HALO jumps are well known around the skydiving community. And now, thanks to movies such as Mission Impossible – Fallout, the general public is also familiar with this military inspired skydive, the HALO jump. However, HALO jumps are not just for the military or movies anymore. Civilians can also take part in these adrenaline packed HALO jumps. Both experienced skydivers and regular tandem passengers can participate in HALO skydives. Of course there is extra expenses and additional training involved, but its all worth it for this unique jump!
What is a HALO jump?
A HALO jump means a high altitude low opening parachute jump. Originally, HALO jumps were used by the military for stealth. Jumpers could be brought into war zones without drawing attention to themselves. These jumps also allowed for delivering people or items to hard to reach areas of combat, not suited for regular aircrafts landing. They have been used by the special forces for decades. Today civilians can take part in HALO jumps. Both experienced skydivers and tandem passengers can choose to make these extraordinary skydives.
Experienced jumpers need to have a B License and go through the required training and familiarization of equipment. However, according to the USPA SIM, if the altitude is higher than 20,000ft, further requirements may need to be met. Such as holding a USPA C license. Tandem passengers are also given much more informative briefing and training including some of the gear as well. Although, it is important to keep in mind due to the higher altitude, specific equipment, required training, air space permissions, and oxygen usage, you will be paying a lot more for HALO jumps. In the USA, there are only a few places offering HALO jumps, and the cost can be between $750 and over $3000.
How high is “high altitude”?
For regular parachuting activities, the aircraft goes anywhere in between 13,000ft – 15,000ft. The jumper has approximately 60 seconds of free fall time before they need to deploy their parachute at around 3500ft. Civilian HALO jumps are typically between 25,000ft and 30,000ft, and the parachute is deployed around 4000ft. The total amount of free fall between 2 and 2.5 minutes. On the military side, they can deploy their parachutes at much lower altitudes. The jump altitude is based on FAA approval and weather conditions, but typically a HALO jump is between 25,000ft and 30,000ft.
Do I need oxygen?
Yes, for HALO jumps, everyone needs to be using oxygen. One of the biggest risks of HALO jumps is the possibility of lack of oxygen, which leads to hypoxia. Skydiving aircrafts are not pressurized as commercial airplanes are. Therefore, HALO skydivers must use oxygen.
For HALO jumps between 15,000ft and 22,000ft jumpers are required to use oxygen during the plane ride up. Jumpers will breath through a oxygen mask until its time to exit the plane. Depending on the drop zone, customers can book anytime for these HALO jumps.
However, when participating in jumps between 22,000ft and 30,000ft, a little more preparation is needed. Due to the extreme altitude and reduced air pressure, skydivers must “pre-breath” oxygen for an hour prior to take off. This helps to prepare skydivers for the thin air up top. Jumpers will have a fitted oxygen mask. After exiting the plane this special helmet with the oxygen mask will be functioning with the bailout oxygen tank attached to the jumper.
Do I need special equipment?
There are only a few places in the USA that make the HALO jumps. All of the entities that host HALO jumps provide the equipment needed for tandem passengers and experienced jumpers. Of course a licensed skydiver wanting to go for a solo HALO jump, needs to have his own parachuting rig. However, the special equipment is provided as part of the service. Depending on the altitude, you may be given a special helmet, an oxygen mask, tactical goggles, flight suit and goggles as well as a standard bailout oxygen bottle. Whichever outfit you make your HALO jump with, they will inform you of gear that is provided and what you will need to bring yourself.
Where can I make a HALO jump?
As mentioned, there are very few drop zones that provide HALO jump services in USA. SkyDance Skydiving in Davis, California, is the only drop zone in America that has a Certification of Authorization from the FAA to fly into airspace about 28,000ft. There are also other companies such as Halojumper.com and Skydive High, which also offer HALO jumps at various drop zones around the USA. Interested dare devils must contact the operations to schedule in advance in order to make a HALO jump. Some requirements must be met before being able to complete the HALO jump.
