How Safe is Tandem Skydiving?

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

skydiving safety

The search engine query “how safe is skydiving?” is a fairly common one. It goes without saying that most people, understandably fixated on the idea of self-preservation, rarely choose to do things that come with the promise of significant danger. In equal measure, it seems, there is also the desire to toe the line, to get out of one’s comfort zone, and to shake up the status quo. Although, even while in pursuit of the latter, the general consensus is to stay nestled within some semblance of a safety net. Let’s call it: the allure of the reasonably extreme.

Now, if you’ve been toying with the idea of skydiving, or have recently found out someone you care for will be making such a leap of faith, you are likely to be a little curious: how safe is tandem skydiving?

Skydiving is often mislabeled as the death-defying pastime of the adrenaline junkie. When, in fact, the activity is strictly regulated and likely less dangerous than you might currently believe. Granted, as you are exiting a plane in flight two miles above the ground, there are risks involved. However, these risks are significantly mitigated through rules and regulations, improvements in skydiving training, and advancements in skydiving technology. 

Skydiving Safety: Rules and Regulations

Skydiving isn’t the lawless haphazard activity represented in popular media. (Like the Point Break scene with Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze gearing up in the aircraft – a scene, mind you, that makes licensed skydivers shudder.) Instead, the sport of skydiving is actually strictly regulated by two primary governing bodies: the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the United States Parachute Association (USPA).

As a group member dropzone of the USPA, Skydive New England has committed to adhering to several operational standards and regulations outlined as USPA Basic Safety Requirements within the Skydiver Information Manual. Additionally, with regard to aircraft operations, we also adhere to the federal aviation regulations established by the FAA.

Improvements In Skydiving Training

Another factor that contributes to skydiving safety is the level of training involved. Specifically, as it relates to tandem skydiving safety, it should be noted that the training required to become a tandem skydiving instructor is quite extensive. 

The minimum requirements to pursue the tandem skydiving rating are a USPA D License (the highest license attainable), 500 skydives, three years in the sport, four hours of freefall time, 50 skydives within the last year, and a USPA Coach Rating. In addition to these prerequisites, an individual must take a USPA tandem instructor training course and pass practical exams and proficiency jumps with an evaluator. To serve as a tandem skydiving instructor an individual must also see an authorized physician to be issued an FAA Class III Medical. 

Likewise, all of the tandem instructors employed at Skydive New England are licensed through the USPA and have undergone the requisite training. 

Advancements in Skydiving Technology

Skydiving safety has also been positively affected by advancements in skydiving technology. Without a doubt, one of the most revolutionary pieces of skydiving technology is the Automatic Activation Device (AAD). 

The equipment used for recreational, civilian skydiving is a dual parachute system consisting of a “main” parachute and a backup parachute referred to in the industry as the “reserve” parachute. Both of these parachutes are packed into a skydiving container. Within the skydiving container is also the Automatic Activation Device. By measuring changes in barometric pressure, this uber-precise microprocessor can calculate a jumper’s altitude and the rate of descent, and when certain parameters are met, the AAD deploys the reserve parachute. This means that in the event a jumper is unable to deploy the main parachute, the AAD will deploy the reserve.

skydiving statistics

Skydiving Safety Statistics

As far as skydiving safety is concerned, the proof is in the pudding. In the history of skydiving, skydiving safety statistics have never been better. In fact, according to a report by the United States Parachute Association, 2021 may have been the safest year ever for U.S skydiving. Because the final data is not in yet on the total jumps made in 2021, we have provided the 2020 skydiving statistics below.

In 2020, roughly 2.8 million jumps were made, and of these 2.8 million jumps (down from 3.3 million the previous year because of pandemic related dropzone closures) a total of 11 fatal skydiving accidents occurred. This is a rate of 0.39 fatalities per 100,000 jumps or statistically speaking a 0.00039% chance of dying on a skydive. This data, however, primarily refers to jumps completed by licensed skydivers. Tandem skydiving has a better safety rate, with one student fatality per 500,000 jumps or a 0.0002% rate of fatal incident.

To determine “how safe is skydiving?”, it may help to view these statistics comparatively with a more mundane activity. According to the National Safety Council, the odds of a fatal car crash are 1 in 107 or a .9% rate of fatal incident. When compared to the .0002% rate of a fatal incident in tandem skydiving, it would seem driving to the dropzone is actually far more dangerous than the actual skydive!

Let’s face it: no activity is completely safe, and skydiving does include some inherent risks. However, at Skydive New England we actively mitigate these risks by adhering to rules and regulations, ensuring that our instructors are properly vetted, and by using the latest technology in skydiving equipment.

Still have lingering questions regarding skydiving safety? Please feel free to contact Skydive New England today!

Win a FREE Skydiving Experience

By joining our email list, you enter to win a free tandem skydiving experience. In April and December, Skydive New England will draw a winner for a free tandem skydive (a $240 value) and announce it on our social media pages. As a bonus, you will receive a $10 coupon off a tandem skydive. Enter today, and find out if you're destined to fly! Must be 18 to jump. 240 lb weight limit.
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