Frequently Asked Questions about Skydiving

Last year thousands of people of all ages and professions ventured forth into the world of sport parachuting. Many have since embraced it as their favorite sport. Some will go on to become professional competitors and instructors. Others simply found it is a terrific way to spend a weekend. Newcomers to the sport have a lot of questions. Here are some every jumper asks:

    Is skydiving safe?
    What does freefall feel like?
    How does one learn to skydive?
    What are the age requirements?
    What are the physical requirements?
    What does the training consist of?
    What is opening and flying the parachute like?
    What should I wear?
    Can my friends and I jump together?
    Can my friend and I be on the same video?
    What if I just want one picture of me in freefall?
    If I made a 10:00 reservation, what time should I be there?
    How do I tell a good Drop Zone from poor one?
    What if your parachute doesn't open?
    How much does it cost?
    How fast do you fall?
    How hard is the landing?
    After my first jump, what's next?
    I'm a skydiving student, and I'm having trouble with something, can I get some help and advice?
    How is parachuting regulated?
    Where can I try Skysurfing or BASE jumping?
    Can I bring my own camera on my skydive?
    What are the refund terms and conditions?

    Whuffo Questions

    How do you breathe in freefall?
    Do your ear drums pop on the way down?
    What if you have to go the bathroom in the plane?
    Can you steer your parachute?
    Does it hurt?
    What if your parachute doesn't open?
    Why do you jump?

Is skydiving safe?

Skydiving is a high-speed aerial sport that exposes its participants to the real risk of injury and death.

Analysis of skydiving accidents show that most are caused by jumpers who make mistakes of procedure or judgment. Contrary to popular belief, very few skydiving accidents or injuries are caused by random or unexpected equipment failure.

Those skydivers who are trained well, who stay current and who take a conservative approach to the sport are involved in very few accidents and suffer few -- if any -- injuries.

Some people prefer not to expose themselves to significant risks, while others accept the risk in exchange for the enjoyment the activity offers.

Start Skydiving requires that each customer sign a legally binding assumption-of-risk agreement. The document makes it clear that the sport has its risks and that the jumper is electing to jump in spite of those risks.



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What does freefall feel like?


Freefall is not the "roller coaster drop" feeling most people expect it would be. It is a comfortable sensation of floating and support, with a slight pressure of air against your body.

Freefall is the closest thing to human flight, especially when falling "relative" with other skydivers. In relation to other skydivers in the air, a jumper can move forward, backwards, up, down and all around in the sky. He or she can dive vertically over 200 mph or achieve horizontal movement over the ground up to 60 mph. The constant air flow allows aerial maneuvers with precision and control.



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How does one learn to skydive?

We offer the First Jump Course (FJC) at least once each weekend and will offer it during the week or several times during the weekend depending on the interest. You will need to contact the DZ to determine the class scheduling. The FJC consists of about 4-6 hours of ground school followed by your jump, weather permitting.

There are several types of training you can take: Accelerated Freefall, or Tandem. They are described below in greater detail.

It is ″your″ safety at stake and ″your″ responsibility to look after it. If you have reservations about making your first jump, make the effort to visit the DZ, check it out, meet the people and staff. We will be glad to see you, and you will be ″much″ more confident and comfortable having done so, and consequently have a much better time!



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What are the age requirements?

As a United States Parachute Association (USPA) group member dropzone, we adhere to the USPA Basic Safety Requirements (BSRs) and the parachute manufacturer's, United Parachute Technologies (UPT), requirements that mandate you must be 18 years old or older to be legally permitted to perform any type of skydive.



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What are the physical requirements?

In general, the prospective student should be in reasonably good physical shape, this ″is″ a sport after all. You will be required to wear around 35lbs of equipment, endure opening shock, maneuver the canopy, land, and possibly trudge great distances on foot. You will experience 30 degree swings in temperature, atmospheric pressure changes, 4-6 hours of lecture, and lots of beer at the end of the day. It's grueling (:-).

But seriously, problems may arise where a prospect is too heavy (over 220lbs/ 110kg, see below)) or if they have medical conditions which may impair them during the activity. Someone who experiences fainting spells, blackouts, or has a weak heart should not be jumping. Someone with respiratory illness *may* have a problem due to atmospheric changes at altitude. The better your physical condition, the more you will enjoy the experience. This being said, very few people have medical or physical conditions which actually preclude them from jumping.

If you have a question, ask us, and as always, ask your doctor. You may be surprised at the relatively few physical constraints involved.