Both experienced skydivers and tandem passengers need to complete and hold a FAA class 3 medical certificate or equivalent. Skydivers who wish to make a HALO jump above 20,000ft will need a USPA C license. Participants must commit to a minimum of 3 days for a HALO jump course. This includes on the ground theory, potential risks, and equipment review and training. Tandem passengers will make one training tandem from 13,000ft with all the gear, and solo jumpers will also make one training jump from 13K. After the successful training jumps, jumpers are ready for the real thing.
There are other drop zones in the USA who also do HALO jumps, however not quite as high and only requiring oxygen use on the ride to altitude. Usually between 16,000ft and 22,000ft. Often they are offered at boogies and scheduled events at the drop zones. Keep on eye on drop zones near to you for these opportunities. Skydive City Z-Hills in Florida and Skydive Orange in Virginia both offer HALO jumps.
What has been the highest HALO jump?
Over the years there have been a few really crazy HALO jumps. The first record was set in 1960 by Joseph W. Kittinger. Many years later, in 2014, this record jump was finally overcome by Felix Baumgartber. Then shortly after in the same year, Alan Eustace claimed the record for highest HALO skydive.
Joseph W. Kittinger
Captain Joseph W. Kittinger began his career in test piloting in the US Army. Later, he joined a team on the air force which investigated new techniques and equipment used for high altitudes and high speed aircrafts. In 1957, he was a test pilot for extreme altitudes. In a gondola attached underneath a hot air balloon, Kittinger reached an altitude of 96,000ft. Soon after, Kittinger moved on to test piloting equipment and techniques for successful high altitude parachuting jumps.
After many training jumps from gradually increased altitudes, Joseph W. Kittinger made his record setting HALO jump. Drifting in a gondola suspended by helium balloons at 102,800ft, Joseph stepped out and began his long fall. He was trailed by a stabilizing drogue, falling for 4 minutes and 37 seconds before deploying his main parachute at 17,500ft. During Kittingers fall, at the upper area of the atmosphere the air was thinner and he was travelling at speeds of 965 km (600 miles) per hour. After dropping into denser air near 50,000ft he slowed down to a speed of 420km (250 miles) per hour. Joseph had an 8 minute canopy ride before landing back on solid ground.
Nearly 50 years after Joseph W. Kittenger set the record for highest altitude jump, Felix Baumgartner and Red Bull took the challenge. Felix ascended to altitude in The Stratos space capsule. It was designed to maintain pressure during the 3 hour climb to the altitude. Funds were not spared for this extraordinary Red Bull sponsored project. High-def cameras and microphones and telecommunication devices offered live feed to everyone back on Earth.
Felix Baumgartner made his jump from 128,100 ft, that is approximately 39 kilometres! The time between leaving the capsule and landing safely back on Earth was approximately 10 minutes. He reached a record top speed of 1342 km (833 miles) per hour! Felix has a free fall time of over 4 minutes before he deployed his main parachute. Check out this amazing footage of Felix’s HALO jump with Red Bull Stratos.
Not long after Felix made his record jump, in the same year, Alan Eustace and team StratEx, surpassed Felix’s jump by over 7,000ft. After years of research, a plan can into action which would enable Eustace to parachute from somewhere close to the top of the stratosphere. Alan was carried to altitude by a plastic balloon that stood 450ft high. The climb rate was approximately 1,000ft per minute, and the whole ride took around 2.5 hours for Eustace to reach his jump altitude. Instead of investing in creating a heavy air pressurized cabin to bring Eustace to altitude, he made the flight dangled beneath the giant balloon. He was protected by his pressurized suit.
After dropping from the balloon at an altitude of 135,890ft Eustace quickly reached a top speed of 1321km (822 miles) per hour. He was safely back on ground after 15 minutes of disconnecting from the balloon. Although Alan Eustace now has the record for highest attitude jump. Felix and Alan’s vertical speeds and free-fall distances are not recorded in the same category, due to the fact that Alan jumped with a drogue and Felix did not.
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