Everyone who thinks about skydiving or wants to go skydiving for the first time has many questions. Skydiving is a sport where we cannot find much information or people talking about it. Furthermore, there are lots of myths behind skydiving, many parachute myths, and the short amount of information and general knowledge does not help it.
Talking about skydiving myths, I need to be honest, I was pranked with the first item of our list. Right before getting into the airplane, when I was going to do my first jump, an experienced skydiver told me that I could not breathe inside the clouds. The best way would be to hold my breath all the way through!
This skydiving blog post is about the skydiving myths people talk about around the world. Check them out and let me know if you thought any of them were for real.
#1 You can’t Breathe
There’s plenty of oxygen, and yes, you can breathe it. While it’s true that the air thins at higher altitudes, you won’t be jumping from that great of a height. The average jump is from 13,000 feet. Gravity keeps oxygen closer to the ground, so half the world’s oxygen is held below 18,000 feet.
In the US, the highest legal jump you can do is 18,000, but with special authorization, you can go higher. At my Home Drop Zone, we just did a jump from 22,000 feet last weekend (June 7, 2018). For these jumps above 15.000 feet, the USPA suggests oxygen inside the plane (before the jump). On the other hand, if you have the training and time $$$ you can do a HALO jump from 35.000 feet. Then you will need oxygen for the whole time.
#2 Landings are Always Hard
The parachute is specifically designed to slow down your descent. Upon landing, the updraft will catch the parachute and you’ll glide smoothly to the ground. A skilled skydiver or tandem instructor will be able to land a parachute safely. Keep you on your feet or slide you into the ground doesn’t make any difference. To be honest the most important is to land safe and be able to jump again.
For the tandems passengers, the best advice I can give is to keep LEGS UP! The tandem instructor is doing his job and it is very helpful when the passenger helps out.
#3 My Parachute Won’t Open
Who thinks this is the number one reason most people refuse to go skydiving? Well, I do! This is the first of many parachute myths.
It’s not the jump out of an airplane, it’s the fear that the parachute won’t open that terrifies people. Have you ever thought about what if when you pull on the deployment handle nothing happens? Yes, that what I’m talking about. Luckily, nowadays the technology had changed a lot and lives are not wast anymore because of a simple mechanical mistake. Parachutes are very reliable and they are made to open and fly.
There is a great book that explains how a parachute works and also a great post on the blog about it. Besides that, there are redundancies to prevent this from occurring, and there are redundancies for the redundancies. And if that isn’t enough, everything is triple-checked by an instructor on the ground and then triple checked again inside the plane.
In the rare instance where all of these preparations fail, there’s a backup parachute. United States Parachute Association (USPA) says that everyone must make use of an AAD (automatic activation device) to deploy automatically the reserve parachute if the parachute isn’t open on time by the skydiver or instructor.
#4 You Can’t Control the Parachute
We’ve all seen WWII videos of paratroopers in movies and documentaries. Those circular green canopies floating towards the ground by the hundreds, soldiers landing all over France, forced to walk through enemy territory to locate their battalion.
Luckily for you, parachutes have come a long way in nearly 80 years. The sport parachute of today was designed for stability and control. Today’s canopies have pinpoint accuracy and cutting-edge technology to improve safety and comfort. Accuracy competitions are held all over the world in which a jumper has to guide their parachute to a target that is 2 centimeters in diameter. For the measurement-challenged, that’s the size of a penny, they have to land on a penny.
These accuracy competition are a little bit obsolete these days, however, Performed Designs (PD) is coming out in 2019 with a worldwide competition called Bulls Eye. There, the canopy pilot needs to land as close as possible to a target.
#5 You go up When you Open your Parachute
This skydiving myth is caused by an illusion. When a parachute is opening, the speed of descent slows down. You won’t be pulled back suddenly, risking whiplash. This is one of the parachute myths caused by film “evidence.” It only appears that way in films because the cameraman is still free falling so they continue at the same speed while the person who deployed their parachute looks as if they are being pulled backwards.
A regular free fall speed, belly to Earth, is around 120 m/h (+- 190 km/h). The best way to explain it is thinking about two cars on the freeway. Both of them are at 120 m/h and suddenly one of them start breaking his car. The car is not going backwards, it’s just reducing its forward speed.
#6 It is Painful When the Parachute Opens
Opening a parachute is similar to hitting the brakes on a car while speeding. The rapid decrease in speed isn’t painful, but you’ll notice the shift in pressure. The only pain you may feel is if your harness hasn’t been adjusted correctly. The pull of the parachute might cause the straps to dig in a little, but as long as your instructor checks the placement, the only thing you’ll be feeling is adrenaline.
#7 Skydivers Throw the Parachute in the Air to Open it
No, no, no. The parachute is deployed by releasing the pilot chute, which catches the wind, pulls a pin and opens the main chute. It’s safe, stabilizes the release, and there are fewer malfunctions and errors.
During the beginning years of paratroopers, they deployed chutes buy pulling a ripcord. When skydiving became a popular sport in the 80’s adjustments were made, and the ripcord became a thing of the past.
#8 You can Talk Back and Forth
Unlike what you’ve seen in action movies such as Point Break or the latest Mission Impossible, you can’t hear during a free fall. The wind is moving past your ears at over 120 miles per hour. At that speed, your voice doesn’t carry and the sound of the wind is deafening. Most jumps have an average of 55-60 seconds of free fall. Under canopy, we have between 3-5 minutes, at this point of the skydive we can talk if we have the canopies close to each other.
There are few tech gadgets that skydivers put on their helmets to communicate during free fall. It is very useful when wing suiting.
- Tandem Jump: After your parachute is open, you will be able to communicate with your instructor if you are doing a tandem jump.
- AFF Course: The instructors usually utilize radios to help their students with the landing pattern and flare time.
#9 Everyone Falls at the Same Speed
Another skydiving myth. There are a lot of variables that determine speed including weight, gear, and body position. A wingsuit can cause a lot of drag and slow you down. Tandem speeds vary in descent as well.
Speed Skydiving World Records
The speed record is held by Felix Baumgartner who jumped from a RedBull Stratus station wearing a specialized suit and helmet designed to resist heat and protect the jumper from outside forces. He reached Mach 1.24 or 834 mph breaking the sound barrier.
My personal record during ISSA Portugal 2019 competition is 460 km/h from an altitude of 13.000 feet. I’m going to talk about speed skydiving in another blog post. Stay tuned.
#10 You can Deploy your Parachute at any Altitude
This is not true. Modern computer graphics can make action sequences appear as if the skydiver is only a few feet above the ground when they deploy, the parachute opens, and they land safely.
Basic physics makes this impossible. On average, a parachute needs 600-800 feet to deploy. It needs time to inflate and catch the wind. If the parachute opens too quickly the sudden change in speed can be dangerous and even fatal to the jumper.
Imagine running full speed into a wall. To go from over 100mph to around 20 in 2 seconds can kill a person. There needs to be enough time to slow your descent and control the landing. For skydivers with a D license, the minimum allowed altitude for deploy a parachute in free fall is 2,500 feet.
More Skydiving Myths
(English) ListVerse: http://listverse.com/2009/02/05/top-10-fascinating-skydiving-myths/
(English) Skydive Foz: https://www.skydivefoz.com/en/blog/myth-jump-parachute/
(Português) Skydive Foz: https://www.skydivefoz.com/blog/mitos-salto-paraquedas/
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