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[P]
Your First Skydive: A HOWTO

By bananajr in Culture
Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 04:49:42 PM EST
Tags: etc (all tags)
/etc

Having just spent Saturday pushing three of my good friends out of an airplane, I thought I would share some thoughts on the what, why, and how of making one's first skydive.


I have been skydiving for just about four years, having started in the summer of 1998, and in that time I have made nearly 400 jumps.  An experienced and dedicated skydiver will often make upwards of ten to fifteen jumps in a day, and often jump three to four days a week.  By these standards, my jump count is rather low, but my time in the sport has given me some insight into how to make one's first jump a successful one.

But first, the fine print: Sport parachuting or skydiving is a potentially dangerous activity that can result in injury or death. EACH INDIVIDUAL PARTICIPANT, REGARDLESS OF EXPERIENCE, HAS FINAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR HIS OR HER OWN SAFETY. THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION IS PRESENTED IN THE HOPE THAT IT WILL BE USEFUL; HOWEVER, THE AUTHOR MAKES NO WARRANTIES OR REPRESENTATIONS AND ASSUMES NO LIABILITY CONCERNING THE VALIDITY OF ANY ADVICE, OPINION, OR RECOMMENDATIONS EXPRESSED IN THIS MATERIAL. ALL INDIVIDUALS RELYING ON THIS MATERIAL DO SO AT THEIR OWN RISK.

Many readers may be asking why they would want to do such an unnatural thing as jump out of a perfectly good airplane.  Ask that question of anyone who's made a skydive, and they will likely recite the common mantra, "there's no such thing as a perfectly good airplane."  But I firmly believe that skydiving is not for everyone.  Most importantly, if you have health problems that could be exacerbated by a large surge in adrenaline or a shock to the torso equivalent to jumping off a picnic table, you should seriously reconsider or consult a doctor before heading to the drop zone.  Second in importance is that you have to want to skydive.  Consider your motivations; if you're heading to the drop zone because you were pressured into it in any way, turn around right now, go home, maybe pick up a copy of Drop Zone on the way if you're feeling like you missed out.  In the end, you would only be spending a lot of money and misery in order to impress someone.  

Be aware that in many countries there are restrictions on the minimum age one has to be in order to make a jump.  In most of the U.S., you must be 18 years old to make a tandem skydive and 16 to make an AFF jump (see below).  Many drop zones also have a maximum weight restriction for safety reasons.

Given all that, the possible reasons for making your first skydive are numerous.  Some people go for the adrenaline rush.  Some go for the beauty of seeing the unobstructed planet from 13,500 feet up.  And some go for the simple reason that getting out of one's element gives a person a new perspective, and forces her to grow as a person.  When one is plummeting to the earth at upwards of 120 miles per hour, the fact that the dog ate your homework yesterday doesn't seem so important.  Ultimately, everyone shows up for different reasons.

Now, motivations in hand, you're ready to set up your jump.  There are three factors to consider: the type of jump you wish to make, the location of the drop zone, and the price.  The information below refers mainly to skydiving operations in the U.S. and Canada, although skydiving organizations in other countries, if they exist, generally operate on similar principles.

For your first jump, you can choose from three types of skydives.  By far the most common is the tandem skydive.  This essentially involves strapping a large jumpmaster to your back who will subsequently push you out the door of the aircraft,  keep you stable in the air, deploy the parachute, and pilot you safely to the ground.  Tandem jumpmasters are fully trained to deal with all aspects of the skydive and any malfunctions which might occur, and you will only need to go through about a half hour of simple procedural instruction before making your jump.

You can also make an AFF jump.  AFF refers to the Accelerated Free Fall program, which is the course for new skydivers recommended by the United States Parachute Association (USPA), an organization which develops safety standards and training programs for member drop zones, as well as representing the skydiving community to the Federal Aviation Administration and lobbying on it's behalf.  Successful completion of this jump will start you on the path towards your skydiving license.  You will be wearing your own (rented) parachute in freefall with a jumpmaster on either side to stabilize you.  You will also deploy the parachute yourself, steer the canopy to the ground, and land all under your own control.  As such, you will need to go through much more training than the tandem (expect six to eight hours of class time), learning the procedures of the skydive, the basics of body flight, how a parachute works and how to deploy it (dealing with any malfunctions that may occur), how to fly your canopy in a proper landing pattern, and how to land.  You will be required to complete a series of maneuvers in freefall, which will convince your jumpmasters that you can fly stably, that you will know where your ripcord is when it comes time to deploy, and that you are aware of your altitude at all time.  It can be a lot to think about for a first jump, and for this reason you may be better off doing a tandem for your first jump in order to get used to the basic sensation of freefall, even if you're convinced that you want to complete AFF.  Remember, you will not save any money if you have to repeat your first AFF jump.

Finally, some drop zones still offer static line jumps.  In a static line jump you are wearing your own parachute, but it's ripcord is attached to the jump plane via a long cord, so that when you jump out your parachute will deploy automatically.  You will usually be jumping from a much lower altitude, and you don't get much freefall time.  In times past, students were required to complete a series of static line jumps as part of their training, but this system has been mostly made obsolete by AFF.

Next, you'll want to find a drop zone (DZ).  Depending where you live, you may have only one option within reasonable distance.  You might not even have that, in which case you had best contact your local travel agent.  But most major metropolitan areas have two or three choices, and it may be wise to consider driving a little farther to get a better value.  Start by consulting the USPA's drop zone directory.  Not all DZ's are USPA members, but those that are are required to adhere to a minimum of safety standards, making it wise to restrict your choices.  Also, if you have friends who have made jumps in the past, be sure and solicit their recommendations in order to choose the friendliest, most safety-conscious DZ available to you.

You will also want to consider price in your decision.  A tandem jump will cost you $175, give or take $20, which includes the cost of renting the parachute, jet fuel for yourself and your tandem master, and some profit for him and the DZ.  This price usually gets you a jump from 13,500 feet, and lower altitudes (often depending on the capabilities of the aircraft) will be cheaper.  You can also often arrange discounts for large groups.  An AFF jump is more expensive (you're paying for a half day of ground school plus jet fuel for another jumpmaster), and prices can vary widely depending on the altitude of the jump, the quality of the rental gear, and the wage of the jumpmasters.  Given equal confidence in two DZ's, go ahead and choose the one with the lowest price for the type of jump you want to do.  Keep in mind that some DZ's are more oriented towards making money from tandem jumps as opposed to students and experienced recreational skydivers.  This may influence your decision if you think you want to go through the entire AFF program.

