries , too, and that’s a smart thing to be thinking about. It should go without saying that far more tandem students roll an ankle, scuff a knee or get a bruise.

Here’s the inside scoop, though–that’s something you have control over. To avoid injuries on a tandem skydive, here’s your strategy:

  1. Go to a responsible dropzone. Most injuries in tandem situations occur when a money-hungry dropzone tries to pack in tandem skydives during inappropriate weather, or when a less-than-professional tandem instructor doesn’t provide the tandem student with thorough, meaningful instruction.
  2. Listen to your instructor and follow his/her directions explicitly. A responsible dropzone–like ours–will take the time to review your gear, the conditions, the procedures and the plan quite thoroughly before you go up. Listen carefully, and you’ll know what to expect and what’s expected of you. Result: You won’t be caught unawares.

Have more questions? By all means, ask. We’re more than happy to talk to you about any point of curiosity you might have. Rest assured: When you land from that first jump , you’ll understand how the risks of tandem skydiving pale in contrast to the rewards. Don’t hesitate to reach out!

How Dangerous Is Skydiving?

Skydiving is an incredible experience; one that excites and frightens individuals in equal measure. Whether you’re after the physical rush or looking for a more spiritual experience, as you toy with the notion of jumping from a plane, at some point, you’ll start to wonder, just how dangerous is skydiving?

Assessing potential danger before diving headfirst into a new thrill is, undoubtedly, a wise decision. It means you’re taking the experience seriously and looking to be as prepared as possible.

First time skydiver training for jumping from a plane at Wisconsin Skydiving Center near Madison

Without devaluing the necessity of proper research, when investigating the relative safety of any activity, it is also important to acknowledge that exposure to danger is a natural byproduct of living. Short of putting yourself in an airtight bubble, there is no way to completely eliminate risk. Likewise, there is no activity on earth that can be considered “completely safe.”

The question at hand for skydiving, then, is not just how dangerous is it, but is skydiving worth the risk? With the information below, we hope you’ll have the data you need to determine if skydiving is worth the risk for you.

Couple preparing to safely risk skydiving at Wisconsin Skydiving Center near Chicago

How dangerous is skydiving?

The allure of the wild blue yonder is hard to deny. Just look at the numbers. Every year, roughly 3.3 million skydives are made, and this has been true for nearly the last decade. Although, as we mentioned above, skydiving is not “completely safe,” as far as risk assessment is concerned, the chance of dying from skydiving is incredibly low.

According to the most recent data gathered by the United States Parachute Association, of the 3.3 million skydives that were completed, there were 15 skydiving fatalities. Based on this data, that is a 0.00045% chance of dying on a skydive. The statistics for dying on a tandem skydive are even less. Over the course of the past decade, there has only been one tandem student fatality per every 500,000 jumps, which is a .0002% chance of dying.

Contrary to popular belief, the majority of these unfortunate deaths are not caused by malfunctioning skydiving equipment or failing parachutes (today’s parachutes are wonders of modern engineering and are very safe). Rather, many of these skydiving fatalities are the result of professional skydivers pushing the limits with advanced maneuvers beneath their parachutes. The majority of the skydiving deaths which are recorded are the result of a pilot error, not a parachute failure.

Pure joy comes at any age when you

Is skydiving the most dangerous sport?

Comparing skydiving to other sports can sometimes be like trying to compare apples to oranges. Is skydiving more dangerous than tennis? Probably. Is skydiving more dangerous than scuba diving? Nope! Is skydiving more dangerous than another aviation sport like hang-gliding or paragliding? Doubtful. The risk quotient for these analogous activities is about the same, if not, actually, erring toward the side of hang-gliding and paragliding being the more dangerous options.

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The facts are immutable: adventure sports involve inherent risks. The difference lies in how these risks are managed.

Is skydiving high risk?

Skydiving is not without risk, but the mitigation strategies that are used within our sport, and specifically at Wisconsin Skydiving Center, allow us to minimize the risks that exist. By enforcing stringent safety standards, adhering to training policies, and employing thorough training programs, skydiving becomes safer each year. With over 13,000 skydives to his name, the owner of Wisconsin Skydiving Center, Bo Bobavic, is a living, breathing, skydiving testament to the relative safety of the sport.

Alex, Bo and kids at the Wisconsin Skydiving Center

Is skydiving worth it?

Truly, the answer to whether or not skydiving is worth the risk is going to require individual reflection. Though, based on what we see during our daily operation and statistically, based on the 3.3 million jumps that occur each year, it would seem that for many, the experience of a skydive is definitely worth the risk. Why is this? We believe it is because skydiving is more than a thrill: it is an opportunity to embrace the journey. It isn’t just a wild ride, it is a life-affirming achievement. Ultimately, the decision is up to you.