Concerning weight restrictions, there are two primary concerns. First, does the drop zone have a parachute system which you can both legally use and safely land? Second, if you are going to be at the top-end of the safe weight range for a particular parachute, are you in relatively good shape? An imperfect landing will be much less likely to injure an athletic person. If this is unclear, consider the difference between a 5'10" linebacker who weighs 240lbs, and a 5'10" channel surfer of the same weight. If the former has a bad landing, he'll probably brush himself off and get up. The latter may very well injure himself substantially, lacking both the strength to withstand landing and coordination to do a good Parachute Landing Fall(PLF). With this in mind, use the following table as a guide.

Weight         Comments
----------- --------------------------------------------------------------
Less than 200lbs     Almost every DZ should be willing to let you jump.

200-220lbs. The majority of DZ's should be willing to let you jump. Being in relatively good shape is a plus. Beyond about 230lbs, most reserves canopies are no longer strictly legal for you to use.

220-235lbs. Some DZ's may take you, but will likely insist that you be in good shape, i.e. not a couch-potato. You must recognize that there is a greater chance of injury, particularly if you are not somewhat athletic.

Greater than 235lbs. Very few DZ's will be able to let you skydive. They are likely to use converted Tandem gear. Without this type of equipment, you will need to be in excellent physical condition, and be willing to accept an increased chance of injury in case of a bad landing. We do not perform tandems in excess of 235lbs.

Please note that this table is only a guideline. Call us and discuss your weight concerns. Also, there are experienced skydivers who are quite heavy -- however, they likely learned when they were lighter and had mastered landing before gaining the additional weight.



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What does the training consist of?

The First Jump Course FJC teaches the student everything they need to know to safely make their first jump. There are several programs available for first jumpers; the one you choose will depend on your personal preferences and circumstances. The differences of each are summarized below:


Accelerated Free Fall (AFF)

The AFF program was instituted in 1982 as an "accelerated" learning process as compared to the traditional static line progression. The AFF program will give you a true taste of modern sport skydiving.

The ground training is a bit more extensive (5-6 hours) because the student will be doing a 50 second freefall (that's right!) on his/her very first jump. The student will exit the aircraft at 10,000-12,000 feet along with two AFF Instructors who will assist the student during freefall. The Instructors maintain grips on the student from the moment they leave the aircraft until opening, assisting the student as necessary to fall stable, perform practice ripcord pulls, monitor altitude, etc. The student then pulls his/her own ripcord at about 5000 ft.

The AFF program is a 7 category program. Category A, B, & C require two freefall Jumpmasters to accompany the student. These dives concentrate on teaching basic safety skills such as altitude awareness, body position, stability during freefall and during the pull sequence, and most importantly- successful ripcord pull. On Category C, the Instructors will release the student in freefall for the first time, to fly completely on their own.

Categories D, E, F, & G require only one Instructor (less $$) and teach the student air skills such as turns, forward movement and docking on other people, front loops, back loops, ″superman″ exits from the plane, etc.

Each AFF category is designed to take one jump, and requires about 45 minutes of training. After successfully performing the objectives of each category, the student moves on to the next category.

After graduating Category G, the student enters a more casual format of instruction called Coached jumps where they practice and hone their skills with a USPA rated Coach until they obtain 25 freefalls and qualify for their A license.


Tandem jumps.

Tandem jumps are meant to offer an introduction to the sport. They allow the neophyte to take a ride with an experienced jumper. A tandem jump requires from 15 to 45 minutes of ground preparation (it is ″not″ a First Jump Course). It consists of an experienced jumper called a ″tandem master″ and the passenger. The passenger and tandem master each wear a harness, however only the tandem master wears the parachutes. The passenger′s harness attaches to the front of the tandem master′s harness and the two of them freefall ″together″ for 30 seconds, open together, and land together under one Really-BIG-Parachute.

Tandem skydiving provides an obvious advantage for the adventurous spirit who cannot adequately meet the physical or proficiency requirements for the AFF program. By relying on a Tandem Master's skills, you will still be able to experience the thrill of skydiving.

Because the tandem training is not a First Jump Course, if you decide to pursue the sport, you will still have to attend a FJC in AFF curriculum.

In both of these training methods, students are taught normal and emergency procedures for all aspects of the jump - climb to altitude, exit, opening, canopy control, and landing. They are also shown the equipment and go over it so that they understand how it works.



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What is opening and flying the parachute like?


The opening "shock" of the parachute is much like jumping feet-first into a pool of water. The opening takes about two to five seconds and is not uncomfortable.