In addition, many DZ's offer video services, which usually cost around $60 to have a third jumper videotape (and sometimes take still photos) of your first skydive.  The decision to get video is a personal one and depends largely on your motivations for making the skydive in the first place.  It can often be great fun to look back on your first skydive, especially if you go on to become an experienced skydiver, but keep in mind that you're also doing the DZ the favor of advertising when you show the video to your friends.

Be sure and call the DZ at least a couple of days before you intend to jump so that they can plan for your arrival.  Many drop zones get very busy on summer weekends and this will help them out immensely.  Sundays are usually a bit more calm, and jumping during the week is a possibility this can make the process go much more smoothly.

At this point, you're ready to jump.  But it is a good idea to spend some time preparing yourself mentally for the skydive.  The more you know about what to expect, the better your mind will be able to deal with the new sensations you encounter in the skydive, and the more you will be able to enjoy the experience.  If you have any friends who are experienced skydivers (or "upjumpers"), they will be your best resource for this.  Ask them to show you how a parachute system works, and borrow any skydiving video they have.  Most upjumpers will be more than happy to brag about their exploits.  However, while upjumpers are generally very outgoing and friendly people, there are simply not enough of us to be friends with everyone out there, so your best bet otherwise is to get your hands on some video (hopefully more realistic than Point Break).  This page has some good skydiving clips to check out.  In addition, the USPA has a good page of frequently asked questions, and I've also listed answers to some other questions that I often hear.

What will it feel like?

Contrary to intuition, skydiving does not feel like falling.  When you initially jump out of the plane, you will feel a slight sensation of falling, but this is mitigated by the force of the wind due to the forward speed of the aircraft.  You will reach terminal velocity after about six seconds, after which you will feel no acceleration until deployment.  And unlike bungee-jumping, there is no ground rush, as you are simply too far away from the ground to notice things getting bigger.  This is why the word "flying" is so often used to describe a jump.

How long will my jump take?

The ride to altitude takes 10-25 minutes depending on the type of plane.  Your freefall will last 30-60 seconds depending on the altitude.  Your canopy ride will last 3-5 minutes depending on the deployment altitude.  However, the whole procedure of going through training, suiting up, waiting for your load, etc... can take quite a while.  Often unpredictable factors such as weather can slow things down at the DZ.  Usually you won't spend more than half a day, but it is not wise to make other plans that day other than a celebratory beer afterwards.

What if the parachute fails?

The chances of your parachute failing are very slim.  Many malfunctions can be corrected in a matter of seconds.  If a malfunction cannot be corrected, the jumper has the option of trying to land under a less-than-perfect canopy, or "chopping" the main by pulling the cutaway handle and then deploying a secondary reserve parachute.  All reserve parachutes are inspected and packed under controlled conditions by FAA-certified parachute riggers.  The USPA estimates that a malfunction requiring cutaway occurs in one in 1,000 deployments, but keep in mind that this factors in upjumpers who often pack their main parachutes quickly to make the next load.  The DZ makes sure that their tandem parachutes are packed by knowledgeable staff.

Can I pull the ripcord on my tandem jump?  Can I steer the canopy?

Never hurts to ask.

When is the point of no return?

Once you're in freefall, it's really hard to get back into the plane, and I don't recommend trying.  Anytime before that, it's OK to say no.  It takes courage to jump out of a plane; it also takes courage to admit that it's not right for you, especially after you've spent the money.

What's next?

A small percentage of first-time skydivers go on to become upjumpers.  Going through AFF is not easy, nor is it cheap; you can expect to spend a minimum of around $1100 for your training, after which you will want to purchase your own parachute (at this point you'll be calling it by it's proper name: your "rig") which can run anywhere from $1000 to $5000.  And skydiving takes dedication.  The most dangerous jumpers are those who make a few jumps in a summer, as they don't have the sensations or their emergency procedures fresh in their heads.

The obvious question is, what keeps skydivers coming back to the drop zone week after week?  Common opinion has it that they're all adrenaline junkies, but nothing could be further from the truth.  It remains exciting, but most upjumpers will tell you that the adrenaline rush goes away after something like fifteen jumps.  In reality, the attraction of skydiving is simply in learning how to fly one's body through the sky.  While the adrenaline will be there, if you pay attention you will see the possibilities, even on your first jump.

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Your First Skydive: A HOWTO | 67 comments (59 topical, 8 editorial, 0 hidden)
Suggested Addition (4.16 / 6) (#1)
by RackMount on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 11:42:15 AM EST

HOWTO convince your broke and/or pussy-ass friends to try jumping with you...

Seriously, great article.

non-skydiving friends (5.00 / 1) (#43)
by austingeek on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 02:19:52 PM EST

Getting your non-skydiving friends to understand or join you is a losing battle.  Once you start jumping, almost all of your non-jumper friends will either drift away, or be replaced by your jumping buddues.  Those who are left are your true friends.

I can count my non-jumper friends on one hand now (yes I had more before).  But my jumping buddies in this state alone number in the hundreds.  

I've been jumping almost 10 years, and have almost 1200 jumps.  I'm a former world record holder (Largest completed freefall formation), and Tandem instructor.

[ Parent ]

Read the HOWTO carefully (5.00 / 5) (#2)
by Pac on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 11:43:53 AM EST

People who fail in their first attempt usually completely give up skydiving.

Confusion will be my epitaph


Interesting and Well written (3.00 / 1) (#3)
by HidingMyName on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 11:44:46 AM EST

Not being a sky diver, I cannot vouch for its accuracy, but I liked it. I gave it a +1.

One important safety measure for men (5.00 / 4) (#11)
by Caton on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 01:40:21 PM EST

Put your testicles on the side. When the chute opens, you don't want anything important to get in the way.

---
As long as there's hope...
Better yet, use MALE harness (none / 0) (#22)
by RelliK on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 12:28:15 AM EST

Male harness has two loops on the thighs.
Female harness has one loop going straight up.
If you are male, you don't want to use female harness for obvious reasons.
---
Under capitalism man exploits man, under communism it's just the opposite.
[ Parent ]
Good idea. (none / 0) (#27)
by Caton on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 06:27:08 AM EST

We one had one model in the army. The one were one should be very careful.

---
As long as there's hope...
[ Parent ]
buddy check (none / 0) (#48)
by austingeek on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 02:36:19 PM EST

I refer to this as the "buddy check"  after I put on my rig, I check my buddies to make sure they're out of the way before I tighten everything up.  Also check the boys before you exit the aircraft.  Just in case.

[ Parent ]
Females can have harness problems, too. (none / 0) (#54)
by sowellfan on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 02:13:04 AM EST

I had a friend a few years back who was into parachuting. She came to school one Monday after jumping on the weekend, and she was extremely sore. As it turns out, the straps of the parachute harness laid right over her breasts (she was nicely blessed, I'd have to say). After being in freefall for a bit, she hit the altitude at which she had to pull the cord. Unfortunately, her head was sort of pointed towards the ground, and when the parachute caught, it yanked her pretty hard. She had to watch out for sitting too close to tables for a few days.

