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 halojumper.com.

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.

Conclusion

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.

BASE Jumping, Skydiving or Parachuting: What’s the Difference?

Do you like the thrill of a fast-paced adrenaline rush? If so, then you may have considered BASE jumping, skydiving, and parachuting.

But how different are these three activities? Are they all the same thing?

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Let’s explore the differences between these three sports and help you decide which one is right for you!

BASE Jumping Vs. Skydiving

For an onlooker, any activity that involves jumping off a plane, cliff, or tall building is the same. That’s why skydiving and BASE jumping are consistently used interchangeably.

But there is a big difference between the two sports! BASE jumping is considered an extreme sport because of the dangers involved. These dangers include low altitude, small landing areas, and obstacles on the ground.

On the other hand, skydiving is not as dangerous because you’re jumping from a higher altitude and have more time to open your parachute.

Other distinctions they possess:

Number of Parachutes

BASE jumpers use a single-parachute system inside a simple fabric container.

It’s not certified by any governing body and is the product of many years of evolution since the game was created.

It’s a one-shot system because there isn’t enough time for backup emergency procedures after a few seconds of freefall.

Meanwhile, skydivers have a considerably more stringent and complicated safety harness system on their backs.

A skydiving rig consists of the main parachute and a recommended automatic activation device that activates the reserve parachute if the jumper loses consciousness.

Before sport skydivers use them, all equipment is subjected to rigorous testing.

Jumps from Different Locations

A BASE jumper aims to jump from a fixed object- such as a cliff or bridge- and land on a safe area for both the jumper and spectators. The sport can only be done in specific locations around the world which have been deemed safe by experienced BASE jumpers.

On the other hand, Skydivers jump out of an airplane and can land almost anywhere, as long as they have a clear area to touchdown.

This is why BASE jumping is considered more dangerous- you’re limited by where you can jump from and land.

Objectives

BASE jumping is typically done for fun or thrill-seeking purposes, while skydiving has both recreational and competitive objectives.

In BASE jumping, athletes typically compete to see who can make the most creative or difficult jumps.

Skydiving, on the other hand, has three main competitive disciplines- formation skydiving, freestyle skydiving, and canopy piloting.

In these competitions, athletes attempt to complete different tasks or stunts while flying their parachutes.

The Rules

Skydiving is a popular and regulated sport in the United States and across the world, with a strong emphasis on maintaining high safety standards.

There are places around the world where BASE jumping is legal. However, climbing something to jump off the top of it will often involve breaking a law or two. This is usually because of trespassing on private property.

BASE jumpers are usually responsible and unlikely to cause damage. However, even the most responsible people can get arrested for breaking the law.

Skydiving Vs. Parachuting

While skydiving and parachuting involve jumping out of an airplane and landing with a parachute, they have fundamental differences. Let’s discuss some of them:

Altitude

Most people start their parachute jumps at around 5,000 feet. This is high enough to get good winds, oxygen levels, and temperature as you reach the ground.

On the other hand, Skydivers travel at a much greater speed (up to 120 mph) and acquire that speed rapidly when they are freefalling without a parachute.

This is why skydivers need a greater altitude to enjoy freefall fully.

Freefall

Depending on their jumping altitude, skydivers typically experience 30 to 90 seconds of freefall while unencumbered by any safety net.

They descend gradually, allowing them to enjoy the wind in their faces for a few minutes before touching down.

On the other hand, most parachuters release their chute soon after exiting the plane. This means they are in freefall for a reduced time and have a more controlled descent than skydivers.

Because the parachute is deployed so much sooner, it takes longer for a parachuter to hit the ground than a skydiver.

Solo Requirements

Parachuting doesn’t require a lot of commitment to do a solo jump. This is because there are multiple ways to deploy the parachute. There are also other safety measures in place.

These days, there are even self-deploying parachutes that activate once the skydiver reaches a certain height!

However, skydiving is more strict because of the element of freefall. While being fun and exciting, freefall can be dangerous because you can reach speeds near terminal velocity.

