Among the top five questions we receive (maybe top three, actually) is about the weight limit for skydiving. If you assume the skydiving weight limit is a decision left solely up to the dropzone, then weight restrictions seem discriminatory and punitive – but that’s not at all the case.
Skydiving weight limits are in place for reasons of safety and comfort, and they differ from one dropzone to the next for a few reasons. Let’s get into the details –
The gear produced by skydiving equipment manufacturers is subject to rigorous testing before being issued a Technical Standard Order (TSO) from the FAA – which includes a maximum operating weight. Every product has its own TSO, which is why a solo skydiving rig will have a different weight restriction than a tandem skydiving rig.
It should be noted as well that military rigs have very different weight restrictions. We are often asked why humvees can be dropped under parachutes, but someone more than 300 lbs cannot be – the physics are in no way apples to apples. It’s not as simple as putting a bigger parachute in the mix!
For most tandem rigs, the total weight limit is 500 lbs, including the instructor, student, and the rig itself, which is about 60 lbs. This is why tandem skydiving weight restrictions in the US tend to range between 225 lbs and 275 lbs. Gambling with an issued weight limit would not only violate a federally-established order, but it is also irresponsible to the point of potential disaster. At Skydive Orange, we put safety first, always.
Comfort is another consideration with weight. You typically freefall at a rate of 120 mph; faster if you’re closer to the maximum weight allowance. Once the parachute is deployed, you decelerate to about 14 mph in a matter of seconds. The closer a tandem pair to the 500 lb limit, the more uncomfortable the deployment for both the instructor and the student. Skydiving is supposed to be fun, not painful!
The total weight under the parachute affects general wear and tear on the equipment and directly influences navigation too. The tandem instructor steers the parachute back to the landing area using hand-held control lines called toggles. A heavier pair is more challenging to maneuver and is also harder on the instructor’s body.
Body mass index is an important factor indeed. Skydiving harnesses are designed for lots of body types – tall, short, wide, narrow, heavy, and light – and in all cases, the person who is proportionate in height and weight is going to be most secure and comfortable. For example, an individual weighing 255 lbs and is 6’4” will fit into the tandem harness differently than someone weighing 255 lbs and is 5’4”. That point above about parachute deployment? Yeah, combine a hard opening with an uncomfortable harness … ouch.
You don’t have to be in the prime of your life, but you do need to be in generally good health. Tandem students are active participants during the skydiving process and must be able to perform certain tasks – from climbing into the plane and scooting to the door, to positioning the body in freefall and lifting the legs for landing. The most strenuous part for most is lifting the knees and feet. The instructor needs the student’s legs out of the way so s/he can safely maneuver the pair for touchdown, either sliding into home base together or landing standing up.
If you have any concerns about your health, weight-related or otherwise, please consult with your doctor before making a skydive.
Now that you know the ins and outs of how and why skydiving weight limits are set, let’s talk about the numbers in play at Skydive Orange.
Our standard weight limit for tandem skydiving is 220 lbs. We can accommodate some folks who weigh up to 240 lbs while fully clothed, as long as they are height and weight proportionate and in good physical shape. (Note that we do apply a surcharge of $35 for every 10 lbs over 220 lbs.) Those wishing to enroll in our Accelerated Free Fall program to learn how to skydive solo cannot weigh more than 225 lbs, including clothing and shoes.
Another popular question – “Do they weigh you before skydiving?” – and the rather unpopular answer: yes. For the safety of our guests and that of our instructors, we have to ensure we are within the weight restrictions of our equipment, and now you can plainly see why.
The safety of our guests is our number one priority. We recognize that weight can be a sensitive topic and we promise both discretion and empathy. Skydiving is one of the most epic and empowering adventures on the planet, and we want you to have the best day ever. Feel free to contact us should you have any questions at all. We are here to support your skydiving journey!
The largest tandem skydiving center near Northern Virginia, Washington D.C. and Maryland.