[ Parent ]
"I prefer terra firma ... (3.66 / 3) (#12)
by pyramid termite on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 01:49:45 PM EST

... the more firma, the less terra."

-- Groucho Marx

"I forget, in a certain way, everything I write, doubtless also, in another way, what I read." - Jacques Derrida
Motivation? (2.00 / 13) (#13)
by 8ctavIan on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 01:50:31 PM EST

the possible reasons for making your first skydive are numerous

And I have seen no good ones mentioned here. If you're not a paratrooper, then your basic motivation for jumping out of an airplane is to have a thrill. If you need to do this to have a thrill, then you are essentially dead inside. The other day I heard on the news about a bungie cord jumper whose cord broke. He fell to his death. I wondered: Bridges are such a good invention. They save us a lot of time getting to from one place to another. Why would someone want to jump off one for a thrill? I think the same goes for the airplane. It's such a great invention. It has literally changed our world - made it so much smaller. Why would someone want to jump out of one when it seems it's just pleasurable to enjoy the ride?


Injustice is relatively easy to bear; what stings is justice. -- H.L. Mencken

Re: motivation? (4.50 / 2) (#15)
by danceswithcrows on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 03:21:30 PM EST

If you're not a paratrooper, then your basic motivation for jumping out of an airplane is to have a thrill. If you need to do this to have a thrill, then you are essentially dead inside.

Very few people need to skydive to "have a thrill." Calling people "essentially dead inside" because of their hobby (which is probably less dangerous to others/annoying to others than smoking tobacco) is in pretty poor taste.

Why would someone want to jump out of [an airplane] when it seems it's just pleasurable to enjoy the ride?

You haven't flown much, obviously. Being a passenger on a commercial airline gets pretty routine after the 5th or 6th time you've done it. I don't think, "Ooh, great scenery out the left-side window," I think, "Is that stupid kid 3 rows back going to stop squalling? Why don't they design airline seats for people over 5'7"? Has my luggage ended up in the wrong airport yet again?" (Actually piloting a plane is totally different, and more nerve-wracking, though the pilots usually know where their luggage is.)

People have fun in different ways. If their fun doesn't interfere with your life, why get upset about them? Full disclosure: I'd like to try skydiving and have wanted to for a long time, 'cause freefall is fun.

Matt G (aka Dances With Crows) There is no Darkness in Eternity/But only Light too dim for us to see
[ Parent ]

Do what you like (5.00 / 2) (#18)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 05:33:32 PM EST

People do what works for them.. it doesn't sound like skydiving or bungee jumping is for you, so don't do them. You should feel lucky to be such an easily amused person. There are about a million different activities that people do to enrich their lives, and to claim that any of them are the 'correct' or 'incorrect' ones is pretty naive. Many of them may not make sense to you, but that doesn't mean that people who do them are dead inside.

--
jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
[ Parent ]
motivation ! (3.50 / 2) (#20)
by fhotg on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 07:28:15 PM EST

People who are so scared about finding out about their limits that they call others who enjoy doing it "essentally dead inside", are, in fact, essentally dead inside. Or at least zombified by their fear.
~~~
Gitarren für die Mädchen -- Champagner für die Jungs

[ Parent ]
Scared is a good word, yes (3.50 / 2) (#38)
by 8ctavIan on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 12:48:21 PM EST

Yes, I am scared to jump out of a plane with a parachute. I consider it a rational fear though. A rational person would be scared to jump out of an airplane when all you've got to save your life is a sheet of nylon strapped to your back. But I don't believe it is worthy of great merit to conquer rational fears. When good sense tells you that something is better left alone, it is probably best to heed it. It is the irrational fears that in the end are the ones we should strive everyday to conquer.

Let me just clarify that I did not call all people who skydive dead inside. I respect anybody's desire to do anything that doesn't harm me. There are people who are sky acrobats, for example, people who entertain others by filming their dives. I support this. But I believe people who have to do anything merely for a thrill are dead inside, meaning that for many people, their lives just become the pursuit of thrill after thrill and are essentially meaningless.


Injustice is relatively easy to bear; what stings is justice. -- H.L. Mencken
[ Parent ]

rational/irrational (5.00 / 1) (#41)
by Run4YourLives on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 01:59:15 PM EST

Hmm...

A rational person would be scared to jump out of an airplane when all you've got to save your life is a sheet of nylon strapped to your back.

Considering that 99.99% of those people hit the ground and walk away with big smiles on their faces, how is your fear rational? The fear exists for no rational reason at all.

It is the irrational fears that in the end are the ones we should strive everyday to conquer.

Exactly. This one being a prime example.

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

well (none / 0) (#46)
by fhotg on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 02:33:30 PM EST

I acknowledge your second paragraph and agree.

I believe you have the stuff about rationaliy wrong though. As Run4YourLives exemplifies below, your "common sense" is only vaid for yourself. You might be right about sydiving would be something irrational to do for yourself, for other people it makes perfect rational sense. And this under all scrutinity you can thow at "rational sense".
~~~
Gitarren für die Mädchen -- Champagner für die Jungs

[ Parent ]

Living life for thrills (none / 0) (#57)
by rdskutter on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 09:31:06 AM EST

their lives just become the pursuit of thrill after thrill and are essentially meaningless.

There's nothing meaningless about living life for the thrill of it.

Some people like to enjoy their lives.

Myself, I enjoy the thrills of dangerous sports. I enjoy the illusion of control in a dangerous situation and I ejoy surviving it all and then talking about it over a beer in the pub afterwards.


If you're a jock, inflict some pain / If you're a nerd then use your brain - DAPHNE AND CELESTE
[ Parent ]

Simply wrong.. (5.00 / 1) (#36)
by freesoftwarecdr on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 12:35:18 PM EST

The first jump is usually "thrill" motivated, but having jumped once, the actual experience of jumping radically changed my motivations. Pay attention to the HOWTOs notes on terminal velocity -- after freefall it's a very peaceful and beautiful experience.

[ Parent ]
ATV (none / 0) (#37)
by spottedkangaroo on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 12:46:19 PM EST

Would you say something this closed minded about ATVs? 4-wheelers are like 1 fatality in 600 rides if memory serves.

Of the some 30 deaths last year, nearly all can be attributed to a human error. The other 600,000 jumps went just fine.

incidentally, one of those super fast motorcycles commonly known as a crotch rocket? Yeah, they only insure those for about 6 months. That's the drivers life expectancy.

