Skydiving Heights: The Altitudes You Can Jump From

An experience which differs greatly depending on what height you jump from!

The altitude you leave the plane defines how long you get to freefall. So what altitude will you jump from, and how long will that give you soaring in the air?

In this guide, I’ve covered all the popular skydiving heights.

In short, you typically skydive from 10,000ft – with about 30 seconds of freefall. This can increase to 14,000ft, or even 18,000ft, depending on the airplane and drop zone. That said, skydives can happen from anywhere between 2,200 – 45,000 ft!

Read on to find out what altitude you’ll likely be jumping from, and how skydiving from that height will look.

Note: freefall time depends on whether it’s a solo/tandem jump, and what altitude you pull your chute at. Tandems need to deploy higher – at 5,000ft.

Super Low Altitudes: 3,000 – 5,000ft.

Freefall time: 0-15 seconds. Solo jumpers only.

The lowest altitude we’re safely allowed to jump at is around 3,000ft. In some rare cases, experienced jumpers may even go from 2,200ft for a quick “hop ‘n’ pop”. These extreme cases are done on super cloudy days (common here in Scotland) where there’s not enough visibility higher up, and skydivers get bored waiting around!

A very common altitude is 4,500ft. This is the number for static line jumps – where the parachute is automatically pulled after you leave the plane. If you’re learning to skydive solo, this is your home base altitude until you unlock real freefall.

Hot Air Balloons

This category also includes hot air balloons! They can fly between 3,500 – 5,000ft when allowing skydivers to jump from them. This kind of skydiving feels totally different to jumping from a plane, because you get the butterfly feeling when jumping from a hot air balloon.

Base Tandem Height: 10,000ft.

Freefall time: 30-40 seconds.

10,000ft is the first ‘big’ altitude when it comes to skydiving. It’s the base for any tandem jump (below this wouldn’t have enough freefall time to justify it).

It’s also where many smaller airfields max out at. Running small Cessna planes like the one below limit you to around 10,000ft of jumping height.

Cessna plane limited to skydiving altitude of 10,000ft

Not quite a Boeing 747! Small Cessna’s can only fly to 10,000ft.

Ideal Height: 14,000ft.

Freefall time: 60-70 seconds.

Moving up in the world of planes and altitude gives us the great all-around altitude of 14,000ft. This gives you over a minute in freefall, and is generally the best option available for a tandem skydive.

Reaching these kinds of heights needs a combination of good planes and workable weather. Too much cloud cover means we’d be flying blind for too long!

Maximum Height: 18,000ft.

Freefall time: 80-90 seconds.

Now this is high!

It’s super rare for an airfield to offer altitudes this big. In the US, for example, there’s only a small handful on airfields which can take you to 18,000ft.

However, it does give you an extra ~20seconds of freefall time on top of the already massive 14,000ft jump. One jump from this height is the same skydiving time as three jumps from 10,000ft. Crazy!

At this height, you need a plane equipped with an oxygen supply just to avoid passing out. Though I don’t believe the oxygen is necessary in freefall, unlike the next category.

HALO Jumps: 45,000ft.

Freefall time: ~210 seconds (3.5+ minutes!)

A HALO jump is a special type of skydive pioneered by the military.

It was developed (and is still used) for undetected insertions of people or equipment behind enemy lines. The idea is to fly above radar detection, then drop a cargo which is moving so quickly downward, and so little forward, that it also isn’t detected. Typically, they also jump with very low amounts of metal to minimize the chance of getting picked up, too.

The low opening part refers to deploying the parachute at around 3,000ft. This is lower than most civilian jumpers, AND is done after falling for 3 or more minutes. Often at night. Ballsy.


Note – High Altitude, High Opening is also a thing. It’s used to glide over impassable terrain or equally avoid detection in other ways. Particularly from the loud noise of a canopy deploying.

Civilian HALO jumps are possible – but extremely rare.

Unless you’ve got friends in very high places (pun intended), there’s very few opportunities to take part in a HALO jump.

The only accessible one I know of is with the crew at

Jumps start for a cool $6,000 for a solo jump, or over $20,000 for them to take you as a tandem jumper. You can imagine how much it costs them to cover the huge plane, the oxygen gear, the training, and authorizations.


That about covers all the possible heights you can jump from.

Not forgetting the ‘0ft’ altitude of indoor skydiving jumps, of course!

I hope this quick guide helped clear up what altitude you’ll be jumping from, and what you can expect.

The most important part about skydiving is simply to enjoy it. Don’t worry about exactly how many seconds of freefall you’ll be getting – it’s truly the experience of it that matters!

If this content has helped you, be sure to check out our related content below.

Quick Skydiving Guide: How do skydivers move and breathe in the air? How do they land?

Quick Skydiving Guide: How do skydivers move and breathe in the air? How do they land?

Skydiving is one of the most addictive extreme sports that you can do these days. As the saying goes, “If riding an airplane is flying, then riding a boat would be called swimming. If you want the true experience, get out of the vehicle.”

