Skydiving or Parachuting is a sport in which you exit a plane from altitude, freefall for a while and then deploy a parachute to fly safely to the ground. This page doesn't describe activities such as parascending down a mountainside or on tow behind a motorboat, where you have an open parachute right from the start; nor the hazardous sport of BASE jumping (eg from buildings and bridges).
Skydiving doesn't work as a spectator sport because the action is too far from the ground. If you want to experience it, you have to buckle on a kit and get in that plane.
There are 3 main ways to get started in parachuting.
- Tandem is where you jump buckled to an instructor, who does all the work. The pair of you freefall for about a minute, perhaps also with an in-air cameraman to record your horrified expression, then spend a couple of minutes under parachute. So it's more like a white-knuckle fairground ride than a sport, with minimum fitness and training needed. This is the commonest way to get started; many people only ever do one jump, as a charity challenge or bucket-list experience.
- Accelerated Freefall (AFF) is usually a follow-on from an initial tandem, but you can start straight in. You freefall independently from high altitude from your very first jump. An instructor jumps with you, giving signals to correct your body position, to check your awareness of your height, and eventually to cue your parachute opening. (The wind is too loud to talk in freefall, so you need to watch and act upon those signals.) Early jumps are just about maintaining basic stability, then you learn turns and other manoeuvres. It's an intense, immersive approach that's not for everyone, and it's more expensive; but you're a true skydiver right from the get-go.
- Static line is the old-school method; it's no longer the standard training approach but is still widely available. You're clipped to the plane by a stout lanyard, the "static-line" or "dope-rope". You exit the plane at intermediate altitude, say 4000 feet; the line almost immediately rips your parachute out to deploy then a break-tie snaps and away you float under canopy. There's no freefall so you're not yet a skydiver, but you're certainly a parachutist as you steer and land yourself. This method is relatively inexpensive and you will learn good canopy control, in-air awareness, parachute packing and other excellent stuff before progressing to freefall. You then jump freefall from higher and higher, until you come on a par with the AFF trainees.
Kit is expensive. For early jumps you hire the centre's kit, then seek advice from the instructors on what sort of kit you should look to buy, given your body size and how rapidly you're progressing. A modern parachute is a "ram air", with multiple cells that are open at the front so they inflate into a square, corrugated canopy. Your early chute will be large and docile. You'll graduate onto smaller, faster, dynamic canopies, but not too soon, as these are dangerous if mishandled. You always have a reserve, stowed on top of the main canopy in the same container. Plus it's virtually mandatory nowadays to have an AAD - automatic activation device - which is your last chance if you brain-lock and fail to open. Add helmet, altimeter, goggles, and a few other bits and bobs, and you're good to go.
Jump at an approved centre, affiliated to the relevant national governing body. These bodies hold the definitive list of approved centres for their country, and enforce standards around planes, pilots, instructors, training methods and parachuting procedures, kit packing and maintenance, and airfield facilities and location (eg not next to a fast busy highway or heavy industry). They also set out key regulations eg the minimum age for training or your maximum weight, and whether you need a medical certificate - these rules vary country by country. In countries with only one or two centres, realistically there may not be a national body, and the centres set their own rules. Below are listed a handful of centres that are popular, but it's only a sample, and doesn't imply endorsement of these over others. (They may also be listed under their nearest city, but they're often a long way out in the country. You generally need your own transport to reach any of them.) Check whether your health insurance covers this activity.
Next steps: after falling for 13 secs, you're going as fast as you will, a terminal velocity of 120 mph in a "flat-fly" or belly-to-earth position. It doesn't feel like falling, because you're always flying in the onrush of air, as if balancing atop a fountain. Use small movements of your body to turn, shift forward etc, in a controlled manner. From there you learn to link with others in "formation skydiving" - and to separate safely before it's time to open. Four is the basic formation team, then eight, and bigger. "Freestyle" means falling in other positions such as head-down, which are much faster and dynamically unstable. Other disciplines include wing-suiting, gradient flying, parachute landing accuracy, surfing ie steering your canopy through a slalom course, and CRW where open canopies are linked. You'll also start to train others, and might work to become an instructor or parachute rigger. All this involves a major commitment of time and money.
How high you go varies between centres, but 15,000 feet is the ceiling. That's because you climb rapidly from near sea level in an unpressurised aircraft without acclimatisation, so you can't safely go higher without oxygen. That height allows you 70 secs of freefall before opening at 3000-4000 feet. Although some radical sports go lower: they use wind tunnels as training grounds. These have developed to the stage where four-way wind tunnel competitions are held, but they've not yet become a free-standing sport or alternate training pathway into skydiving.
- Kenya: Diani, Ukunda.
- Mozambique has a couple of centres, but the country was badly damaged by the cyclone of 2019 and their current status isn't known.
- Zimbabwe: Skydive Tandem Company are at Zambezi Falls.
- Johannesburg Skydiving Club (JSC), Carltonville outside Johannesburg, ☎ , (for tandem skydiving), e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Mostly use a PAC 750 XL.
- EP Skydivers, Grahamstown, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com.
- Durban Skydive Centre, Durban, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Skydive Pretoria, Pretoria, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com.
- Skydive Cape Town, Cape Town, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Skydive Mossel Bay, Mossel Bay, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com.
- Indonesia: NusaWiru Paracenter is on the south coast of Java, 150 km from Jakarta. But they've halted operations until Sept 2019 as their aircraft is out of action. The skydiving centre on Bali has closed down.
- Thailand has a centre at Pattaya.
Central America and Caribbean
United States of America
- West Tennessee Skydiving, 985 Laverne-Davis, Whiteville, TN 38075, ☎ . Tandem Skydive, includes all training, equipment, the jump from 14,500' , and an official, signed, Jump Certificate (no hidden charges!)US$225.00 Tandem Skydive Group Rate. At least 5 jumpers, each: US$200.00 Tandem Skydive Group Rate. At least 10 jumpers, each: US$195.00 Digital Video and Digital Still Pictures of your Tandem Skydive. Video is edited to music and placed on a DVD, Still Pictures are on a CD. You will receive your video and pictures about 30 minutes after your jump, you may view them on site! US$100.00 AFF Ground School (Next training step after your Tandem Skydive). Includes your own personal pair of goggles and logbook. US$100.00 AFF Jumps, Levels 1 thru 3 (you must have completed a Tandem Skydive and AFF Ground School) each jump: US$200.00 AFF Jumps, Levels 4 thru 7 ( You must have completed AFF Levels 1 thru 3), each jump: US$175.00 Super King Air Jumps from 14,500' (experienced jumpers with their own gear): US$26.00 Gear rental with AAD (on all student jumps the gear is provided at no additional charge), each jump: US$25.00 Reserve repack: US$75.00 Coach Jumps: A Coach is provided free of charge to all AFF Graduates on each jump until you receive your.
- Las Vegas Gravity Zone Skydiving Center, ☎ .
- Skydive DeLand, DeLand Airport, DeLand, Florida, ☎ . 13,500 ft./$23; 5,000 ft./$17.
- Skydive Greene County, 177 South Monroe-Siding Road, Xenia, Ohio, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. (weather permitting): Sa-Su 8AM-8PM; M-F 8:30AM-8PM. Reservations recommended. $250/person.
- Skydive! Santa Barbara, toll-free: . The Drop Zone with an Ocean View! Feel the rush of flying through the air at 120 mph. Check out the fantastic ocean view of Point Concepcion. Certificate of Achievement presented on your first jump. They offer 2 ways of completing your first jump, Tandem or Static Line.
- Skydive Sebastian, Sebastian Airport, ☎ , toll-free: .
- Skydive Zion, Hurricane Airport, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Fly out from Hurricane (Utah) and jump over the spectacular Zion National Park Tandem:$185.
- Freefall Oz Skydiving Center, Shinglehouse, PA, ☎ . Experienced jumpers and beginners welcome, video recording available. Certified by the United States Parachute Association.