Skydiving isn't all that dangerous... yes, it can kill you. But it really isn't that dangerous, it's just not for Whuffos.

[ Parent ]

I feel bad for you... (5.00 / 1) (#39)
by Run4YourLives on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 01:46:18 PM EST

you sound so, well, boring.

Skydiving may not be your cup of tea, but to have the attitude that experience without necessity is irrelevant is missing a big part of life's picture.

So much of what makes life great is ultimately pointless... think sports, parties, art, creativity and to some, skydiving.

If you need to do this to have a thrill, then you are essentially dead inside.

The funny thing is that you don't know how much of life you're missing by avoiding the pointless pleasures all around you.


It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

why? (none / 0) (#44)
by austingeek on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 02:25:56 PM EST

Why would someone want to jump out of one when it seems it's just pleasurable to enjoy the ride?

There's another often used line.
    "If riding in an airplane is flying, then riding in a boat is swimming. Get out of the vehicle, experience the element."
and yes, you can say that it's a BS quote, but the point is if you're not open to experience new things, or even be open to the ideas of new experiences (knowing that they may not all be for you) then you truely are dead inside, because you have nothing left to live for. You're done. Finished.

[ Parent ]
Boat (none / 0) (#45)
by spottedkangaroo on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 02:29:15 PM EST

I'm not sure it's safe to get out of a boat either. Hundreds of people drowned from that last year... Many more than died from skydiving....

[ Parent ]
Thanks! (4.00 / 2) (#14)
by jabber on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 03:10:31 PM EST

I've been thinking of learning to jump for a while now. Reading your article gave me a nervous, anxious, giddy knot in the stomach. Thanks much for the start-up education. Greatly appreciated.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"

Your disclaimer (2.00 / 2) (#17)
by bayankaran on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 04:34:36 PM EST

I read the story till your disclaimer. Somehow that left a bad taste and I could not read further.

disclaimer (none / 0) (#42)
by austingeek on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 02:13:52 PM EST

It was a well written howto for making yoru first skydive.  If the disclaimer left a bad taste, then I'd say the sport is not for you.

[ Parent ]
disclaimer (none / 0) (#49)
by jfields on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 02:44:49 PM EST

I totally agree with austingeek. If that disclaimer bothered you, you would never get through the Dropzone Waivers required to actually jump. They typically run several pages of warnings about ways you could die and why you can't sue the dropzone, no matter what.

Of course, it is no problem that you find them distasteful. The sport isn't for everyone. Nothing is. Different strokes for different folks.

Justin

[ Parent ]

I have thought (3.14 / 7) (#19)
by Angelic Upstart on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 05:43:56 PM EST

about sky diving for a while now and after reading this I've decided I'm going to do it. I already called the jump place here in vegas and signed up for next sunday. wish me luck!

Sky Dive Las Vegas (none / 0) (#64)
by Tom Aiello on Wed Aug 21, 2002 at 03:49:40 PM EST

If you are thinking of jumping at Sky Dive Las Vegas, I recommend you read this thread at Dropzone.com:    

http://www.dropzone.com/cgi-bin/forum/gforum.cgi?post=196253    

SDLV doesn't have a very good reputation among skydivers.
-- Tom Aiello tbaiello@mac.com
[ Parent ]

Hmm. (4.66 / 3) (#21)
by valeko on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 08:32:55 PM EST

What exactly are the emergency procedures if your main parachute fails to open? You can release it and open the secondary parachute, but what if the first one fails to break away properly and you get a big tangled mess when your second chute tries to open?

Moreover, there's a critical threshold where you're meant to open your main parachute. What happens if your main one doesn't open, but it takes you some time to figure out (or get a hold of the cord, due to wind, shock, etc) that you need to open the second one NOW. Is there some guideline about how much time you have to open your chute once you reach a certain altitude range?

It just seems like so many things could go wrong, so easily.

"Hey, what's sanity got going for it anyways?" -- infinitera, on matters of the heart

emergency procedures (5.00 / 1) (#23)
by bananajr on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 01:48:03 AM EST

The USPA publishes some rather course statistics in their FAQ on how often a main parachute fails: "One widely accepted estimate is that in 600 to 1,000 random parachute openings of the main parachute, one will result in a malfunction, for whatever reason, requiring the use of the reserve parachute."

This seems like a lot, but keep the following in mind: (1) while many types of malfunction require a cutaway, it is very rare that the main parachute will remain attached. Remember, engineers have been reading incident reports and perfecting their systems to deal with all types of malfunctions for over 20 years now. (2) A majority of malfunctions are reported by upjumpers who often pack their parachutes in a hurry to make the next load; or novice jumpers who deploy in an unstable configuration. On your first jump, however, you will be stabilized by your tandem master and the drogue parachute, and you will by using a rig that was packed by drop zone staff.

Also, keep in mind that a reserve parachute must be inspected and repacked every four months by an FAA-certified rigger. They are very meticulous with their work, and the chances of a reserve malfunction are extremely small.

Is there some guideline about how much time you have to open your chute once you reach a certain altitude range?

Most modern rigs have an automatic activation device which will deploy the reserve parachute if it detects itself passing through 700 ft. AGL faster than 70 MPH. Most students are taught that if the main parachute malfunctions, it must be dealt with by 1200 ft. Most jumpers plan their skydive such that they will be ready to deply by 2500 ft. At 120 MPH fall rate, this translates to about 10 seconds (assuming a total malfunction) to work on getting the main parachute open.
----
"What if the Hokey-Pokey is all it really is about?" -- Jimmy Buffett
[ Parent ]

Properfucked (5.00 / 2) (#24)
by Bios_Hakr on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 02:00:43 AM EST

In most chute problems, the main chute will deploy and not open properly.  I belive this is refered to as a "streamer".  After a specified period (known as the "oh fuck moment"), you regain your composure and pull a pin/cord that breaks the streamer from the harness.  At that pont, you are back to square one, and can deploy the reserve at your leisure.

I have seen, in a video, someone become wrapped in his own lines.  I'm not sure what happened, but I am sure that is it more likely to become impailed on the horns of a gazelle than to become wrapped in your own lines.  It happens, but rarely.  In this case, he deployed his reserve (which did not open properly due to the entanglement by the main) and hit the ground rather hard.  He, I am told, survived.

There is a device to overcome this entanglement.  It is basicly a rocket with a rope.  As the rocket flies out, it will punch through anything in the way and drag the reserve chute with it.  It is mainly used in the world of ultralights and experimantal aircraft.

As for minimum altitude, I think 500' is the absolute minimum.  The FAA tacks 2000' onto that to give jumpers a buffer zone with which to pray in case of trouble.  I'm not sure how the minimum is enforced, but you could probably loose your jump license for opening below the safe zone.

