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

I’ve never jumped out of a perfectly good airplane.

Well, I did sort of hop off the ramp of a C-141 once, but it was parked on the tarmac at the time…

Anyway, my first duty station was in Bamberg, Germany, which had a Jump Club, which a buddy of mine from Basic got into.

I was getting into photography, starting to learn a thing or two, and got invited along to a jump session to take pics. They were doing static line jumps using ram-air chutes, with rounds for reserves

I was kind of getting into it, and considering going all in and joining the Jump Club, when one of the jumpers had a steamer on the main. He finally cut it loose and deployed his reserve…which carried him into a sort of electric company utility yard, full of those great big spools of utility-grade electric cable.

Messed him up pretty bad, concussion, busted ribs, cracked spine, a leg bent in a very unnatural (and undoubtedly painful) direction.

If an airplane I’m on is going down, and someone offers me a parachute, I’ll jump.

Other than that, though, no effing way.

OP checking in.

My gut twisted a bit reading this post. Maybe I’m too chicken after all.

We shall see.

Here is a link to a state-by-state list of drop zones, if you scroll down past the map. It may help you choose the one you want to visit. The great majority have no problem with spectators who only want to watch and maybe ask a few questions (just stay out of the landing area). That link also includes reviews of DZs, by both first-time jumpers and experienced skydivers.

Thanks, **Bumbershoot **(and everyone else).

I already have a company/location in mind. In fact, I watched my daughter do her first jump from there, so I’m familiar with that part of it.

She loved it and has done another since. I like hearing others’ experiences.

Back in the eighties, I ponied up ninetysomeodd bucks for a skydiving experience. I paid, took an hour long course, and flung myself from an airplane along with an instructor. We were separate, with separate chutes, and not tethered; he spoke to me via a radio in my helmet. We plummeted, and he coached me all the way down, and told me when to pull my ripcord. I did so, and had a surprisingly short period of anus clenching adventure between the pull of the cord and the blooming of the chute.

Landed harder than I thought I would, and strained a knee.

Did it again two weeks later with a different instructor but in a similar manner. It went similarly. A tremendous adrenaline rush, both times, albeit insanely expensive.

Not long after that, at a friend’s house, I saw one of the “Faces Of Death” documentaries, in which a cameraman on the ground films a man whose chute did not completely open. We witness the poor fellow plummet all the way to the ground, trailing his chute, at full terminal velocity. He hit at full speed, and BOUNCED, bonelessly, what appeared to me to be a good ten feet in the air, before falling to earth again. Judging from the thrashing, he was conscious and fully aware of what was going on, all the way up until impact.

I did not feel good about this, and decided perhaps to postpone my next skydiving event indefinitely.

Something like a year later, I got in a conversation about it with an acquaintance, who was utterly shocked. “They did WHAT?” he said. “Did you check their licensing? They’re supposed to STRAP YOU TO YOUR INSTRUCTOR! You’re supposed to TANDEM JUMP, your first few jumps, until you’ve QUALIFIED! They just THREW YOU OUT OF AN AIRPLANE, all alone? Did they show you how to pack a chute? Did they run you down a checklist? Did they this? Did they that? Did they…”

With dawning horror, I had to admit that they had not done much of any of these things. My hour long class had largely consisted of “Don’t panic, count to ten, pull the ripcord, don’t panic, if the chute doesn’t open, pull the emergency chute.” I checked on them afterwards; the outfit had shut down, and the airport reps didn’t much want to talk about them. They had apparently lied about their licensing and qualifications when they opened the classes there.

Never felt any great need to jump out of an airplane again.

First jump (out a total of two) was out of a Cessna of some sort more than 40 years ago. Static line on a round chute from about 3000’ like lierrn upthread. I was first of four jumpers and couldn’t get the window/door arm to hold it open. We were over the DZ and the pilot was yelling at me to get going. Holding on to the strut while standing on that little step was a bit un-nerving but didn’t last long. They had PA speakers on the ground pointed up and gave commands “Left 90!” "“Right 45!” etc until you were on the ground. Winds were at or over the legal upper limit and I landed going backwards at 5 or more MPH. The next day my neck was killing me. We had a really light girl in the group and she was dragged, on her back for a fair distance until a few of us could grab the chute.

