Tell me about your skydiving experiences (especially first-timers)

Yeah, I’m tossing around the idea of leaping out of a mechanically sound aeroplane.

I’d love to hear stories and advice*, good and bad.

*even if the advice is “don’t be a fool”

I’ve not done it, but my husband did. Twice. The second time, he forgot the basic training of landing with your knees bent. He was stretching for the ground, legs straight, and now has several screws in his right ankle. The end.

Moral of the story, listen to your instructor(s) and let your legs be shock absorbers.

You won’t get to hear from the first timers where it really ended bad. Not trying to scare you or anything, go ahead and jump. Have fun. :eek:

I’ve contemplated trying it. The only thing that kept me from following through is having to give the instructor a free ride on my back. I’m curious to hear if there are schools that will let you jump solo on the first jump.

The better part of three decades ago - my instructor first jumped in WWII; he was a 67yo grandpa w/ > 3000 jumps. He ripped the then-relatively-new tandem jump as a carnival ride because the newbie didn’t need to do anything at all.

Roughly six hour class for static line jump as I had to (or be prepared to) do it all, including cut away the main & deploy the reserve in case of any issues with the main chute not deploying properly. You literally go thru the motions on the ground - sit in the doorway, grab the struts (overhead wing Cessna 17x{?}), hand-over-hand climb up the strut/away from the fuselage, let go. Of course the plane isn’t on & there’s no wind in my face so my legs are below me, on the ground. I’m told that the airspeed, along with an arched back will keep me horizontal. (remember this) However, the weather doesn’t cooperate that day, too windy to jump.

A few weeks later, I get up very early one Sunday morning to make the 50min drive to the field. After a relatively-short refresher course it’s time to get suited up. They tell me if I’m not scared like I’ve never been scared before they’re not letting me go up because there’s clearly something wrong with me. I can get a (partial) refund any point until we’re in the air. With both hands I make a bring it on wave.

We take off & are circling up & it hits me. I not only don’t want to jump, I don’t want to be anywhere near the door. I just want to stick my thumb in my mouth & cry, “Mommy”. Luckily there is some traffic so we need to circle a bit; just long enough for me to get my cold feet to warm up & me to regain my confidence - Let’s do this!

The door is opened & I move to sit in the doorway & then reach out for the strut. Hand-over-hand, I climb up the strut, but I’m still hanging down. This ain’t right, I think, but it’s windy & hard to hear up there. My instructor gives me the thumbs up to let go. I assume that I’m hanging down because of the aerodynamics of the plane & that when I let go I’ll magically drift into the correct, stomach-down position. (One wants to be stomach-down so that when the chute comes out, there’s nothing for it to get caught it & wrapped around, like your body.) But…no. I’m still going down feet first. I remember the thought, “I’m gonna d”. Before I get out the word ‘die’ I feel the tug & look up to the left & the right. I have a good chute! I’m gonna live!!!

Now my instructor is off, he’s gonna do a dual jump/aerial work with another jumper - you know, where they do spins & hold hands before eventually separating to pull their respective chutes & land separately. However, I’m not totally alone up there; there’s a walkie-talkie strapped to my chest & someone on the ground with the other one & a pair of binoculars. At instruction, I reach up & grab the toggles, breaking the velcro attachment holding them to the lines.

I went out at about 3200’ &, per instruction, I practice certain things up high, a right turn, a left turn, a landing flare/stall. After each ‘trick’ I quickly reach down (reaching down while holding the toggle puts you in a turn; yet, I don’t want to let go of the toggle & risk not being able to reach it again) to my chest & key the mike, with a, “how was that?” Yeah, I think, I don’t have too many chances if I didn’t do it right, & it is, literally, my life & limbs hanging in the balance, I want to make damn sure I got it right. After I land, I’m told I must be the calmest student he’s ever had as I was the only one who ever talked back on the walkie-talkie & asked for feedback on the various maneuvers.

The ride/float down was incredible; I had a good chute & knew I was going to live & the only thing blocking the view below me was my only legs, which; obviously, I could move. An okay to good landing, the only thing I hurt was my pride as I didn’t stick it as well as I wanted to but good enough that I didn’t hurt, or even bruise anything, just slid a bit on the ground.

I did a couple of jumps but ultimately gave it up because of the money, & more importantly time commitment that I wasn’t willing to make - jumping weather is much the same as ballooning weather, it was ½ a tank of gas round trip to get out there which realistically meant staying out there all day & possibly camping out all weekend, so in addition to jumping equipment I’d need to buy camping equipment; all of this with a then long-distance girlfriend meant no more for me.

I have over 200 jumps, all on a military static line. I really do not think they count. Still, sort of hope to get some free falls in when I retire.

It is a lot of fun. Do it.

I’ve made over 1,100 jumps. My first was in 1982, my most recent was in 2017. I’ve never had a malfunction and never had to use my reserve parachute (I have had a few close calls). I say go for it. It’ll be one of the most exciting things you’ve ever done.