[ Parent ]

Emergencies (3.00 / 1) (#50)
by mmealman on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 03:28:28 PM EST

There really aren't that many things that can go wrong in skydiving and the way to fix the problems that do happen are very simple.

You really don't "figure out" things in the air that much, you train to recognize and react while still on the ground.

And yes, there are generally set altitudes for handling specific problems. You have pull altitudes where you start your deployment and a decision altitude, or hard deck, where you need to immediately get your reserve out.

The safety aspect of the sport is fairly well standardized and has been very successful in making the sport safe.

[ Parent ]
Theres a lot more of WHY, My WHY (5.00 / 5) (#25)
by mediador on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 03:36:23 AM EST

After reading Your First Skydive: A HOWTO" and reading the comments I'm risking myself in the post of why I did it a couple of years ago and what I felt. Hope I'm transmitting the feeling.

Not a big jumper myself, I've actually only made 2 (yes two) jumps, both of them being static line jumps I can't talk much about freefalling but I'll go on that sometime in the future, here in Mexico is quite expensive and there aren't many DropZones (DZ) here in Saltillo where I'm from.

I'll focus on the motivation of that first jump and in the feeling and the impact on my life.

THE WHY

As bananajr stated there are lot's of reasons why people jump out of an airplane. Personally I can state that I jumped because of curiosity, I've been on hiking and a little of rock climbing so it was a next step. It was a group of 10 friends who made it and we went to training for about a couple of months every weekend. We made phisical exercise and the trainer (a hell of a sargeant trainer) made us sweat in pain to focus on the task.

For us it was simple, screw it and that's it, you´re done for good. It was a matter of being prepared, it was an answer like: Can I do it? Can I trust myself my own life? Can I handle myself?

Then the technical procedures came, couple of weeks of exercising emergency procedures, believe me, there are lots of standard and proven procedures to get you out of trouble, you automatize them. And we did, hell we did. After 5 years of the jump I can remember all of them, how to position myself in the chute when grounding, when going into spiral, and the like.

We went to the plane (we called it the humblebee because of the noise), I was the first of the jumping "stick" (group to jump one after the other in the same flight). By the way, we weren't using fast chutes (the rectangular ones you see on the movies), because we were novices we used semi-circular ones, mine was a paracommander if I remember well.

It took like about 15 minutes to get in position, but for me it took forever, being seated beside the open wide door, I felt I was going to jump in any second. The jump master went down to the floor of the plane and stood out her head and directed the pilot to go over the landing strip were the DZ was located. Then it was time.

It was time to jump, she yelled:

"READY" so I stood up and put my static line in the jumping line.

"TO THE DOOR" I stood to my hands on either side of the door just ready to jump and watching her.

"JUMP"

The feeling for a couple of seconds was like "WHERE THE HELL I'M I". The plane flying away and suddenly. SLAAAAAAAAAP. The deployment of the parachute started, as trained I looked up and HELLLLLLL! the lines were a little tangled. Fortunately it was easy to unscrew them and started the descent.

The feeling was enormous, the view, the horizon, the plane over you. The feeling that you are a small part of the universe (and not feeling globocop like some politicians feel) and that no matte what happens the world will turn around and there's nothing you can do about it.

And then finally the grounding. The last 15-20 seconds you can go to a shrieking panic when you notice how fast the world approaches you (silly us, it is us who approach the ground!).

And finally you are there, collecting the chute as expected and feeling something that not many people have experienced, or ever will.

.

Hector Villarreal Monterrey, Mexico .......................... Tech is wonderful... when it works...

Couple of questions for the author (4.00 / 1) (#26)
by Herring on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 05:48:06 AM EST

I like the look of skydiving (probably after watching Drop Zone while drunk) but having had a look around in the UK, I seem to be a bit over the weight limit (I'm about 220lbs). Is this really too heavy?

My other question is, how long (how many drops) does it take from not having done it at all to get to be able to do some of those fancy moves in the air without getting into a terminal spin?

I like snowboarding and wakeboarding. Sky surfing looks like a blast.


Say lol what again motherfucker, say lol what again, I dare you, no I double dare you
Re: questions (none / 0) (#34)
by bananajr on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 12:18:01 PM EST

Is this really too heavy?

You're pretty close to the limit, so the best thing to do is check with your local drop zones. Different drop zones will have different standards, depending on how new their equipment is, and how comfortable the tandem masters are with the idea.

...how long (how many drops) does it take from not having done it at all to get to be able to do some of those fancy moves in the air without getting into a terminal spin?

When I learned to skydive, it took me three jumps to learn how to be stable without spinning. It takes twenty jumps to get a USPA A-license. But there's always something to learn, and some manuevers can take hundreds or even thousands of jumps to master.
----
"What if the Hokey-Pokey is all it really is about?" -- Jimmy Buffett
[ Parent ]

Does this look reasonable (none / 0) (#56)
by Herring on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 07:24:51 AM EST

This is quite close to me.


Say lol what again motherfucker, say lol what again, I dare you, no I double dare you
[ Parent ]
Weight (none / 0) (#35)
by freesoftwarecdr on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 12:33:19 PM EST

I've jumped once, so that this with a grain of salt. I'm replying because I didn't see anyone else reply. It's probably not too heavy to jump (I'm 230, and I did it a few years ago) but it may be heavier than what your local drop zone has in stock with regard to rigs. Rigs are specific to a few factors, weight being the most important. I don't remember what the range is, but if your weight fluctuates past a certain amount, you have to get your rig adjusted. You might want to call around and ask. If you're committed to jumping, maybe you can special order a rig for your weight and work something out with your local DZ.

[ Parent ]
weight (5.00 / 1) (#47)
by austingeek on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 02:34:18 PM EST

The weight limit is usually set by two main factors.  The gear is only rated to a certain weight limit (that exact number escapes me at the moment) and the heaver the passenger, the more stress is put on the body of the tandem master and equipment.  For these reasons (as well as some others) most DZs have a max weight policy.  Some charge extra over a certain weight, some are felxible.  Call ahead, let them know how much you weigh.  I wouldn't have a problem taking someone who was 220lbs, but other tandem instructors may feel differently.  

It also has a lot to do with physical condition.  The canopy is harder to steer with more weight under it.  if the passenger is unable to help due to low upper body strength, then weight can be more of an issue.

[ Parent ]

Weather conditions (none / 0) (#66)
by ScrO on Thu Aug 22, 2002 at 02:44:17 PM EST

Also note that certain weather conditions can affect if they will take heavier people. Of course I forget which they are, windy or still, dry or humid. *shrug* (=

ScrO!