Second jump was tandem freefall a few years ago. Entirely different experience. Freakin’ awesome! Go for it. You won’t (live to) regret it.

Aw man, that’s mean! :eek: :smiley:

Tandem jumps sound better than the static line jumps, since you get more time free falling (about a minute, depending on altitude). Plus, it’s comforting to have an instructor on your back.

If you do the jump, I recommend paying extra for the video. When I did it, another skydiver with a camera on his helmet flew down with me, videotaping all the way. It’s a cool memento.

And if they give you the option of overlaying music, Tom Petty’s “Learning to Fly” is a nice choice. I always think of sky diving when I hear that song.

Another good one is the Pink Floyd tune, also called “Learning to Fly”, especially these lyrics:

I don’t know if tandem jumps or solo static line jumps are safer or which are more fun, as I’ve only experienced the static line kind. We did get a lot of training and got to practice various things on the ground. My only nitpick with the above is that packing a chute is not part of the training because no novice does this – or should ever be allowed to. You need to be highly experienced and possibly have some type of license to do it. Packing a reserve is even more critical.

The most fun of all is when you get to the point that you can freefall solo without a static line. Around this point a lot of jumpers are experienced enough to start using wing-type parachutes instead of the military-style round ones, which have considerably higher performance in terms of maneuverability. I never got to that point, and took up flying instead – a hobby where it’s not necessary to jump out of the plane in mid-air! :smiley:

I did an accelerated class back in the late 70s. It was basically free to me because a group of guys were getting a special rate if they had 5 participants. As people have said, the anticipation of the aircraft climb was pretty intense. Getting out was thrilling. (The jumps were all static lines.) The descent was…kind of a letdown. But it was a heck of a view. The landings were pretty much like jumping off a fence when you’re a kid.

When I turned 50, I wanted to jump again as sort of a personal goal. I called a few local places and was told (1) they only offered tandem jumps, and (2) I was too heavy to do a tandem jump. At the time, I weighed 220 and I was 6’3". Since then, I’ve found out that many of the skydiving centers will accept you for non-tandem classes only after you’ve jumped tandem. I’ve also come across several people who have done first-time tandems and a couple of them were significantly bigger than I was. In any case, I did not jump again…and didn’t really miss it.

This was my experience. Static line from a cessna. First jump: Calm, cool, collected. No worries all the way to the ground.

Second, third and fourth jumps. Palms sweaty, heart racing. Convinced death was minutes away. Just short of all out panic from the ground and all the way back down. It was amazing.

For my 21st birthday, my friend Mike and I went skydiving. It was a tandem session, with two different instructors.

I was attentive during the instruction, I was sure I would do OK. I had no issues with the plane ride up.

As others have said, it was in standing at the door that I froze. My brain turned… off. If not for the tandem instructor, I wouldn’t have gone.

I remember the fall, the twisting in mid air, the desperate search for bearings and orientation. I remember the instructor telling me it was time to pull the rip cord. Wherein I queried “what is a rip cord?”. “That thing in your right hand”. “Which one is my right hand!”.

Then followed up by immense discomfort as the chute deployed. Nobody tells you that the harness cinches up very tightly against you, and if you have external genitalia that is prone to hang lower than what is normally found in most men, it will squeeze said genitalia with the force of ten thousand hammers, causing you immense physical pain and it won’t let up until the chute is fully deployed, and your descent has begun. Its also very, very difficult to adjust one’s harness in flight, but with enough will, it can be done to relieve the pain.

I then remember landing properly, as was remembered in the video.

I can still remember the terror of the jump, not remembering left from right, and oh the pain.

I did it once. I was glad for the experience. I would never, ever do it again.

Around 400 sport jumps, plus an “unsporting” one (bailed out of a sailplane after a mid-air collision).

I enjoyed it from the get-go, but it took me about 20 jumps to feel the experience had become routine and entirely un-scary. Never had an injury, a malfunction, or any other meaningful problem.

Statistically, skydiving is fairly safe: in 2019, about one jump in 250,000 (!) was fatal. And almost all problems include well-understood unsafe practices.

How many jumps did you have before aforesaid “unsporting” one?

If the answer is “many”, then: What do you think are the chances that a pilot with no jumping experience would be able to bail out and live to tell about it?