Yes, there are still some places that will let you jump solo for your first jump, usually with a static-line to open the parachute. Most places will try to get you to do a tandem jump first. They’ll tell you it’s a safety thing and it’s mandatory- and they have the right to establish their own program & requirements. But it’s really just a money-maker for them. If one place won’t let you jump solo, look for another one. There are more skydiving centers around than most people realize.

I did it one time recreationally. I don’t regret it but would not do it again. Something about betting all your chips, winning, and taking your winnings vs letting it ride. :smiley:

I went with a large group of friends including my girlfriend (now wife). It was a tandem with a jump master. There was a short video training and Q&A then we suited up and headed for the plane. The interior of the plane had two sets of low benches running down the length of the plane. You say straddling it, one leg on each side. My jump master sat behind me and during the flight he secured me to his harness. At elevation the door on the side of the plane was opened (rolled up like a garage door) and one group at a time we made our way to the door. When it was my turn we waddle walked to the door and on 3 we went out. No sitting down and rolling out - that’s for pussies per my jump master.

The have you do a few things. Grab your harness straps when heading to the door and exiting the plane. I suspect this is so your arms aren’t flapping around or trying to grab ahold of anything. When you exit, you’re supposed do get into a particular position with your back arched. They also suggest you smile as big as possible as it tightens your face muscles. After a brief free fall the jump master signals he is going to deploy the chute and then you decelerate pretty quickly. When the chute is done deploying it is amazingly quiet and beautiful. It feels as if you’re suspended in mid air (obviously but it’s hard to explain any other way). During this part of the jump my jump master steered us around, did some fun crazy steep turns, etc. and may let you take the controls/risers. Landing was with legs up and literally a slide on your backside until you come to a stop.

Now… for the things not mentioned yet. On the ride up to jump altitude in the plane I have never been so scared in my life. Remember the movie Jaws when Dreyfus is in the shark cage about to be lowered and he says “I got no spit”? That kinda fear. I literally could not produce saliva I was so scared. If half the plane wasn’t full of friends including my girlfriend who was further behind and would be jumping after me I may have lost my shit and refused to jump. When my time came we took about 3 coordinated steps to get to the door. Your supposed to put both feet at the line on the floor inches from the exit. I made it there with my right foot but my left was about a half step behind and refused to move. Mentally and physically I wanted my left foot on the line but my body was refusing. We went out anyway on 3.

The next few seconds was a blur of noise, disorientation, and probably screaming as my brain completely tried to reject I was outside a perfectly good airplane and about to die. I remembered to get into position and force my face into what must have been a maniacal grin. From there it was an express elevator going down. It is hard to convey the feeling of speed. Putting your face out a car window while on the freeway doesn’t compare. At this point of my experience almost all the fear was gone and it was pure adrenaline. I remember yelling “Woo!” a lot and making the \m/ hand signal. I mean at this point it’s pretty binary, you’re gonna live or die so might as well get excited for the ride.

The jump master signaled he was pulling the cord and then that rapid deceleration happened. It was a pretty sharp yank and your body swings pretty wildly as you go from horizontal to vertical pretty quickly. I had an immense feeling of relief the chute was open and I wasn’t going to die today. The rest of the trip down was my favorite part of the experience. It was incredible to just float in the air like that. It was quiet, serene, peaceful, and the views were stunning.

We landed and while we were landing my girlfriend also touched down. We both got unclipped and we did the cheesy run to each other and embraced and kissed and laughed. She immediately asked me to go back up and do it again. I politely declined. :smiley:

For her the best part was jumping out and the free fall. The exact opposite of me.

I did buy the photography and video package of my jump so
I have tons of digital photos and a video. Skydiving isn’t cheap and that adds even more costs but I recommend it. Now that I’m older and married and have 2 girls, my oldest who is almost 5 loves for me to tell the story of jumping out of a plane with mommy. It’s fun to flip back through the pictures and tell a yarn about daddy’s daring adventures.

Almost 20 years ago I went to a place in Pell City, Alabama (State Motto: Where life is cheap) that had an accelerated free fall program. You jumped with an instructor at 13,500 feet but untethered. The instructor stayed near you through the free fall portion of the dive, then after observing that your chute had deployed properly pulled their own chute and you separated and landed on your own.

I’ve done it twice. First time, I didn’t like it at all. Cost a lot of money and the falling sensation was very unpleasant for the first 8-10 seconds after exiting the plane - like being sucked into a black hole or immense vacuum cleaner. After that, I said I wouldn’t do it again.

But five years later, my younger brother was doing it for his first time, and wanted me to accompany him. So I shelled out a few hundred dollars and did it again.

I second this. The scary part wasn’t the actual jump itself - it was the slow ten-minute climb to altitude, building up the suspense, sensing the plane getting higher and higher, knowing that every bit of altitude gained going up was something I’d have to go back down later.

They say that your second jump is the scariest, because you have advance knowledge of what’s going to happen.

Sign seen at nearby skydive hangar:
If at first you don’t succeed . . .

Maybe skydiving isn’t for you.