[ Parent ]

IAD (4.00 / 1) (#28)
by LlamaDragon on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 10:17:06 AM EST

Just wanted to throw out the method of skydiving I did, which wasn't listed in the article.  It's called Instructor Assisted Deployment.  Basically, I went up in the plane, and at 4500 feet I climbed out and hung onto a strut under the wing (not as bad as it sounds).  At the given signal I let go and the instructor throws out...I don't remember what it's called...a mini-parachute attached to the rip cord.  The mini-chute catches wind and pulls the main chute open.  They view this as much safer than the static line method.  There isn't much free fall time, but you do get to pilot your chute down (they help you steer via a radio strapped to your chest).  Oh yeah, this still requires quite a few hours of training (most of which you don't need...but they really drill into your head what to do if something goes wrong).

My understanding, and I could just be plain wrong, is that you can't do Accelerated Free Fall without doing some IAD or Static line jumps first.  At the drop zone I visited (http://www.freefallexpress.com), they had a jump progression and by your 5th or 6th jump you were deploying the chute yourself.  After a few more you'd be jumping from a much higher altitude and learning various methods of controlling yourself during freefall.

Anyway, that's just my bit of experience. :)

~LD

IAD (4.00 / 1) (#30)
by jfields on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 10:58:09 AM EST

LlamaDragon, There are various instruction methods, and the details vary a little by dropzone. However it is accepted that students can do Accelerated Free Fall without doing IAD or Static Line first. The training may just be a little more rigorous on the ground. And AFF students initially jump with two instructors.

Some routes toward your license can be:

AFF
IAD
Static Line
Tandem Progression (Tandem transitions into AFF

I wouldn't go so far as to say IAD is safer than static line. The military uses static line with very low malfunction rates. Many dropzones still teach with the static line method as well. The method of instruction best suited to a particular student will vary based on their inclination, goals and finances.

Justin

[ Parent ]

IAD (none / 0) (#31)
by LlamaDragon on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 11:15:49 AM EST

I seem to recall something about AFF without prior jumps from when I jumped, but it was quite some time ago and a quick glance at the website didn't seem to mention it.  And as I've only jumped once (that's once more than most people) I only know what they told me at the one DZ.  Thanks for the correction, though, I wasn't too sure about it.

One of these days, when I'm rich enough, I'll see about jumping a bit more.  Right now I just can't afford it. :(

~LD

[ Parent ]

IAD (none / 0) (#32)
by jfields on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 11:30:39 AM EST

LD,

The options vary by DZ, and their opinions will influence what you learn and what you see. I found that out as well, when I started travelling to dropzones other than the one where I learned. Different sets of people, different vibes, etc.

You think you can't afford it now. If you pick it up as an active hobby, you won't be able to afford anything else. You start looking at every expense as a number of jump tickets.

Dinner out - 1 jump ticket
Taking a date to a movie - 1 jump ticket
New outfit - 3 jump tickets
New computer game - 4 jump tickets
New computer - 60 jump tickets
Etc.

Pretty soon, you start buying the jump tickets and skipping all the other stuff. ;-)

Justin

[ Parent ]

Just had a look round (none / 0) (#33)
by Herring on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 11:34:07 AM EST

There are places near me offering from nothing to qualifying in several days of intensive course. I think I'd like to do a static-line jump first to make sure I can face leaving the plane before I spend £1,400.


Say lol what again motherfucker, say lol what again, I dare you, no I double dare you
[ Parent ]
On Target (5.00 / 2) (#29)
by jfields on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 10:43:19 AM EST

Bananajr was on target with the article.

I was a paratrooper in the military, and have taken up skydiving as a civilian. I'm also a low-number jumper, with 82 skydives. That might sound like a lot to someone who has never jumped, but it is really only beginner status.

I'll throw in comments about some other things people have mentioned.

Someone asked about skyboarding, and how long it takes to start. The answer is a long time. Before even contemplating strapping on a skyboard, the person must be a safe, proficient skydiver. The number of jumps will vary by the person's aptitude and ability, but I'll throw out a very rough ballpark estimate of 3 years, 600 skydives and a ton of money. How much do you really want to do it?

Another person asked about safety. Far from being reckless lunatics, most skydivers are very safety conscious. That doesn't mean we are risk-averse, but that we are conscious of the risk-reward ratio of the activities we choose to undertake. Like driving a car, skydiving always caries some risk. Using that analogy, are you going to drive a station wagon and obey the traffic laws, or are you going to drive a sports car to the limits of its performance. Same deal with skydiving. As a group, skydivers are very defensive about each person's right to choose their own risk level. What is right for me isn't right for someone else, but we still share the bond of skydiving.

There are a number of safety devices and procedures that are available to skydivers. First of all, there is your brain. Really. Safety starts with a careful mindset and an awareness of what you are doing. All the gadgets in the world won't save you if you are a reckless idiot. A modern skydiving rig has two parachutes, a main and a reserve. If there is a problem with the main parachute that cannot be resolved quickly, it can be cutaway. A Reserve Static Lanyard (RSL) is a tool that automatically opens the reserve parachute when the main is cutaway. RSLs can save lives under many conditions, but also complicate things or be hazardous in others. Skydivers need to be very knowledgeable about their gear. Another device is an Automatic Activation Device (AAD), which is designed to automatically deploy the reserve parachute is a certain set of conditions are met. This involves altitude and downward speed. If it appears that there is no functional main parachute by a preset altitude, the AAD will attempt to deploy the reserve, without any input from the skydiver. The downfall of an AAD? It can cause problems in some circumstances. It also costs about $900 and requires regular checking.

If you are interested in skydiving as a hobby, my advice would be to find some related sites and lurk. Read articles. Learn the vocabulary. Read about skydiving deaths and what caused them, so you can try to avoid a similar fate. Once you have soaked up knowledge for awhile, start asking polite questions. On most good sites, they will be answered seriously and informatively. A good reference is Dropzone.com The next step is to go to a DZ and repeat. Ask more questions. Watch what goes on. Learn some more and see if the environment appeals to you.

Then go and enjoy your first jump. And remember to buy your beer. (If you've done your research, you'll know what I mean.)

Blue Skies.
Justin

My onetime experience... (none / 0) (#40)
by twh270 on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 01:55:59 PM EST

...was a tandem jump. I thoroughly enjoyed it (in the video, I've got a goofy grin plastered from ear to ear). The only part I didn't enjoy was the shock from the parachute deployment. It felt like a whipsnap; I actually let out a groan, and the jumpmaster asked me if I was okay. (I was.) On the ground, he said that was an unusually severe shock. But I want to add to bananajr's warnings that if you have back problems, check with your doctor before jumping.

