Skydiving Basics

Carl Byington, of Ellijay, Georgia, has been a professional engineer since the late 1990s. The former owner of Impact Technologies in Rochester, NY, Carl Byington enjoys a range of outdoor pursuits, including skydiving.

Skydiving has been described as a sport that creates feelings of exhilaration, as the diver, equipped with a parachute, jumps from a plane, sometimes up to 14,000 feet above the ground. While this activity might seem risky, it is for the most part quite safe – and highly regulated. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations cover skydiving flights. These flights typically include alerting air traffic control when divers will be jumping in order to avoid accidents. Drop zones are clearly marked on aviation maps.

Skydivers typically always jump with two parachutes: one that is prepared off-site by a rigger certified by the FAA, and the other at the drop-zone center. All tandem parachutes contain an automatic activation device, which opens at a certain altitude at free-fall speed.

Prospective skydivers can prepare themselves for what to expect by researching information as to skydiving providers, their certifications, and the locations they use. For example, smaller drop zones might involve jumping from 10,000 feet, whereas larger drop zones can mean a jump from 14,000 feet.

Would-be divers can also expect to train with a certified instructor to master jumps. The instructor often accompanies the skydiver on their first outing in what is called a tandem jump. Skydivers also practice using a static line, which involves jumping with a cord (hanging from a backpack) attached to the plane. The cord pulls on a bag which opens to deploy the parachute. Alternatively, with additional training, a skydiver can opt for an accelerated free fall (AFF) jump. With an AFF, the student is usually accompanied by both a primary and secondary instructor during the free fall portion of the jump. After he successfully pulls the rip cord, the instructors release and the student guides the parachute and flares at the end, all with the help of another instructor relaying instructions over a radio.

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