And it’s 100% true. Skydiving can even be therapeutic as it stimulates much-needed energy and positivity. One thing that makes skydiving so addictive is the idea of literally flying in the sky – that moment when there’s no difference between you and the birds.

That brings up a lot of questions though. How do you even navigate the skies, and more importantly, how do you land without any repercussions? When I first got into skydiving, I used to worry about all this too, but thankfully that didn’t stop me. I’ve been skydiving for 6+ years now and will answer all of your questions (and more) in this quick guide.

Let’s talk about mid-air navigation first.

1. Do skydivers reach terminal velocity?

Skydivers reach terminal velocity about 10 to 12 seconds after jumping from the airplane. At that point, you reach maximum speed or the point of zero acceleration and begin to float in the sky as you descend to the ground.

Before I explain the steps, here’s what you need to know:

  • Terminal velocity is the maximum velocity of the body when flowing through any fluid. If you didn’t know already, anything that “flows” is a fluid, i.e., air is also a fluid.
  • Freefall is when you fall from the sky against only the force of gravity itself.
  • Acceleration is the difference in speed. If your current speed is more than your actual speed, you’ve accelerated.

When you jump out of an airplane, you start falling because of Earth’s gravitational forces, right? Any object near Earth’s surface will accelerate at a constant rate of 9.8 m/s 2 . So, when you jump, you fall at a speed of 21.9mph after 1 second, 43.8mph after 2 seconds and so on. On average, skydivers can reach a maximum velocity of 200mph during freefall.

The terminal velocity of an average skydiver falling is 118.6 mph. In other words, after a few seconds, you’ll fall at a constant speed of 118.6 mph with zero acceleration, and this is where the fun begins!

A. How do skydivers float?

Does that mean gravity doesn’t affect you after a few seconds? No. This is where Archimedes’ principle of buoyancy comes into play. In layman’s terms, the principle states that “when something is flowing through a fluid, it displaces the tiny molecules and will be met by some resistance from the fluid particles.”

In a skydiver’s case, this resistance is air resistance. After a few seconds, your body stops accelerating and reaches the terminal velocity. The air resistance at that point is equal to gravity acting upon your body, and the net force becomes zero, making your body float in the air.

Yes! That’s what makes skydiving so addictive. There’s no fun in constantly falling or getting hung on a parachute. It’s those few minutes that make it truly blissful.

B. Can you breathe mid-air? Do your ears hurt while flying?

Even at 14,000 feet above ground, oxygen is still in the air.

Skydivers can breathe mid-air just like they would on the ground – while both free-falling at 160mph and floating at 120mph!

Read Post  Do Your Ears Pop When Skydiving? Health and Safety

First-timers sometimes find it hard to breathe because of the extreme experience itself and not the lack of oxygen. But if you just take a deep breath and calm down, you can breathe normally. For the ears, it depends.

In general, your ears won’t hurt while skydiving. You’ll feel the altitude change a bit as it climbs, but that’s hardly a cause for concern. But skydiving when you’re congested can be dangerous. Worst case, your eardrums could puncture because of the congestion and blockage.

It won’t lead to permanent hearing loss, but it’ll hurt pretty bad. So, if you’re congested, you’re better off sitting one out.

2. Why do skydivers spread their arms and legs?

Skydivers spread their arms and legs to get in the “floater” position. This increases the air resistance (buoyancy force) on your body and slows down the rate of descent so you float longer.

You can fly (float) in the air and move around however you want by positioning your arms and legs. Even though it feels like something straight out of a comic book, there’s a scientific principle behind it.

If you look closely at the definition of Archimedes’ principle, it works based on how many fluid molecules are being affected, i.e., it depends on the surface area.

This means, when skydivers spread their arms and legs to get into a “floater” position, they increase air resistance by increasing the body’s surface area.

A. How do skydivers regulate height?

For those who have played GTA games and jumped out of airplanes using parachutes, you already know these two positions.

Skydivers regulate their height by using two body positions: floater and diver. In the floater position, you spread your arms and legs to slow down the fall, while in the diver’s position, you keep straight (like a missile) to fall faster.

Different positions have different outcomes. You can move a knee and turn a full 360 degrees. Here’s a video on wind tunnel acrobatics that’ll give you a good idea of the effect of different positions while floating:

B. How do parachutes work, and when to open them?

Now that we’ve floated around enough, it’s time to start preparing for landing.

Parachutes work by taking advantage of Archimedes’ principle. Its large surface area and circular design trap much more air than your body so a huge amount of air resistance is created to deaccelerate your fall.

BUT, there’s one problem. You cannot trap fluids, especially gases, as they’ll start moving in random positions to try and escape. This can cause the parachute to flip upside down, which is very dangerous for the diver.

Here’s an excellent diagram by explaining the process:

Diagram of how parachutes work

This is why parachutes have a huge holes in the front.. Since the holes are much smaller than the parachute, the amount of air that’s trapped is more than the amount leaking out.

So, you can still accelerate while making sure your parachute doesn’t flip. This also helps skydivers change their direction by changing the angle of air leaking out of the parachute.