Again, I thoroughly enjoyed my experience. If you have the guts to jump out of a "perfectly good airplane", it's a great experience. And spend the extra money for the videotape -- it's great fun to watch later, and when you have kids you can show them what a lunatic dad|mom once was :).

Bad track record where I live (none / 0) (#51)
by johnnyfever on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 03:36:06 PM EST

I have wanted to try this for years, but everytime I start to think seriously about it, someone dies at the skydive center near where I live (http://www.dropzone.com/news/Edmontonskydiverdiesinfi.shtml) There are several in my area, so obviously I wouldn't choose this one, but it still makes it hard to muster up the courage when someone leaps to their death almost every year just a few miles from where I live!

How this place is still in business I don't know. AFAIK none of the other dzs in the area have had even a single death between them in the 15+ years I've lived here. Makes one think that the place mentioned in the above link must be doing something seriously wrong. I would have thought that 1/2 dozen deaths in as many years would be ground for shutting the place down, but apparently not. Beyond that, why people still choose to go there is beyond me!

Skydiving training methods (5.00 / 2) (#52)
by mmealman on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 04:13:32 PM EST

As sort of an addition, here are some of the training methods you can expect to see in skydiving. Note that while every dropzone can be different, most of these training methods(at least in the US) are fairly standardized. AFF at one dropzone will be pretty much the same as AFF at another dropzone.

AFF, or Accelerated Free Fall:

AFF is generally 7 to 8 levels, each level being one jump. The first 2 or 3 levels take place with 2 AFF instructors jumping anywhere from 9000-14000 feet. The instructors hold onto you during the skydive and are each able to deploy your parachute if you are unable to do so yourself. AFF instructors are highly experienced skydivers who are specially trained to handle students. Your total cost for training will typically run about $1100 for the full course, 7 or 8 jumps. Obviously if you fail to pass an AFF level you will have to repeat that level and your costs will go up. The costs include rental equipment, the plane ride, etc.

SL, or Static Line:

Static line training is the oldest method of training and is still quite popular and effective. SL usually takes the student through 15-20 jumps at a total cost that's about the same as AFF. The difference is that your beginning jumps are solo in SL. Your first few jumps will start you off at around 3500 feet exiting the plane under the supervision of an instructor while a static line pulls out your parachute for you. After doing 1 jump demonstrating you can exit the plane properly, you do around 3 more while pulling a dummy ripcord. Once you've demonstrated that you can pull the ripcord and leave the plane controlled, you'll then do some solo jumps from higher and higher altitudes. Eventually you'll exit the plane with an instructor and you'll begin learning freefall skills.

Tandem:

On a tandem you'll only need about a half hour of prep, as opposed to the 6 or 7 hour ground schooling SL and AFF requires, because you're attached to a tandem master for the jump. Tandeming is probably the fastest and easiest way to experience skydiving. It's also become a part of some training methods, because in a tandem jump you have a trained instructor in full control of the student even under the parachute canopy after it deploys. With AFF and SL the student is under canopy by himself while in radio contact with the ground(to fly him in). This usually isn't a problem, but every now and then you'll see people freak out and do Stupid Things on their own(because their brain is still overloaded from the skydive). Putting a first timer up on a tandem eliminates that potential risk and really opens up the sport to all sorts of people who might be safer if they were fully controlled by a trained professional at all times during the jump.

AFP, IAD, other programs:

It's not oncommon to see other programs that combine tandeming or SL with AFF. While AFF is the fastest way to become a skydiver, a level 1 AFF jump can be a lot of information to throw at someone who's never jumped out of an airplane before. So some dropzones will either start a student off with a couple tandems or static line jumps because it's a little less involved for a first jump.

AFP stands for Accelerated Freefall Program and is generally 3 tandems then a number of AFF jumps.

IAD is Instructor Aided Deployment which I believe is used more in Canada. And while technically it doesn't use a static line to deploy the parachute, an instructor basically performs the same role. He deploys the parachute as the student leaves the plane at around 3500 feet.

All of the above programs have proven track records of being both safe and effective and can be found in use all over the world. Skydiving normally sees 1 fatality in 100,000 jumps and students are statically less likely to be killed than a more experienced skydiver.

Jet's Skydiving (none / 0) (#53)
by spottedkangaroo on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 05:11:31 PM EST

I got all gung ho and added this page last year when I was really new to the sport.

I've since put my jumplog online. I've gotten about 4 jumps this season and only two of them were freefall. They're really careful at my dropzone and they're making me redo everything as I try to attain my Class A license.

I'm sorry but... (1.00 / 1) (#55)
by DeadBaby on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 03:14:02 AM EST

I have a very liberal view of the term "sport" and sky diving is no where close to a sport. It may very well be fun to do but the total lack of competition or athletic skill pretty much ensures it will never be confused with real sports.
"Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us." - Carl Sagan
Fair Enough (n/t) (none / 0) (#58)
by rdskutter on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 09:56:21 AM EST


If you're a jock, inflict some pain / If you're a nerd then use your brain - DAPHNE AND CELESTE
[ Parent ]
Re: I'm sorry but... (4.00 / 1) (#59)
by bananajr on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 10:13:31 AM EST

total lack of competition and athletic skill...

Actually, the U.S. Nationals skydiving competition will be held from Sept. 6th through 20th at Skydive Chicago, including competitions in 4, 8, 10 and 16-way formation skydiving, landing accuracy, freeflying, and a bunch of other things. Teams of skydivers are judged on how quickly they can complete a set of manuevers, and/or how much style they execute them with. It does, in fact, take a fair amount of athletic skill to precisely control the force of 120-180 MPH winds.
----
"What if the Hokey-Pokey is all it really is about?" -- Jimmy Buffett
[ Parent ]

Not a Sport? (none / 0) (#60)
by jfields on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 11:44:00 AM EST

Wow. That is a whuffo comment, if I ever heard one.

The opinion that there is a lack of skill or competition in skydiving is probably based on an extreme lack of knowledge about the sport itself. There are lots of competitions in various aspects of the sport. Relative work formations, canopy relative work formations, speed skydiving, swooping, accuracy landing, tracking, wingsuit flying, etc. It takes a lot of coordination, precision, mental awareness and skill to turn points on an skydive.

What is the definition of a "real sport"? Skydiving certainly takes as much skill as curling, and that is in the olympics. Where do you draw the line?