Square parachutes are simple to maneuver and steer to the ground. Steering lines are attached to the rear right and left side of the parachute. By taking the controls in each hand, one steers the parachute by pulling on one control. To turn left, simply pull down the left control. To stop the turn, simply return the control to its original position.



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What should I wear?


Dress comfortably for the weather on the ground ? you will have a jumpsuit on for the skydive itself. Make sure to wear or bring sneakers as you will not be permitted to jump on open-toed shoes, sandals, flip flops or barefoot.



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Can my friends and I jump together?


Because of many factors, we can never guarantee that groups can all go on the same plane. We do make every effort to keep them together but cannot always accommodate groups larger than 4 in one load.



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Can my friend and I be on the same video?


Each tandem pair will have over a quarter mile of separation from each other so you will not be near each other during freefall, nor can you hold hands or talk to each other in freefall. A videographer cannot physically fly between 2 tandem pairs and get video of both. Each tandem student needs to get his or her own video.



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What if I just want one picture of me in freefall?


Then you must still order the entire video and stills package so the videographer can get paid for taking your photo in freefall. You will also get many more pictures and a video for free



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If I made a 10:00 reservation, what time should I be there?


10:00 is your arrival time and the skydive will happen anytime between 1 and 6 hours after. You are welcome to come out 20 ? 30 mins early to get started on the paperwork, but it does not guarantee an earlier jump time. We do our best to get you in the plane efficiently, but many factors can contribute to a longer wait time (i.e. weather, volume, wind speed, etc.)



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How do I tell a good Drop Zone from a poor one?

Most drop zones that provide regular student training are ″USPA Affiliated.″ The United States Parachute Association (USPA) is the representative body for sport parachuting within the US, and a member of the FAI (the international equivalent). The USPA defends the sport′s interests before the FAA and other regulating/lawmaking bodies at all levels of government. It also develops and monitors safety and training doctrine for the sport. Other benefits include liability insurance for students and DZs in the case of damage to property, the monthly magazine ″Parachutist″, etc.

The USPA has had tremendous success instituting rating programs for Jumpmasters, Instructors, and Instructor-Examiners to ensure that only properly trained and qualified personnel work with students. You should insist on USPA Instructors and Jumpmasters.

Some USPA-affiliated DZ′s have not been diligent in using only Currently-rated Instructors and Jumpmasters. Do not be afraid to ask to see your Instructor or Jumpmaster′s rating card. It should show the appropriate rating and expiration date. Also note that currently, Tandem Jumpmasters are certified by the equipment manufacturer, not USPA.

USPA affiliation is not required, and does not ″guarantee″ a DZ to be a ″good″ DZ, and non-affiliation does not mean the DZ is ″bad″, however, most non-affiliated DZ′s do not follow the safety guidelines of the USPA BSR′s, Basic Safety Recommendations.

These are just guidelines. You should always visit the DZ before you jump.
Things to look for when visiting a DZ;

    1. The condition of the aircraft!
    2. The condition of the parachute systems!
    3. The condition of the jump suits and harnesses!
    4. The cleanliness of the facility!
Each one of these are a sign of the experience and training you are about to have and receive. Do not be afraid to ask for your money back and go to another DZ.

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What if your parachute doesn't open?

Clearly, this is the most Frequently-Asked-Question posed by all prospective jumpers.

By law (FAA regulations), all intentional parachute jumps must be made with a single harness, dual parachute system with both a main canopy *AND* a reserve canopy. In other words, you have a second (or spare) canopy in case the first one fails to open properly.

However, it must be noted that the technology utilized in today's sport parachuting equipment is light years ahead of the old military surplus gear used in the '60s and '70s. The canopies are DRASTICALLY different from the classic G.I. Joe round parachutes. The materials are stronger, lighter and last longer, the packing procedures are simpler, the deployment sequence is much more refined, etc.

The reserve canopies are even more carefully designed and packed. The reserve parachute must be inspected and repacked every 180 days by an FAA rated parachute Rigger - even if it has not been used during that time.

The student's main canopy is always packed either by a rigger or under a rigger's direct supervision by experienced packers.

There are also additional safety features employed to ensure canopy deployment such as Automatic Activation Devices (AAD), Reserve Static Lines (RSL) and Sky Hooks which add still more layers of safety.



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How much does it cost?

Prices vary depending upon the size of your group and specific discounts. AFF from $269-$299, and the tandem from $139-$209. We provide freefall video and digital stills of your skydive for an additional $95. These prices include the ground school and the first jump.