Skydivers who use freefall techniques can also have automatic parachutes deployed, but things are different in freefall.

The jumper must be able to interpret an altimeter and other instruments while in the air, which is next to impossible without proper training.

Freestyle skydivers lack the experience to distinguish when it’s time to let go of the chute with enough time to slow down before hitting the ground.

Objectives

These days, parachuting is typically done professionally by paratroopers and military personnel rather than as a pastime. Parachuters are frequently paratroopers who utilize their chutes to rapidly travel from the air to the ground.

Skydiving, on the other hand, is a more worthy leisure pursuit. In fact, it is considered a sport (and an “extreme sport”) by people who pursue it professionally.

Sponsorships and teams are formed worldwide based on complex acrobatic routines that take place during freefall.

Parachute and skydiving have some areas of overlap in terms of training. The military uses high-altitude, low-oxygen (HALO) jumps as a covert method of deploying soldiers, and skydivers use them as an adrenaline-pumping event.

Parachuting VS. BASE Jumping

When it comes to BASE jumping and parachuting, BASE jumping takes the cake for being the most dangerous.

Because of the challenging altitudes and speed at which they jump, BASE jumpers have a much higher fatality rate than parachuters. In fact, for every 100,000 jumps, there are approximately 18 fatalities in BASE jumping as opposed to three fatalities in parachuting.

Here are other differences between the two:

Playing Surface

Parachuting is when you jump from a high point, like a plane, helicopter, or cliff. These elevated areas need at least 10,000 feet of altitude before descending to the ground.

Meanwhile, BASE jumping requires you to jump from a stationary object. You don’t have to worry about the altitude as much because you’re starting your jump from a lower point.

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This makes BASE jumping a more accessible sport, but it also means that you’re jumping from a less elevated area. This increases the chances of something going wrong during your jump.

Number of Jumps

There are typically three stages in BASE jumping: the exit, the flight, and the landing.

Parachuting only has two stages: the exit and the landing.

This is because parachuting doesn’t require you to freefall as BASE jumping does. You can deploy your parachute at any time, which gives you more control over your descent.

Objectives

Parachuting is a popular hobby as well as a competitive and dangerous activity. The goal is to land safely after parachuting from a high elevation point to the ground.

For experienced parachuters, their objectives become more challenging as they perform stunts and acrobatics in the air while maintaining control of their descent.

Meanwhile, the main objective of BASE jumping is to reach the ground safely after jumping from a stationary object. This is a more dangerous sport because of the challenges associated with height and speed.

Rules

Parachuting follows a set of rules and regulations. These rules are in place to ensure that all parachuters are safe when descending from a high point.

Some basic rules include weight limits, age limits, and required training.

Here are the most essential parachuting regulations to keep in mind:

  • The minimum age requirement is 18 years old.
  • Weight limit must be between 200-250 pounds
  • Participants must be familiar with all emergency procedures and how to react and execute if there is a failure.
  • Check your gear before you jump.

Meanwhile, BASE jumping has no rules or regulations set by any governing body. Basically, BASE jumpers just have a general understanding to “not kill each other.”

Because of the inherent dangers in BASE jumping, fatalities are more common, and there is less structure than parachuting. This means that there is more room for error and that jumpers must be responsible for their own safety.

Conclusion

BASE jumping, skydiving, and parachuting all have their own unique dangers and benefits.

It’s important to understand the difference between these sports before deciding which one is right for you.

BASE jumping takes the cake for being the most dangerous, while parachuting and skydiving have lower fatality rates and follow a set of rules and regulations.

Ultimately, the choice between these sports comes down to personal preference. So, what’s your poison?

Tandem Skydiving: Everything You Need to Know

Skydiving is one of the most popular adventure sports in the world with upwards of 3 million jumps annually. The thrill of freefalling from a great height, releasing the parachute and gently gliding towards Earth is hard to match.

There are two types of skydiving experiences you can opt for: Accelerated Freefall (AFF) and tandem skydiving. While you require legal training and certification to try AFF, tandem skydiving is ideal for those with no prior training in the field.

