How Safe Is Skydiving?

by Amy Garrett

Skydiving is a sport of choice for thrill seekers, but it can also seem scary to the uninitiated. That's not surprising considering that skydivers jump from an airplane that's 13,000 feet in the air or higher. Once in the air, they fall at a speed of about 110 miles per hour, which comes out to a drop of about 500 feet every 3 seconds before the parachute opens.

Once the parachute deploys, skydivers get to enjoy the view from the air as they drift like a colorful feather in the sky. Landing takes practice and skill to pull off gracefully but gets easier with experience. All told, the average length of a skydive, from the airplane to the ground, is about six minutes.

Is it Safe?

According to a Wall Street Journal article, thanks to current skydiving technology, jumping from an airplane and walking away in once piece is practically foolproof. In fact, a drive to the airport is statistically more dangerous than a skydive. Based on data from the United States Parachuting Association, the chances of dying in a car crash are 24 times higher than the odds of not surviving a skydive.

First-time jumpers almost always make tandem jumps. You'll only need about a half hour of training on the ground before you're up in the air with an experienced instructor. They'll be hooked up to you, and you'll make the leap together, stomach to back. You can get a great feel for the sport this way without having to invest hours into training. You can work your way up to solo jumping by taking skydiving classes and completing a number of instructor-assisted jumps before making the leap on your own.

Advances in Safety

Today's skydivers wear backup chutes that can be used in the very rare event that something goes wrong with the first one. There are also automatic activation devices, known as AADs, to provide added safety. Mechanical AADs have been used as far back as the 1950s. However, the newer digital AADs have superior accuracy and reliability. The small computers consistently monitor your speed and altitude to open your reserve parachute if needed when you're at a predetermined distance from the ground. AADs give you peace of mind that even if you pass out on a jump or something else goes wrong, your chute will still get opened.

If you're ready for the kind of adrenaline rush that nothing but jumping from an airplane can deliver, contact a skydiving school near you to get started with skydiving classes.