After completing their first Category A jump, skydiving tradition allows each student to express their appreciation and admiration for their newfound skydiving friends for their assistance in successfully achieving this milestone in their life by purchasing (from a local establishment) and presenting to them a case of beer. This case, customarily a fine imported beer, is ceremoniously iced down for consumption at the end of the day. The cost generally runs $15-20.

After the first jump, the cost of each successive jump decreases in stages as less supervision is required. Once off student status, and owning your own gear, jumps will cost about $18-$23 to 12,500' (about 60 seconds of freefall). Start Skydiving has discount programs as well that can further decrease the cost of jumps.

Equipment can run from $1000 to $3500 depending on what you want to spend. There is a used equipment market (much like the used car market) which can SAVE you loads of money, or you can custom order everything brand-spankin-new with your own personalized colors and sizes, which will cost you more but be custom fitted for you. You can buy it all at once or a piece at a time as finances allow. Generally, you shouldn't worry about buying gear until you are off student status or close to your A license.

Of course, all prices are in US dollars (as opposed to dinars or rubles :-).



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How fast do you fall?

When you leave the aircraft, you are moving horizontally at the same speed as the aircraft, typically 90-110MPH. During the first 10 seconds, a skydiver accelerates up to about 115-130MPH straight down. (A tandem pair uses a drouge chute to keep them from falling much faster than this). It is possible to change your body position to vary your rate of fall. In a standard face-to-earth position, you can change your fall rate up or down a few (10-20) miles per hour. However, by diving or "standing up" in freefall, any experienced skydiver can learn to reach speeds of over 160-180MPH. Speeds of over 200MPH require significant practice to achieve. The record freefall speed, done without any special equipment, is 321MPH. Obviously, it is desirable to slow back down to 110MPH before parachute opening.

Once under parachute, decent rates of 1000ft./min. are typical. A lighter student with a bigger canopy may come down much more slowly, and, obviously, a heavier person may have a somewhat faster decent. Experienced jumper's can canopies descend (in normal glide) at up to 1500ft./min. During radical turns, the decent rate can go well over 2000ft./min.



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How hard is the landing?

The canopies used today bear little resemblance to the classic round canopies of years gone by. Today, nearly all jumpers and jump schools use "square" canopies for parachuting. These canopies are actually rectangular in shape, and when open, act like an airplane wing (or an airfoil). They are more like gliders than umbrellas.

The aerodynamics of the square canopy provide it with exceptional maneuverability, allowing the jumpers to land almost anywhere they wish. This wing shape also provides tippy-toe soft landings for even the novice jumper. The days of landing like a sack of flour are history. Most students land standing up on their first jump.



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After my first jump, what's next?


Basic parachute training consists of a series of jumps made under the direct supervision of an instructor. Each jump is preceded by a session on the ground followed by a jump. It takes from about 10 to 15 jumps until the student is competent enough to be cleared to jump without instructor supervision. Since most students are weekend skydivers who make two or three jumps a day, the typical student takes about a month to graduate.

After graduation, the new jumper practices his skills and learns new ones. He or she becomes eligible to earn licenses that attest to the jumper's competency.

From there the sky is the limit. The new skydiver has the freedom of the sky to share with others who enjoy the exciting sport of skydiving.



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I'm a skydiving student, and I'm having trouble with something, can I get some help and advice?

The person best equipped to help you with your difficulties is your regular real-life instructor.

Talk with a rated instructor or jumpmaster before changing your equipment, airplane, exit, freefall, deployment, emergency, canopy control, landing, packing or any other skydiving-related procedures.



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How is parachuting regulated?


In the U.S., parachuting is regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration by Part 105 of the Federal Aviation Regulations.

The FAA allows sport parachuting to monitor itself in training and operational requirements. After all, it is a sport just like SCUBA diving or rock climbing. The U.S. Parachute Association has developed standards called "Basic Safety Requirements" which all USPA affiliates pledge to follow. BSRs represent the commonly accepted standards for a high level of safety. They cover equipment, training, DZ requirements, wind limits, and so forth.



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Where can I try Skysurfing or BASE jumping?

It a nutshell, you can't -- unless you're already a very experienced skydiver.

"Skysurfing" or "Skyboarding" refers to skydiving with a small board, similar to snowboard, attached to your feet. This allows for some radical maneuvers in freefall. However, such jumps should only be attempted by expert skydivers, and preferably after long discussion with one of many skysurfers who have experience. Some board manufacturers and experienced skydsurfers offer instructional classes or videotapes.

