It is a quite common goal for most skydivers to make a jump from a hot air balloon and a helicopter. Its like a right of passage for a skydiver to make these epic jumps. From the moment you begin your skydiving life, you hear the tales of other jumpers, how amazing it is to make these jumps. Which we can confirm, it is insanely fun! Lets take a look at both skydiving from a hot air balloon and making helicopter jumps. If you have the chance to make one of these special jumps from a novelty aircraft, I highly recommend it! Even if you have made one before, when the opportunity presents itself, its hard to pass up!
Novelty aircraft jumps
As long as skydiving has been around, there have been skydivers wanting to jump out of the next best aircraft. We know skydiving is fun in itself, yet making jumps from novelty aircraft has a huge appeal. Usually, these fun novelty aircraft jumps are organized during boogies, or skydiving events. A special aircraft is brought in and skydivers pay an extra fee to make these epic jumps. Not only is it super badass to make these special jumps, but the ride up to altitude is a pretty cool experience in its own!
There are a number of different types of novelty aircraft that can be used as skydiving aircraft. However, the most popular are hot air balloon jumps and helicopter jumps. There is a place in Germany that makes blimp (zeppelin) skydives. Sometimes skydives can be made from a biplane. This is cool because you can sit on the biplane and it flips upside down and out you go! You can even hang on while the plane turns upside down, and then drop yourself. In this article we are going to focus on the popular hot air balloon and helicopter jumps.
Hot air balloon skydives
This bucket list skydive is an amazing experience, whether its your first time or your tenth. Its just a fact, hot air balloon jumps are a special kind of fun! There are some drop zones around the world that have easier access to hot air balloons. For example, in USA, both Skydive Perris and Skydive Arizona have hot air balloon jumps available on the regular. You just need to sign up with a group. However, for many of us, its not quite so accessible. And so we must keep our eyes open for events near us that may be hosting hot air balloon jumps. Or sometimes, someone at the drop zone might have a connection and be able to organize these jumps randomly.
Hot air balloon skydives don’t normally go too high in altitude, maybe 5000-7000 ft. So its not as high as your average skydive. Although, you will for sure enjoy the experience of taking the hot air balloon ride up to altitude. Just think, most people are doing this for the ride, so you get a 2 for 1 experience. The hot air balloon ride and to jump from it!!
Difference between a regular skydive and a hot air balloon skydive
There is a major key element that is different when making a hot air balloon skydive. And that is the aircraft speed. Unlike a plane which is moving forward, a hot air balloon is essentially hanging in the air. This means there is no relative wind on exit for a skydiver to jump into. This results in a skydiver not being able to use that immediate pressure to manoeuvre themselves on exit of the aircraft. There is no real control over the first few seconds of a hot air balloon jump, it just feels like a weightless drop. Which can be kind of hard to explain the difference of feeling to someone who has never made a skydive before. This weightless drop is also referred to as “dead-air”. This dead air, is something similar to what base jumpers experience as well jumping off of stationary objects.
Because of no relative wind, making a hot air balloon jumps is also very very quiet at first. Spooky almost! After about 5-10 seconds your body will pick up acceleration and you will begin to hear the wind pick up speed. However, this is quite different than skydiving out of a regular plane into the relative wind, where this is much noise.
Who can make a hot air balloon skydive?
It is recommended by the USPA that a skydiver has a minimum of 50 skydives and a B-license to make a hot air balloon skydive. It is always a good idea for a skydiver to receive a briefing on how to safely skydive from a hot air balloon.
Tandem skydives are also not generally practised out of a hot air balloon. Although, I could most certainly be incorrect if I said it was never done. However normally these skydives are dedicated to those of us experienced licensed skydivers.
Best conditions for a hot air balloon jump
Hot air balloons actually require specific weather conditions, there must be next to no wind. Almost totally still winds is required and therefore most often hot air balloon jumps are made in the early mornings. Some places are also possible in the late afternoon. If the conditions are good, a hot air balloon pilot may even be able to offer more than one load for skydivers to make a jump. In this case, the first load will take off from a pre-determined spot. However, the second load must race out to where the hot air balloon landed and then board the aircraft from here. This is another big difference of a hot air balloon jump and regular skydive. A hot air balloon does not generally choose where it lands. So it can be quite the frenzy chasing the balloon down to get on the second load.
Get to the choppa!! Number one joke that is going to be made at the drop zone when the helicopter is around. Helicopter jumps are awesome. When I started to skydive, it was one of my goals to get a photo of me hanging off the helicopter rails. It took me two tries, because the first helicopter didn’t let us climb down. But the jump was still epic of course. However, about 2 years later I was finally presented with the opportunity to climb down onto the rails, and it was so badass. Everything I had dreamed of! What an unforgettable sunset jump that was.
There are some drop zones around the world that actually use helicopters as their main aircraft for the drop zone. Such as in Skydive Interlaken in Switzerland. This is a pretty spectacular experience for their skydivers and tandem customers.
Difference between a helicopter jump and regular skydive
So just like a hot air balloon, when making a helicopter jump there is not forward (relative) wind. The helicopter is sort of just floating stationary in the same place. And so your first few seconds of free-fall will be that crazy feeling of dead air.
However, just like a regular skydive plane, helicopters are able to go just as high to altitude. Although, whether or not the helicopter you jump from goes to full altitude, is dependant. During some boogies, where a helicopter is brought in to make skydives. The drop zone wants to maximise the number of skydives that can be made from the helicopter. So the altitude may be set a bit lower, to turn the loads faster.
The traditional helicopter photo
Also as I have already mentioned, sometimes when making a helicopter skydive, you are able to climb down onto the rails and hang. This is the money shot, the photo and video footage that we are all wanting. It looks so cool to be hanging upside down, or just like a monkey off of the helicopter rails. Its super fun, looks badass, and its awesome to get this money shot photo of your helicopter jump.
However, it is not a guarantee that you will be able to do this. It depends on the particular helicopter and the pilot. If the pilot deems it safe to do so, then you are in luck! But be careful, and listen to the helicopter jump briefing that will be done prior to the helicopter skydives. It is an extremely common mistake for skydivers to climb down while pressing their emergency handles against the helicopter rails. There are many bolts and objects where your gear can become stuck, or your emergency handles can become dislodged or stuck on. It is too common and we need to be paying so much attention to this.
If you are unsure before you make your jump, please go and talk to someone who can advise you. That is NOT the helicopter photo you want, with you hanging from the helicopter rail and your reserve handle hanging off you gear. This is the helicopter photo you want, happy faces and safe gear.
Who can make a helicopter skydive?
Similar to the hot air balloon jump, you should have your B license in order to make helicopter skydives. However, unlike the hot air balloon skydives this epic jump can be experienced by tandem skydives as well. As also mentioned some drop zones only fly with a helicopter. This is an incredible experience for both skydivers and tandem passenger. Helicopter rides are fun, the views are stunning, and there is nothing quite like standing on the edge of a helicopter – or hanging from one!
Keep coming back
After this article, I am already feeling the urge to go make another one of these epic skydives. Its hard to pick which one would be my favourite, because they are both super special skydives with friends. Which do you prefer? Helicopter skydives or hot air balloon jumps? Or have you yet to make one of these bucket-list skydives yet?
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