Skydivers Have 2 Parachutes | Skydive Orange

Skydivers Have 2 Parachutes

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

It takes two to make a thing go right

It takes two to make it outta sight

It takes two to make a thing go right

It takes two to make it outta sight

Hit it!


We’re about to bust a big skydiving myth and drop the mic! Y’all ready for this? Because today at Skydive Orange, the weather is beautiful and we definitely “wanna rock right now,” so we’ll try to keep this as brief as possible.

We get this question every day, and we’d like to address it once and for all. “Do skydivers have a backup parachute,” they ask us, “In case the first one doesn’t open?” The answer is an unqualified, slam-dunk YES. All skydivers make every jump wearing not one but two parachutes–a main parachute and a backup parachute (called the “reserve parachute” by the initiated). Here’s a quick primer on the whats, whys and wherefores.

“Toy” Versus “Parachute”

This is a kinda cheeky way to think about it, but it’ll help make the point, so bear with us.

Sport skydivers–hobbyists–tend to err on the side of performance when they’re buying a main parachute. Modern skydiving parachutes (we call ‘em “canopies”) have a lot of parallels with zippy sports cars. (Tandem skydiving parachutes are much more like soccer-mom sedans than Maseratis, but the general rule still applies.) Main parachutes tend to be colorful little marvels of aerodynamics, built for speed and agility. They float like butterflies and sting like bees, and they’re a wonder to behold. Main parachutes are the “toys” to which we refer. Of course, nothing in this world is perfect. Usually about once every thousand jumps or so (depending on a few stochastic factors), parachutes malfunction.

advanced technology makes parachutes safer

When a parachute malfunctions, the last thing the skydiver wants is to be riding another “toy.” They want a parachute–a parachute with one job and one job only, which is to conduct them safely to a soft landing. The reserve that replaces the errant nylon rocketship is the actual-factual parachute. It can only be packed by an FAA-certified rigger, and has to be inspected and repacked every 180 days, whether or not it has managed to fly in the meantime. It’s designed to open quickly, open on-heading, resist any kind of malfunction that might try to incapacitate it and fly down to the ground in a perfectly boring manner. In fact, these parachutes are designed to do just that even if the pilot is unconscious. Mind-blown? Read on.

Your Amazing Automatic Parachute

Tandem skydiving parachute setups (and most sport skydiving parachute setups) are equipped with a Automatic Activation Device (“AAD,” for short). The AAD is a tiny, uber-precise computer that calculates the rate of descent and altitude and deploys the reserve canopy at a preset altitude if the pilot hasn’t done so already. Distracted? Confused? Unconscious? No problem.

Fun fact: The Automatic Activation Device that is used with tandem skydives has been specifically designed to activate at a higher activation altitude. That means additional safety for the tandem passenger and the pilot.

first time skydiver landing at Skydive Orange in Virginia

Your Amazing Tandem Instructor

Technology, as we all know, only goes so far. Just like the tech that supports race car drivers, alpinists, and other high-octane athletes, it’s the skills behind the tech that make the world go ‘round. It follows that skydivers are extraordinarily well-trained to handle emergencies as and when they rear their ugly heads. Tandem Instructors not only have a minimum of 500 jumps apiece, but they’ve received intensive additional training and have been required to demonstrate their successful handling of a real-life “cutaway” before they’re allowed to instruct new jumpers. Also: They love their jobs. They’re not about to let a malfunctioning parachute ruin their day.

In closing, we’d like to share a few thoughts from your professional Tandem Instructor, who’s waiting patiently at the dropzone for your eventual arrival. In the immortal words of Marvin Gaye:


It takes two, baby

It takes two, baby

Me and you

It just takes two

It takes two, baby

It takes two, baby,

To make a dream come true.


Make your dream come true! Book your tandem skydive today.

Dave Harris Skydive Orange AFF Student

Dave Harris – South Riding, VA

South Riding, VA

The instructors and coaches were incredibly competent, professional and fun to be around.

The largest tandem skydiving center near Northern Virginia, Washington D.C. and Maryland.

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