At my club, it is club policy that all glider pilots, students, and passengers wear a parachute, every time. (According to club lore, not one has ever been deployed in the 50-some years of the club.) I’m told that it’s a rule that our insurance requires.

But the sum total of our bail-out training consists of a ten-minute lecture before the first flight. Most people have absolutely no skydiving experience beyond that, except for the occasional ones who do. There is no requirement or expectation that anyone should actually have a few skydiving lessons. Even pilots with vast hours of sailplane experience may well have exactly zero skydive experience.

What do you think are the chances that someone with that little training could do a successful bail-out?

I went tandem skydiving with a group of friends in college. The plane was tiny and nerve wracking. The scariest part was when my tandem buddy is holding onto the exit frame waiting to go and I’m just hanging there staring into emptiness. I was impressed that they found someone taller than me to attach to.

The free fall wasn’t scary at all. The ground was so far away that there was no sensation of motion. I didn’t really feel weightless maybe because of the wind or because there was no frame of reference, or maybe that pit in the stomach feel I expected from roller coasters is more from a sudden change in gravity than a constant lack of it.

It was partly calm and beautiful, and partly irritating because I knew it wouldn’t last long, and I couldn’t really communicate with my partner, and I had slight anxiety that there were things maybe I was forgetting to do. But mostly it was just nice and freeing.

Then the parachute engaged. This part was scary. I was supposed to pull some straps under my thighs to keep my legs up but couldn’t figure it out. Then my buddy thought he would make it more fun by initiating what for him was probably a standard circling pattern but for me felt like a sideways death spiral.

Still it wasn’t until the ground stopped being an abstract background that I got really nervous, then a little above the treeline we pulled down hard on the steering lines and we slowed dramatically and skidded on our collective butt.

A lot of fun, and certainly a fear breakthrough in many ways, but it didn’t really engage at all with my fear of heights. For that, it took bungee jumping.

I’ve heard it said that 90 feet is the most feared height in the human mind because it is the height at which we most perceive our distance and relation to the ground, whereas much higher heights like ten thousand register little in our mind. So bungee jumping would be far scarier than skydiving.

This thread would not be complete without a link to the video of the skydiving sperm whale (who, unfortunately, was not planning on skydiving and did not have a parachute) and the bowl of petunias.

All ~400 of my sport jumps preceded the bailout.

High (I know of 3 who’ve done so). Emergency parachutes are impressively reliable. If you can get clear of your troubled aircraft and pull your ripcord no lower than, say, 800’ AGL, your chances are very good. Technique and body position hardly matter.

Landing with a low chance of injury is more likely if you:

  • face into wind (emergency parachutes are modestly steerable)
  • don’t look at the ground
  • have your knees bent and leg muscles stiff

There’s a gliding club in England that adopted this policy about 20 years ago - and had a training glider struck by lightning a few weeks later. Two pilots are alive who otherwise wouldn’t be.

The training should certainly include attention to the problem of getting out of your glider quickly, but I don’t think actual jump experience is a big deal.

It’s certainly helpful to have come to believe that parachutes typically work well and bailing out of a crippled airplane is a sensible - rather than desperate - act. Beyond that, I think you’ll need 10+ jumps to get meaningful benefit from your experience, and even a large number won’t make an important difference.

This was my experience 25 years ago, i.e. a static-line jump preceded by something like eight hours of instruction that thoroughly covered all the potential contingencies. The plane itself did not inspire confidence, as the side of it had been beat to hell over the years by the static lines banging against the side of it after each jump. But the training was so thorough that I had no concerns about climbing out and letting go of the wing strut. Everything went the way it was supposed to; the only unsettling part was looking down and seeing absolutely nothing for half a mile under my feet.

We had one-way radio comms from an observer on the ground who guided each of us to our landing. I had watched a lot of other jumpers before mine, and when the observer told them to flare for the landing, they often reacted slowly. He was compensating by giving the flare command a little early, resulting in good landings. OTOH, I reacted promptly when he told me to flare - and so I leveled off well above ground, then stalled and dropped hard from several feet up. No injuries, but it was quite a jolt.

Most of the folks in our group did the static-line jump, but one friend opted for the tandem freefall. No regrets for any of us. He enjoyed watching the sun set as he fell from 10,000 feet, I enjoyed the freedom of piloting my own canopy without an instructor strapped to my back.

OP, if you’re interested, I recommend you go for it.