Skydivers open their parachutes based on the altitude. They usually carry two altimeters (one at the wrist and one at the helmet) to measure their distance above the ground. In case of failure, reserve parachutes have AADs to automatically open the ‘chute after a certain altitude.

If you want to know more about parachutes and AADs, read my ultimate guide on reserve parachutes and how they’re different.

3. How do skydivers know where to land?

First-time skydivers, especially tandem skydivers, are often worried about the landing and whether it’ll be dangerous. But in reality, modern landings are quite safe because of the flaring (the act of stopping the forward motion) of the parachute.

Nowadays, skydivers dive in pre-determined routes and landing destinations. You have to steer your parachute to a well-suited area and start flaring the parachute as you approach the ground for a successful and safe landing.

Skydivers generally land in one of two ways: feet-first or butt-first. Both are equally safe and can be used by tandem skydivers.

Here are some guidelines about choosing the right landing spot provided by The United States Parachute Association (USPA):

  1. Always land under a flat and level parachute that’s not turning when you reach ground.
  2. Steer your parachute to a clear and open, hazard-free area.
  3. Use the parachute inputs to gradually bring it to a stop instead of hitting the ground hard.
  4. Use the PLF maneuver to absorb any impact if things don’t go as planned.

That’s about everything you need to know about skydiving for the first time – from jumping off the plane to landing on the ground safely. I recommend trying skydiving at least once in your life. If you’re like me, you may even get hooked! If you have any questions, get in touch with me.

  • Categories
Read Post  This is who died from Street Outlaws

I got into extreme sports about 20 years ago and am a die-hard adrenaline junkie. Just like in business, I choose my outdoor adventures based on how much they scare me. My goal is to share the lessons I’ve learned over the past couple of decades braving the unknown to encourage you to do the same.


All content cited is derived from their respective sources. If you believe we have used your copyrighted content without permission, send me an email at [email protected] and I’ll remove it immediately.

About Us

Elevated Adventurer is your go-to sherpa for all things adventure sports and outdoor exploration. Here you’ll learn everything you need to know about your favorite outdoor sports from rock climbing and scuba to skydiving and extreme sports.

How High Are Skydiving Jumps?

If you’ve never made a jump before, the thought might have just occurred to you: how high are skydiving jumps?

In skydiving, altitude is everything. In general, the skydiving height equation is pretty simple: the higher the altitude you jump from, the longer you’ll get to experience that sweet, thrilling freefall!

But to answer the question, “how high are skydiving jumps?” In short, we’d say it depends on the type of skydiving you’re doing. If you’d like an answer a bit more in-depth than that, we would love to explain. You see, though the range of civilian skydiving exit altitudes can range anywhere from 3,000ft to 18,000ft (with military operations occurring from heights of up to 35,000ft), there are some skydiving industry standards across the board.

Average Skydiving Height

Because of aircraft restrictions at the majority of dropzones, the typical skydiving height is 10,000ft. At about two miles above the earth, a skydive from this altitude is still pretty impressive. In general, skydives from this height offer participants a freefall of around 30 seconds. The reason for the lower altitude has to do with the type of plane that is commonly flown at skydiving operations. The reliable Cessna 182 is truly the workhorse of the industry. It’s typically the first plane a dropzone can afford, and many love the experience they get with the added fun of climbing out on the strut. However, this plane is not able to safely fly much higher than 10,000ft.

Now, if you come across a dropzone with a turbine aircraft, you’ll see the typical skydiving height averaging somewhere between 13000-14000 feet. Skydives from this height offer participants a freefall that lasts anywhere from 45-60 seconds.

How High Are Skydiving Jumps? | Skydive California

Low Altitude Skydiving a.k.a Hop-n-Pops

Some licensed skydivers actually prefer to jump from lower altitudes. This is particularly common with skydivers who want to focus on their canopy flight skills. These individuals prefer to spend their time beneath their parachutes practicing different maneuvers as opposed to experiencing freefall. This type of jump is often called a “hop-n-pop” because you “hop” out of the plan and “pop” your parachute. These types of jumps normally occur between 3,000ft and 5,500 feet.

High Altitude Skydiving

It is entirely possible to skydive from heights above 15,000 feet. Typically, these types of jumps are conducted by highly experienced skydivers as they attempt to build large formations. However, to complete a skydive above 15,000 feet, a jumper will need to use supplemental oxygen. Scientifically speaking, as you ascend to higher altitudes there is a steady fall in atmospheric pressure. As this happens, the oxygen molecules in the air are spread farther and farther apart. This means the oxygen content of each breath taken in is incrementally less. Simply speaking, in higher altitudes, the air is thinner. To avoid the altitude sickness that can occur with deficient oxygen, jumpers must have supplemental oxygen to participate in jumps above 15,000 feet.

Typical Skydiving Height at Skydive California

At Skydive California, we are lucky to have a Cessna 208 Caravan in our fleet. This bird is equipped with a powerful turboprop engine that can get our jumpers to 13,000 feet in about 15 minutes. Because of our aircraft’s capability, our typical skydiving height is right around 13,000feet.

Wanna see what all the hype about skydiving height is about? Visit us at Skydive California and see for yourself!




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *