Falling Height

What is the highest height which someone can fall without dying?

If they have a parachute, they can fall from *very *high up.

A long-standing world record is 102,800 feet, set by Joseph Kittinger in 1960. His descent took 13 minutes and 45 seconds, and he reached a maximum free-fall speed of Mach 0.9

There is no such height. Terminal velocity for a typical human body is between 100 and 150 MPH (depending on clothing, body shape, attitude and other factors), a speed attained after falling in free air after 1000-2000 feet or so. People have fallen from planes at cruising altitude (25,000-35,000 feet) and survived. Rare, but it’s been documented. OTOH, one can fall a few feet and be killed instantly. Depends on how you land, and what you land on.

That depends to a great extent on what the person lands on. Stunt people fall from great heights onto large inflated pads that protect them.

If you mean can someone falling out of a 40th floor window onto the sidewalk below survive I think that depends on how they hit the ground. Remember that people have jumped off bridges that were extremely far off the water and managed somehow to survive… albeit with lots of broken bones.

I don’t think there is a definitive answer to this type of question… too many variables.

IIRC I once read a fireman rule-of-thumb was anything above the third floor (~36 feet) was a good bet you’d die. Of course falling 36 feet is going to hurt you pretty badly as well if you land on the ground and you might still die but if it is a choice between certain death and jumping you may as well take your chances from that height.

Again, very, very loose rule-of-thumb and as noted there are a lot of variables that determine your chances. People have fallen over just from a standing position and killed themselves with an unlucky hit to the head and others have fallen out of planes with no parachute and survived (rare of course but has happened).

Vesna Vulovic holds the record for the highest fall without a parachute. She was a flight attendant in a Yugoslavian jet that broke apart in mid-air (probably due to a terrorist bomb) and she fell 33,000 feet and survived. Quite some time and several surgeries later and she was even able to walk again. She was able to continue flying afterwards, which she credits to the fact that she doesn’t remember the accident.

In world war II, a few guys were knocked out of their bombers and managed to survive.

Alan Magee was thrown from his bomber before he could get his chute on. He fell 22,000 feet and landed on the roof of the St. Nazaire train station. Apparently he made quite an entrance when he came down through the skylight. He was badly injured but lived.

Lt. Chisov was a Russian airman who jumped out of his bomber. At that point he found himself at an altitude of about 20,000 feet and in the middle of a raging battle. He thought that he would just make an easy target for the enemy if he pulled his chute. What he planned on doing was falling below the level of the battle and then pulling his chute. What he instead did was pass out on the way down, and woke up when he hit the ground. He hit the edge of a snowy ravine and rolled to the bottom. He was very badly injured but survived.

Nicholas Alkemade is my personal favorite, because he is the only one who was basically able to shake off the fall and walk away. He went to bail out of his bomber and found his chute in flames. At that point, he was faced with the decision of whether he wanted to burn to death in his bomber or if he wanted to just jump to his death. He chose to jump and fell 18,000 feet. He landed on pine trees, underbrush, and a bit of snow, which slowed his fall to the point where his only injuries were a few scrapes and bruises and a twisted knee.

Olen Cooper Bryant was in a plane that got hit, which caused it to veer into another plane. Bryant was thrown from the plane and fell about 10,000 feet and landed in snow. Witnesses who saw him land built a stretcher for him and carried him down the mountain to safety.

All of these stories are exceptional of course. A fall from about 3 stories is roughly the 50/50 point (if you fall from 3 stories you have a 50 percent chance of death). From here the odds obviously just get worse as the height increases.

Looking at the strict wording of the OP, it seems worth noting that someone falling from an airplane at 35,000 feet, even if he dies due to the impact, will presumably have fallen 34,999 feet without dying…


Ask any skydiver-- it’s not the fall that kills you, it’s that sudden stop at the end.

I fell about 8 feet backwards off of a scaffolding while seated in a metal folding chair this weekend. So my answer is:

8 feet or more.

The things some people will do for fun, I tells ya.

A related story: folks are developing the means to do “space diving”-- literally, skydiving from near-orbit.

One thing to consider: “terminal velocity” is a factor involving wind resistance and gravity. Without wind resistance, velocity can be far greater, which is why space divers will need lots of technical help in dealing with friction and stabilization-- they’re going to be going a helluva lot faster than 120 mph.

16 stories for this guy.