If you’re looking for more information on tandem skydiving, including pricing info, or for specifics regarding safety precautions taken here at Wisconsin Skydiving Center, feel free to contact us. We believe we offer the best skydiving experience in the Midwest and we hope to share the skies with you soon.

Skydiving Statistics

Skydiving is getting safer and safer every year in the US. The most recent data from the United States Parachute Association (USPA) shows that the number of fatalities per 1,000 jumps is at its lowest rate yet, at just 0.006 (in 2015). That’s half as many fatalities as there were back in the 1970s and testament to the great leaps that have been made in terms of skydiving technology and processes.

Skydiving is inherently a sport with risks. You are, after all, jumping out of an airplane. There’s always going to be a degree of risk involved, just as there is with any sport or even day to day activities like driving a car or crossing the road.

What’s making skydiving safer is the skydiving community’s ongoing commitment to mitigating risk. We do this through the technological advances in our equipment, the training we undertake and the process we put in place to keep ourselves, and others, safe. Let’s take a look at skydiving safety statistics, how they compare and why skydiving continues to attract thousands of new jumpers every year.

tandem skydive at skydive california

Skydiving Safety: fatalities and injuries

The USPA – United States Parachute Association – is the advisory body for the sport of skydiving here in the USA. Skydiving centers are not required to be members of the USPA, but the majority choose to be for the guidelines and regulations it provides.

uspa united states parachute association logo

The USPA keeps records of the number of fatalities and injuries amongst its members, of which there are more than 35,000 (which include tandem skydivers, professionals and hobby jumpers) across 230 affiliated skydiving centers.

The first-ever record of skydiving fatalities in 1961 showed an average of 3.65 fatalities per 1,000 skydives. As the years have passed and advances have been made, that number has reduced to just 0.006 fatalities per thousand in 2015.

Injuries are more common than fatalities in skydiving, but still far less common than you might think. The bottom line is that we’re jumping from an aircraft and falling at speeds of around 120mph through the air before deploying our parachutes and coming into land. It’s to be expected that every now and again, things don’t go entirely to plan. Often, this is through people simply trying something more advanced than their current skills allow. Other times, it’s as simple as somebody landing on an ankle in slightly the wrong way or even tripping over as they run off their speed.

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In 2015, there were 1,920 injuries requiring medical care out of 3.5 million jumps, or one injury per 1,806 skydives, according to the USPA safety records.

Skydiving safety statistics; how do they compare?

Given the safety stats laid out here, hopefully, you’ll agree that it’s quite unfair for skydiving to be perceived as a ‘risky’ sport.

In fact, there are many other activities you could undertake which are statistically much less safe, including (according to the National Safety Council):

Motor vehicle crash Stats

The chances of a fatality through a motor collision is 1 in 114.

Choking on your food Risks

Careful if you’re eating while reading this! Your chances of choking on that delicious bite are 1 in 3,461.

Bicycle Accident Statistics

They’re a much more environmentally friendly form of transport than the car, but bicycles aren’t without their risk. One in 4,486 people dying in a bike-related incident.

Hornets, Wasps and Bees Stats

These little guys are responsible for pollinating our plants and keeping our world looking and smelling great. But 1 in 63,225 people will die from contact with a hornet, wasp or bee.

Dog bite/attack Statistics

Man’s best friend isn’t always so friendly. The chances of being killed by a dog bite or attack are 1 in 112,400.

Lightning strike Statistics

A lightning strike is extremely rare – so much so that you can have a better chance of winning the lottery! The chances of a lightning strike taking you down are 1 in 161,856.

Skydiving Statistics

At a rate of 0.006 skydives fatalities per 1,000, that’s 1 fatality in every 167,000 jumps. This means it’s more likely you’ll die from a lightning strike, dog bite, wasp sting, bike accident, choking or a motor vehicle crash.

How skydiving safety improves

Safety will always be a hugely important consideration for skydivers. Even as our safety records continue to improve, we refuse to rest on our laurels.

Since the early days of skydiving, there have been some massive advances in technology, equipment, training, and processes.

For example, today’s skydiver always jumps with two parachutes – a main and a reserve. This means there is always a ‘spare’ should the main parachute fail to deploy correctly. The malfunctioning parachute is released by the ‘3 ring release system’, pioneered by Bill Booth in the 1970s.

We use a device called an AAD (automatic activation device). It sits in our parachute container and monitors our rate of descent and altitude. In the unlikely event, we are unable to deploy our own parachute, the AAD will detect our speed and deploy the reserve parachute for us.

skydiving aad cypres

It’s not just technology that makes us safer; improvements in processes help us keep track of our own equipment. The USPA even promotes a yearly ‘safety day’ for all skydivers to attend. This ensures their knowledge of safety considerations is up to date.

Skydiving is an incredible experience. Don’t let your fears hold you back; book your tandem skydive today, or feel free to contact a member of our team with any questions.




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