What is Tandem Skydiving?

tandem skydiving

Tandem skydiving is where you jump out of a plane that has reached a particular height, with a certified instructor deploying the parachute.

Unlike solo skydiving, where you are responsible for controlling every aspect of the jump and landing, an instructor guides you from start to finish during a tandem skydive. In tandem skydiving, the instructor controls the jump in its entirety — from the different body positions and movements while skydiving, to deploying and controlling the parachute.

Tandem skydiving is generally preferred by first-time skydivers or people looking to learn how to skydive. The adventure sport is also extremely popular amongst tourists in cities like Dubai, Sydney, Melbourne.

How To Prepare For A Tandem Skydive

You can prepare for a tandem skydive by reading up on the dropzone and checking out reviews of others who have finished a tandem skydive. This is important because you need to be able to trust the skydiving center before signing any agreement or making a payment. Once you’ve shortlisted a skydiving center, watch videos of other skydives to get a general idea of what the experience would be like.

The night before your skydive, try and get proper sleep and avoid consumption of alcohol or drugs. In the morning, eat a light yet filling breakfast and dress in comfortable clothing before heading to the center.

Most skydiving centers require participants to be at least 18 years of age. Kids between 13 to 17 are also allowed to skydive at certain centers with signed consent forms and if they are accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

Individuals weighing more than 200 to 220 lbs will not be allowed at most skydiving centers. This number slightly varies across different skydiving centers.

Comfort should be your priority when getting dressed for a tandem skydive. Wear loose, yet fitting clothing like t-shirts, pants or shorts because you’ll have to put on a jumpsuit on top of your regular clothes. Women can avoid wearing dresses, skirts or any material that flows to avoid getting it caught in the harness or the parachute. Comfortable sneakers are ideal for a tandem skydive.

Here are a few safety instructions you must absolutely follow if you’re planning a tandem skydive:

  • Listen to every word your instructor is saying and ask them to repeat if you have trouble understanding
  • After you jump, bend your body like a banana: head upwards, back arched in a u-shape position and feet pointing towards the sky
  • While freefalling, never touch or hold your instructor’s arms. They need their arms to be free to deploy the parachute on time.
  • When landing, lift your knees and feet to avoid your feet from touching the ground while in forward motion

Tandem Skydiving Steps

Wondering how the entire process of tandem skydiving works? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!

  • AAD: The Automatic Activation Device automatically deploys a reserve parachute when a skydiver crosses a predetermined altitude threshold at a high speed
  • Arch: This skydiving position allows divers to fall stably in a belly-to-earth position
  • Canopy: In skydiving terms, a parachute is called a canopy
  • Reserve Handle: This is the handle you use to deploy your reserve parachute
  • Container: Another term for the parachute harness that contains the primary parachute, reserve parachute and the AAD
  • Toggles: These are brakes attached to the steering line of the parachute and are used to steer the parachute
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Training for a tandem skydive takes between 20-30 minutes. It includes training sessions on how to exit the aircraft, maneuvers to employ while in freefall, how to deploy the main canopy yourself and more.

It’s imperative that you get to know and trust your skydiving instructor before making the jump. This involves verifying their certification and license. A certified instructor should have a Class D license and must have completed at least 500 jumps. Once you’re convinced of your instructor’s legitimacy, get to know them! The more comfortable you are with your instructor, the better your tandem skydiving experience will be.

The few moments before your tandem skydive will be nerve-wrecking. There will be a million thoughts darting through your mind which could lead to panic. To avoid this, focus on the positives of the experience. Talk to your instructor and get assurance from them about the safety of the process. If you’re feeling uneasy, have some water and take slow, deep breaths in frequent intervals. Close your eyes and think about the euphoric feeling of flying like a bird that awaits you.

Once you jump out with your instructor, you’ll experience a momentary sensory overload — this is because your mind and muscles will work overtime to adjust to the sudden pressure on your body. This will be followed by moments of absolute peace as you fall through air at a speed of more than 120 mph. The freefall part of your tandem skydive will last between 45 to 60 seconds — so make sure you make the most of it. At this point, the instructor will release the parachute and your speed will slow down considerably. The instructor will maneuver the parachute as per the wind and after 4 to 6 minutes of gliding, you’ll finally reach the ground.