BASE jumping involves jumping off of fixed objects (like Buildings, Antennas, Spans (bridges), or Earth (cliffs)), and landing under a parachute. While being an expert skydiver isn't an absolute requirement, you need a great deal of experience in parachute packing, canopy control, quick reflexes, and body position awareness before this can be attempted with any real safety. Start with skydiving, and then go from there. Furthermore, there are very few places where one may BASE jump legally, as most locations are private property.



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Can I bring my own camera on my skydive?

Under no circumstance can a student bring a camera on a skydive. The Basic Safety Regulations (BSRs) mandated by the United States Parachute Association prohibits people with less than 200 jumps to wear any camera gear on their person or equipment. Cameras create a snag hazard during parachute opening and are a danger to untrained users and the instructors in that regard. The staff are well-trained in the use of video equipment while jumping, and the chances of a student being able to get footage of their own jump is slim to none. So whether you just purchased a GoPro for the jump, have mounts galore, took a video class in college, have a friend who is a photographer, you will not be allowed to take it on your skydive. No matter how much you beg. But get your license and get 200 jumps and you can film all the skydives you wish!

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What are the refund terms and conditions?


Tandems

1. With more than 24 hours notice, you can reschedule your reservation.

2. FULL Refunds are not available..

3. Online prepay special is NON-refundable but transferable..

4. If you have paid full price the day of ON SITE and decide to back out BEFORE you board the plane you may receive a refund minus the $25 deposit. We do not offer refunds because of weather delays.

5. If you have boarded the plane it is NON-refundable. .

6. Second Tandem for $99 is NON-refundable, cannot be transferred..

7. Gift cards are NON-refundable but transferable and are not replaced if lost or stolen.

8. Online prepay is transferable to another account.

9. Online certificates i.e. Groupon, Living Social are not refundable or replaced if lost or stolen.


Accelerated Free Fall Training (AFF)

1. Once on the airplane, no refund or transfers are available.

2. Accelerated Free Fall Training Program Prepaid Package is NON-refundable, it is transferable.

3. Get your skydiving License in a Week Prepaid Package is NON-refundable, it is transferable.


Experienced Jumpers)

1. We allow all jumpers to maintain an account at Start Skydiving. Credit card transactions are the same as cash we do not charge a fee. Accounts must be kept in the black to be able to jump.

2. Money paid ahead on account is non-refundable and may be applied only to jumps from our aircraft.

3. Repacks cannot be taken out of accounts unless you are a staff member. Merchandise, food, and beverages cannot be taken out of accounts.

4. Money on account may not be transferred to another person's account without permission from management.

5. Refunds to licensed jumpers are not available for most skydiving related purchases. Any consideration for refunds will be handled on a case by case basis. The management reserves the right to make the sole and final decision in these cases.

6. Any funds left inactive on account for over 13 months will be considered abandoned and forfeited. There are no refunds of any type available after 30 days.

7. If bulk tickets are purchased they must be used in the year of purchase, remaining tickets may not be carried over to the next year.

8. It is the individual jumpers’ responsibility to monitor his or her account. You are encouraged to check your account daily. At the closing of each business day, the computer is considered to be correct, and discrepancies will not be considered at a later date.

9. If you are a staff member and choose not to receive a pay check during a work period, those funds will remain permanently on your account and can be used for any Start Skydiving purchase.



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How do you breathe in freefall?


Through genetically developed gills, this falls into the realm of urban folklore. One CAN breathe in freefall - if it were necessary. However, due to the high speed of terminal freefall (and much higher speeds in vertical freefall dives), the jumper's body is exposed to O2 molecules at a much higher rate than someone walking around on the ground. The body is able to absorb the necessary O2 through the skin. This is why jumpers flap their cheeks in free fall, it presents a larger surface area to the airstream for oxygen osmosis. Once under canopy, the jumper resumes breathing normally. This is also why jumpers do not jump on cloudy days or when they might risk going through clouds. The moisture in the clouds can condense on their exposed skin surfaces preventing the absorption of the necessary oxygen resulting in suffocation.



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Do your ear drums pop on the way down?

Yes, we're not ignoring you, we're deaf.

What if you have to go to the bathroom in the plane?

Go ahead!

Can you steer your parachute?

No, one time I landed in Jamaica.

Does it hurt?

Yes, that's why we jump all the time! Masochism!

What if your parachute doesn't open?

Gee, I never thought of that...

Why do you jump?

Why do you breathe?

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