Is tandem skydiving safe? How seriously do dropzones take tandem skydiving safety? What are the risks of tandem skydiving? With those in mind, is skydiving worth it?
These are the most natural questions in the world to be asking when you’re considering throwing yourself out of a plane at 14,000 feet and entrusting your life and limb to a person–and a company, for that matter–that you’ve never met before. In fact: If you’re not asking those questions, the argument could be made that you’re totally nuts.
On a tandem jump, you’ll be harnessed securely to a qualified tandem skydiving instructor, so you’ll exit the plane together and enjoy the company of your professional guide to freefall for around a minute before your parachute opens and your instructor conducts you safely back to the ground. The risks of tandem skydiving are, of course, in the things–little and big–that could potentially go wrong as that process unfolds. If you’re worried about those eventualities, don’t worry: We’re here to break down tandem skydiving safety piece-by-piece, so you have a better understanding of what risks are involved on a skydive.
You’ll be interested to know that the numbers have spoken–and they tell us that tandem skydiving is now safer than ever. Since its invention in the 1980s, tandem skydiving has been the most popular way to try skydiving for the first time. The USPA (United States Parachute Association), which serves as the governing body for the sport of skydiving here in the USA, has been keeping careful record of injuries and fatalities since well before tandem skydiving was a “thing,” so we know pretty exactly how safe tandem skydiving is.
The most up-to-date statistics come from 2014, when the USPA recorded 24 fatal skydiving accidents. There were 3.2 million jumps in total that year, making for a total of 0.0075 fatalities per 1,000 jumps. That’s safer than even commuting, by a long shot–and that encompasses all skydives made by weekend warriors, competitors, hobbyists and stunt people. Tandem skydiving, tracked separately, has an even better safety record, with 0.003 student fatalities per 1,000 tandem jumps over the past ten years.
The technology of skydiving has evolved by leaps and bounds since its original invention. These encyclopaedic changes and additions to the equipment collaborate to keep us safer. Tandem skydiving and solo skydiving both involve jumping with two parachutes: a “main” and a “reserve.” The reserve is packed and maintained by an FAA-certified rigger. Should the first malfunction in any way, that backup takes over.
Interestingly, the reserve doesn’t even need to be activated manually. Most sport skydivers and all responsible tandem skydive operations utilize an automatic activation device (“AAD”) to ensure that the reserve parachute opens for us in the event that we are unable to open it ourselves. The AAD is a small gadget that monitors the jumpers’ descent rate and altitude. If the jumper (or tandem pair) is still falling at full speed at a given height, the reserve opens. Pretty cool, huh?
When you ask if skydiving is safe and you’re talking about tandem skydiving, you must take the quality of the tandem instructor into account. When you make a tandem skydive in the US and you do so at a USPA approved drop zone, you’ll know that the instructor you jump with had a minimum of three years in the sport and had completed five hundred jumps before she or he was even allowed to take the instructor course. They are then required to complete a long series of evaluations and exams to achieve their USPA-approved tandem instructor rating.
Beyond that, the tandem instructors we hire at Skydive Orange are exhaustively vetted. We take deep pride in our hiring practices, and we believe we’ve assembled a very talented, experienced, and most professional team in the business.
If you’re thinking of making a tandem skydive, we’d love to welcome you to our dropzone. Book your tandem skydiving experience at Skydive Orange–or get in touch if you’d like to speak to a member of our team. We’d love to answer your questions!
The largest tandem skydiving center near Northern Virginia, Washington D.C. and Maryland.