Lots of places continue to use the Accelerated Free Fall program. These days most of them still want you to do a tandem jump first. They will incorporate it into the AFF program and give you more training on the technical stuff if you say you want to make more than one jump. If you only want to make the one jump they can honestly get by with minimal training since you really are just “along for the ride.” Most places are still fairly thorough (they don’t want you interfering when the tandem instructor is doing the important stuff*) but it’s basically an amusement park ride- from 2 miles up in the sky.

*Exiting the aircraft & deploying the drogue chute, getting a functional parachute over your head at opening time, and coming in on final approach/landing.

Edit: By the way, I’ve jumped in Pell City AL, in 1997.

You and me both. Asked that myself a few years ago, an informative thread, that had some good laughs in it as well, and a fairly quick read. Stranger on a Train said it’s called Accelerated Freefall. wolfpup has done those. Johnny L.A. and others had some interesting things to say in that thread. Chronos was super on guiding me along on my math, letting me know mathematically how to do the odds of parachute failure happening twice.

I did the tandem jump. The moment of actually dropping out of the plane was thrilling. The rest was merely fun. I feel like if someone I wanted to spend time with asked me to go again with them, I’d do it, but if I never got around to it again, that wouldn’t be one of my deathbed regrets. I got to experience it. It was worth the money. On to the next adventure.

Now, scuba diving has taken ten grand and a year of my life and still won’t let go for some reason…

  1. My first was a static line from a Cessna 182, an overhead wing design. We drilled on an exit routine, and when I was all the way out, hanging from the strut, and I realized I probably couldn’t get back into the airplane from here, that I knew I was actually going to do this.

I’ve done 3 tandem jumps, about 20 years ago.

I agree that the most nerve wracking part is the ride up; it’s usually a real small plane, so it’s an interminable trip to jump altitude. You’ll be full of nerves and adrenaline. On my first jump, the instructor napped, which wasn’t helping!

But there’s little skill involved in getting out, and after a few seconds of disorientation, you’ll settle into a spread eagle formation. At that point, I had no sensation of falling - just a rush of air. The ground below is so huge that it’s hard to process your speed, so it’s the closest sensation to flying I can imagine. And since you are falling at terminal velocity, you don’t notice the person strapped to your back.

At some point, the instructor pulls the rip cord. That’s not really comfortable, because you feel like you are being roughly pulled upward via straps attached to your inner thighs. After the lurch, though, things get really quiet, which is a dramatic juxtaposition from the rush of wind just seconds ago. Despite being about a mile up, it’s very peaceful.

One thing to note, though, is that you are still falling at a high rate of speed, despite the sense that you stopped mid-air and are just leisurely coming down. Absent some point of reference, it’s hard to judge until you get to the level of neighboring buildings or trees. I tell you this because it’s important to keep your feet up when you land (presuming you are going to coast in on your butt) and it might catch you by surprise how quick the landing comes. Most injuries in skydiving come from broken ankles during landings.

Pretty much same for me. I’ll be able to tell my Grandkids while bouncing them on my (2) sound knees.

It was OK - but the thrill was basically - ‘Hey! I didn’t die!’. I didn’t hang around to get a chance to be disappointed.

Thanks for reminding me that I’d written about it before, so I don’t have to do it again! It seems that different places have different policies. This one concentrated on a lot of training for the first-timers, and then used a static line for deployment, with all novice jumpers going solo. The jumpmaster on the plane directed you when to jump based on a device that was thrown out of the plane indicating wind speed and direction, and which fell at about the same rate as a parachutist. There was also a person on the ground who directed your steering, because it’s not obvious how to steer to the intended ideal target. Some folks ended up landing in corn fields and other odd places.

The fun part in our procedure was that you didn’t jump out of the open door of the plane. You stepped out onto the landing wheel and held on to the wing until you got the signal to let go. The plane at this point was going as slowly as possible but the noise and wind blast was terrific. Watching other jumpers do it, as soon as they let go, bam! They were gone in an instant, and in seconds were far behind the plane.

I think I mentioned in another post somewhere that the period of free fall – the brief time between the jump and the when the static line fully opens the chute – is for many people a complete memory blank. They just don’t remember the free fall, just the jumping-off and the chute opening. It made me wonder if I’d have been capable of pulling the reserve if something had gone wrong, and I’m pretty sure the answer is “yes”. You’re supposed to count down from some number and activate the reserve when you reach zero, and while I don’t explicitly remember that, I was taught to always do it. In one jump I vaguely remember counting farther than normal and thinking “this is taking too long”. I had what is called a “burble”, where the small pilot chute gets caught in the vacuum behind your back and hasn’t caught the air stream. Fortunately it only lasted a few seconds and then the main chute deployed. I also remember all my landings being relatively gentle, with no risk of injury even if I hadn’t landed exactly right.

Anyway, it was a beautiful if dangerous experience that I did four or five times, but would never do again. The descent, as others have mentioned, is beautiful, scenic, and incredibly quiet, but as you get close to the ground you start to hear the sounds of the world – traffic, people talking, etc. Up in the sky it’s just you and the air.

I’ve done a few full moon jumps, too. Rolling over on your back and howling at the moon in free fall is pretty awesome.