- 1 GliderSports Skydiving, 51 SE Hwy W, Clinton, MO, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. sunrise to sunset; by reservation. Located on an exclusive 50-acre facility, this is the largest skydiving center in the region with the newest and fastest aircraft. $189-$299 depending on altitude, $89-179 pictures and video.
Australia and Oceania
- Skydive Cairns, 59 Sheridan Street, Cairns, ☎ , toll-free: 1800 330 044 (free call in Australia), fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Skydive Cairns offers tandem single jumps and AFF courses. One of the most beautiful plane rides up to 13,000 feet overlooking the reef just long enough before you lose your lunch on the way down.
- Tandem Cairns, Shop 10, 93 The Esplanade, Cairns (entrance on Aplin Street), toll-free: 1800 805 432 (free call in Australia), e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. $270.
- Freefall Skydive, toll-free: 0800 373 335. Located in spectacular Taupo offering jumps above the amazing lake and volcanoes at heights up to 15,000 feet above the ground. From $249.
- Skydive Auckland, toll-free: 0800 92 15 57. Imagine an insanity inducing freefall of at least 200kmph with breathtaking views of the skies and beaches of Auckland. Our customers are spoilt for choice with skydive heights of 9,000, 13,000 & 16,500ft, the last of which is the highest skydive jump in the North Island, New Zealand. From $295.
- Skydive New Zealand, toll-free: 0800 751 0080. This is probably the best place in New Zealand to do this activity thanks to its amazing scenery. Between NZ$225 and NZ$500 depending on height and options.
- Skydive Abel Tasman, toll-free: 0800 422 899. Tandem Skydiving from up to 13,000 feet with the best of NZ's scenery including National Parks, Southern Alps, blue oceans and golden beaches! Famous for top quality freefall photography! From NZ$229.
- Skydive the Sounds, toll-free: 0800 3732648. High standards of safety, service and superb 360 degrees of scenery. Also the home of the unique "X Flight" (take off from Wellington and skydive into the South Island. Between NZ$245 and NZ$575 depending on height and options.
- NZONE Skydive, 35 Shotover St, Queenstown & Rotorua Airport, toll-free: 0800 376 796. Experience the thrill of skydiving in New Zealand with a tandem jump or accelerated freefall course above Queenstown or Rotorua. No prior skydive training needed, just a sense of adventure. From NZ$269.
- Skydive NZ Franz Josef, Fern Grove Souvenirs, Main road, Franz Josef, New Zealand, toll-free: 0800 7510080. Dawn to Dusk. The original glacier skydivers, good vibes since 1997. $295.
- Skydive Paradise Glenorchy, toll-free: 0800 475 934. Experience the most scenic tandem skydive experience on earth at our skydive dropzone near Queenstown. Breathtaking Lord of the Rings scenery, tandem skydiving from 12,000 ft or 15,000ft, photos & videos available. From NZ$325 12,000 ft.
- Paracentrum Eelde Hoogeveen, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Dropzone Eelde: phone +31 50 309 44 99; Dropzone Hoogeveen: phone +31 528 27 11 50
- Skydive. Take a dive from 4000 meters alone or tandem. Contact Andreas Knabe at the Parachuting School, tel 079 213 71 38, .
There are 27 parachute centres in the UK, governed by the British Parachute Association.
- Skydive Langar / British Parachute Schools (email firstname.lastname@example.org, phone +44 1949 860878) are at Langar Airfield, Notts NG13 9HY, ten miles south of Newark. They're open daily all year, offering tandem skydives, AFF and static line courses. Their aircraft are a pair of Cessna Grand Caravans, going up to 14,000 feet.
- Skydive Hibaldstow (email email@example.com, phone +44 1652 648902) are at Hibaldstow Lincs DN20 9NN, twenty miles north of Lincoln. They're open daily Jun-Aug, W-M Mar-May and Sept and F-Sun Oct-Dec. They offer tandem skydives, AFF and static line courses. Their aircraft are a pair of Dorniers and a Finis going up to 15,000 feet.
When winter sets in across Europe, hardcore skydivers head to the United Arab Emirates for sunny days and good flying facilities.
One big centre is Skydive Dubai offering tandem and AFF.