Justin

[ Parent ]

Not a sport? (none / 0) (#65)
by dunesurfer on Thu Aug 22, 2002 at 12:34:46 AM EST

you should at least do a minimal amount of research before making a blanket statement like this. There are many disciplines of skydiving, most of them have competitions of some form.True, not all the disciplines require advanced athletic skill, but I guarantee you will see no couch potatoes at the dz

[ Parent ]
reserve chute experience (5.00 / 3) (#61)
by pfrazier on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 04:32:44 PM EST

Two years ago a few friends of mine and I went skydiving for the first time. The first two jumps were great. We were gung ho and did the AFF program where you jump with your own chute but with two instructors on your arm. It was quite frightening but lots and lots of fun. On my third jump, after a bit of freefall, I pulled the ripcord but my main chute failed to open properly. I don't remember what the chute looked like but my instructor later said that one side was completely collapsed and tangled up in the lines. I started to spin slowly at first then more rapidly, and I was falling very quicky. After a few seconds I felt like I my body was at a 45 degree angle or more to the vertical from the rotation. I remember looking at my altimeter and seeing that I was at about 3200 feet and falling extremely rapidly, and I remember thinking, this is it, I have to cut loose and deploy my reserve. The thought came into my head, "if I panic I'll die", and then thank God the training the instructors gave me kicked in and I pulled the red cord (release main chute) then the silver cord (deploy reserve chute). I was flung across the sky and my reserve opened up above me. I came back, from whatever land of animal instinct I had gone to, to hear my instructor's british accent in my earpiece shouting "Fucking good job! Fucking good job!". At the time I thought it was a funny thing to say -- "good job" didn't really express the gravity of what I had just been through. I landed and walked shaking and grinning back to the landing zone (I hadn't been able to steer back to the LZ because I had opened so low and drifted so far off course.)

Most people have to deploy their reserve eventually in their skydiving career, but not normally until after they've done 500 or 1000 jumps at least. Having to deploy after only 3 jumps was an amazing (to me) statistical aberration. The guy helping me fill out my "reserve chute paperwork" said he was envious at my luck at having gotten to deploy my reserve after only my 3rd jum! "You must be so amped", he said to me. He was right. I was amped. He gave me a glass of water and I was shaking so much I splashed it all over myself. For the rest of the day and for a few days after I was about as happy as I've ever been. Lunch that day, pasta and strawberries, was the best thing I've ever tasted. I hadn't a care in the world.

I haven't jumped again since then. I've just been too afraid. Whenever I fly in an airplane and I look out the window at wide circles of farm fields I visualize what it was like up in the airplane before the jump, where you think it's really cold from the wind but it's just the fear in you. Even reading this article, and writing this post, I'm shaking like I have to pee. I can hear the instructor's story about grabbing the reserve handle, "if you miss and grab a ring on your harness you'll be tugging that ring all the way into the ground".

I would like to jump again, partly because it was so much fun, but mostly because I feel like I have something to prove to myself. But on the other hand I think about that one critical moment when I pulled those two handles and how I could have very easily panicked and ended up dead. Knowing that what you do in the next 3 seconds determines whether you live or die is an incredibly sobering thought. I feel as if in that moment there's no "conscious you" controlling your actions. Your lower brain takes over. You can prepare yourself and put yourself in the proper state of mind beforehand, but when it comes down to that one moment you can't control it. Your mind either panics or not. It's a toss up with extremely dire consequences. That really scares me.

Not a toss up (5.00 / 1) (#63)
by mmealman on Wed Aug 21, 2002 at 02:17:52 PM EST

Great story.

One comment though is that it really isn't a "toss up". You do have animal instincts that can operate against you in a skydiving emergency, but the way through those instincts is training training training. Your own story is an example of that, you recognized a mal(sounded like a line over) then initiated the proper response, cutting away and going to reserve.

I think the key to that though is you need to:
1> Formulate all your plans on the ground(think on the ground, recognize and react in the air).
2> Build muscle memory.

If you repeat a physical action about 1000 times you will build muscle memory of the act. It's like using the brakes on a car, you don't think about moving your foot to the pedal, you just think "use brakes" and your body knows what to do automatically. If some kids runs out in front of your car, by the time you say "oh crap" your foot is probably already slammed against the brake pedal.

That's the same kind of muscle memory you want in skydiving. You want to have practiced your emergency drills enough to not have to think about what to do, you should just know already what your response will be and have your body trained enough to just automatically start the response to handle the malfunction.

It's too bad you didn't go back up on the same day. Most instructors will suggest that you do that, otherwise you're likely to not jump again. You might consider doing another skydiving sometime, if for no other reason than to show yourself that you can.

[ Parent ]
My first skydive... (5.00 / 1) (#62)
by OzJuggler on Wed Aug 21, 2002 at 08:32:46 AM EST

...was cancelled.

During my ski trip to Queenstown, New Zealand, I decided to book a skydive for my last day.

So I shelled out a significant amount of cash, filled in a form, then they showed us a video of some great jumps. The first warning sign was when she said "Guys, we're on hold for 20 minutes because of strong winds in the drop zone."
So they put on another video.
Twenty minutes later she tells us that all drops for the rest of the day are probably going to be cancelled. I was disappointed, and that's an understatement.

One of the other potential jumpers in there told us that she had made bookings four times and it had been cancelled on every occasion.

My advice? Skydiving in NZ south island is too unreliable, certainly in mid July.

I still haven't gotten a refund. I still haven't jumped.
"And I will not rest until every year families gather to spend December 25th together
at Osama's homo abortion pot and commie jizzporium." - Jon Stewart's gift to Bill O'Reilly, 7 Dec 2005.

My Skydiving Experiences (none / 0) (#67)
by ScrO on Thu Aug 22, 2002 at 03:23:09 PM EST

I've skydived (skydove?) twice, both tandem, and I must say it's an excellent experience. As people have already noted, it's an incredible rush, and very peaceful too. The sensation of flying above the earth is amazing. I'd do it more if I had tons of time and money. (=

As for fear, I figured I'd be okay until it was time to jump out of the plane, at which point I'd be flipping out, but it was really quite the opposite. I was nervous on the ground and the whole plane ride up, especially since they leave the door open and the experienced guys are messing around, sticking their legs out, etc. However, once it was time to jump and we shimmied up to the edge, it wasn't bad at all. I had accepted that I was going to do this, and I probably enjoyed it more because of it. The second time wasn't as nerve wracking for obvious reasons, but was still an incredible rush.

I'd also like to point out again how safe skydiving really is. It's much like those other statistics you already hear, like "you're much more likely to die in a car crash on the way to the airport for a flight than on the flight itself." The place where I went had the automatic reserve chute deployment thingies, and they say they've never had a malfunction when they've been needed.

Bottom line: if you have the interest, do it. And get it video taped. You may be down $200+, but it's an experience that's worth trying.

ScrO!

Your First Skydive: A HOWTO | 67 comments (59 topical, 8 editorial, 0 hidden)
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