SKY – DIV – ING.
This blog post is for those doing some soul searching about jumping from the proverbial “perfectly good plane.” You want to, but should you? You’re intrigued by the idea … buuuuut … feel a little unsure. You’re likely thinking that you’ll be that one rare statistic and so, the idea of skydiving is churning restlessly between your heart’s desire for adventure and your mom’s voice of your head telling you why it’s irresponsible.
We’re not going to try and convince you to jump, because maybe this isn’t for you, but we are going to challenge you to consider some questions to help you make the best decision.
The internal tennis match you’re experiencing is perfectly normal. In fact, not carefully considering the decision would be cause for concern. Skydiving is a big deal. It’s not a passive ride with a lap restraint keeping you “safe,” and because of that, the back and forth volley between “YES!” and “NO WAY” is a good sign. This conflict isn’t a signal that you don’t have the chutzpah to do it; quite the opposite. You’re not reckless, and that’s a positive. If you’re going to take the risk, then it’s important to ask the right questions and do your research (which is what likely brought you here).
The first question you need to answer is: What is your risk tolerance?
It’s unlikely you’ve given the notion of risk tolerance much thought. But if you have to consider it, then you need some hard data to help determine your risk boundaries. Skydiving is clearly not without risk because people have died doing it – but the truth is, people have died doing every activity there is to do! Nothing has zero risk.
The United States Parachute Association (USPA) has some data that highlights how many jumps are made annually versus how many fatalities actually occur.
In 2020, there were 11 skydiving fatalities out of approximately 2.8 million jumps. This equates to 0.39 fatalities per 100,000 jumps. This data point is a little misleading as it includes jumps by licensed jumpers who have a wide variance of experience, from novice to highly experienced, and who push the limits of equipment and speed.
The kind of skydive first-time jumpers make – a tandem jump – has an even better safety rate – one student fatality per 500,000 jumps (on average over the past 10 years).
Related: USPA Safety Statistics
While not apples to apples, according to Esurance, the chances of you getting into a car accident are one in 366 for every 1,000 miles driven. You may not die in these accidents, but it brings into focus that we live and accept this risk every time we get behind the wheel.
If you’ve looked at the data and feel comfortable enough to keep reading, the next requirement is to learn: How to select the best place to skydive, so that you stay on the right side of the data.
You won’t find an issue of Consumer Reports to help determine the best place to jump – you’ll have to figure that out on your own. The good news is there are some telltale signs: online reviews. Try to find the “obvious choice” by benchmarking each dropzone’s reviews on Google, TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Facebook. The average star rating and volume of reviews should give a clear picture of who is consistently delivering a great experience.
Also, we recommend calling each dropzone and asking questions about the safety record and the type of aircraft they fly.
What you should never do is select a dropzone based on the cheapest price or the one that’s closest to you – just as you’d never select the cheapest or closest heart surgeon! Be selective about where you jump.
BE DISCERNING – The culture of safety and service will differ from one dropzone to the next, so do your research. A great skydiving experience is more than simply exiting an aircraft, freefalling, and landing. The passion of the people and the culture of the business will play a role in your enjoyment.
ALTITUDE MATTERS – The higher, the better. If you’re looking for the best possible experience, schedule a jump with a dropzone that offers jumps between 13,000′ and 14,000′.
THE AIRCRAFT MAKES A DIFFERENCE – The size of the aircraft makes a difference especially if you want to jump with friends. The backbone of skydiving aircraft is the Cessna 182 – a great airplane, but it can only accommodate 4 passengers to an altitude of 10,000′. If you’re planning to jump with a group, the type of aircraft will play a big role in your experience and the time your group spends at the dropzone.
PURCHASE VIDEO – If you can afford to add video and photos to your skydive, it’s worth it. It makes for a more expensive day, but this experience will go down as one of your top ten life experiences. It’s worth it.
“OUTSIDE VIDEO” – The majority of today’s dropzones offer handcam video, but if you wish to elevate the experience, an outside video package is superior. Handcam is video (usually a GoPro) shot from the wrist of your tandem instructor. The result is the continuous shot of your instructor’s arm in every photo. Outside video is shot from a separate camera flyer who can capture your skydive from multiple angles and usually results in a much better exit shot (with the plane in the background).
The last consideration you need to make is whether you are eligible to skydive. The pre-requisites are as follows:
The largest tandem skydiving center near Northern Virginia, Washington D.C. and Maryland.