Tips For Your Tandem Skydive

  1. Plan your day: Prepare to spend at least 3-4 hours at the skydiving center. The weather, most likely, will delay your skydive.
  2. Motion sickness: If you get motion sickness, inform your instructor before the jump. Guests prone to motion sickness get nauseated during the parachute descent because of the turns. Once your instructor is aware of your motion sickness, they’ll be more gentle while descending.
  3. Avoid alcohol: Drinking before skydiving is absolutely prohibited. Most skydiving centers are strict about alcohol consumption before the jump and can even prohibit you from skydiving if they suspect you’re intoxicated.
  4. Advance booking: Book your tandem skydiving experience in advance because skydiving is a very popular attraction and walk-ins are generally not accepted. Making a reservation in advance also allows you to plan your day better.
  5. Stay hydrated: You’ll be spending around half a day at the drop zone. Carry enough snacks and water to last that long. Avoid overeating or starving yourself before the jump, though, since you’ll be needing plenty of energy.
  6. Get goggles: If you wear eyeglasses or contact lenses, check with the skydiving center staff and get goggles to protect your eyewear.
  7. Mental preparation: Tandem skydiving is more of a mental challenge than a physical one. Taking that first step off the plane will require plenty of courage on your part and you need to be mentally prepared for it. To do this, have an honest discussion with your instructor. Talk to them about your fears and ask them about their experiences. This will not only let you trust your instructor but offer you some much-needed inspiration.
  8. Capture photos: Your first skydive will be a momentous event and worth remembering for the rest of your life. To capture the moment, get professional videos and photos clicked when you skydive. While expensive, your skydiving photos and video are incredibly priceless and hold immense value.

Tandem Skydiving FAQs

Q. What is a tandem skydive?
A. In a tandem skydive, two people jump from an airplane together, strapped to one another. It is the instructor who controls the jump, the canopy release and the landing.

Q. What is the difference between tandem skydiving and solo skydiving?
A. The biggest difference between tandem skydiving and solo skydiving is that in the former, the student shares a parachute with their instructor while in the latter, they jump alone and get a parachute to themselves.

Q. How long does a tandem skydive take?
A. A typical tandem skydive should take you anywhere between 4-5 minutes. The first 50 seconds are spent freefalling after which the parachute is released.

Q. Can you drink alcohol before skydiving?
A. Don’t consume alcohol or any drugs at least 24 hours before your tandem skydive.

Q. Can you breathe while skydiving?
A. Yes, of course. Even when you’re falling at a speed of 160 mph, you’ll easily get plenty of oxygen to breathe.

Q. What should I eat before skydiving?
A. Don’t overeat before skydiving. Ideally, you should have a light meal, such as a sandwich, salad or healthy snacks like trail mix, protein bars, smoothies, etc.

Q. How high does the plane go when skydiving?
A. Typically, an airplane will release jumpers into the sky from a height of 10,000 to 13,000 feet.

Q. Is there a weight limit for tandem skydiving?
A. Yes, most skydiving centers require that participants weigh less than 220 lbs/100 kg. There’s no minimum weight limit, though.

Q. Can you go skydiving in the rain?
A. Most tandem skydiving centers cease operations during rains. This is because there’s limited visibility when it rains and the raindrops hitting your body at the speed is not a pleasant experience.

Q. Do people throw up when skydiving?
A. Typically, no. There are instances where people throw up if it’s their first skydive but that doesn’t happen during freefall. Instead, most cases of throwing up happen during the parachute ride. Inform your instructor if you get easily motion sick so that they can maneuver the parachute gently.

Source https://friendlyskydiver.com/skydiving-altitudes/

Source https://www.trycrawl.com/common-questions/base-jumping-skydiving-or-parachuting-whats-the-difference

Source https://www.go-skydiving.com/tandem-skydive/

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