How Safe is Tandem Skydiving?
4 months ago
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’re probably at least a little curious about skydiving safety. Skydiving is often mislabeled as the death-defying pastime of adrenaline junkies. In reality, the skydiving industry is strictly regulated and likely less dangerous than you might believe. (Keep that our little secret, though. It’s the only thing we’ve got to maintain our too-cool reputation!)
Is skydiving safe, then? We would never say skydiving is definitively safe – of course, there are risks involved in exiting an airplane two miles above the ground. We’re happy to report, though, these risks are significantly mitigated through rules and regulations, intense instructor training, and advancements in skydiving technology.
If you’re thinking about climbing in… and jumping out… of a plane, read on to find out everything you ever wanted to know about skydiving safety.
Rules & Regulations
Skydiving isn’t the haphazard, lawless activity you’ve seen in popular media. In fact, there’s a lot that’s misrepresented about our sport on the silver screen. (Case in point, talking in freefall is impossible – but not according to Point Break!) Instead, skydiving is strictly regulated by two primary governing bodies: the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the United States Parachute Association (USPA). Sounds pretty official, right? That’s because it is.
These two organizations set out numerous rules as to how skydiving should be conducted in order to keep everyone involved as safe as possible. And you are included in everyone. Tandem skydiving is actually the most highly regulated part of the sport.
As a group member dropzone of the USPA, Skydive New England is committed to adhering to several operational standards and regulations outlined by the USPA as Basic Safety Requirements. Additionally, with regard to aircraft operations, we also adhere to the Federal Aviation Regulations established by the FAA. We follow the rules from the ground up.
Another factor that contributes to skydiving safety is the level of training involved in any aspect of the sport. Specifically, as it relates to tandem skydiving, the training required to become a tandem skydiving instructor is significant and extensive.
As mandated by the USPA, tandem instructor requirements include:
- Logging at least 500 jumps
- Earning a USPA D license (the highest level of licensure)
- Accruing a minimum of 3 years experience in the sport
- Possessing a current FAA Class III Flight Medical Certificate
- Completing the USPA Tandem Instructor Rating certification program
By the time your instructor gets to their skydive with you, they have enough training and experience under their wings to not only get you to the ground safely but to also make sure you have the experience of a lifetime while doing it.
Advancements in Skydiving Technology
Where would we be today without technology? The little glowing rectangle you’re likely reading this on has more smarts inside it than you could find in about a dozen appliances combined! The same holds true for skydiving safety. Decades of research, trial, and error, and product testing have gone into creating the safest, most effective gear to date. And that is exactly the gear you will be making your first jump with at Skydive New England.
The equipment used for recreational, civilian skydiving is a dual parachute system consisting of a “main” parachute and a backup parachute known as the “reserve.” Both of these parachutes have been manufactured to be at the leading edge of skydiving performance and safety, and both are packed by trained and certified parachute packers.
Even with parachutes being marvels of modern technology, one of the most revolutionary advancements in skydiving safety is the Automatic Activation Device (AAD). This little life-saving device is a computer that sits inside every parachute rig at Skydive New England. Should the main parachute fail to be activated manually, the AAD will automatically deploy the reserve parachute. This means that even if your instructor somehow loses consciousness, you’ll still have a guardian angel looking out for you. Pretty cool, right?
What’s even better, all of our gear (and aircraft!) at Skydive New England is inspected and maintained by FAA-certified professionals to ensure you the smoothest, safest experience possible.
Skydiving Safety Statistics
So, let’s get to the real question we’re here for: how safe is skydiving? As far as skydiving safety is concerned, the proof is in the pudding.
The USPA has been tracking skydiving incidents and accidents since 1961 and – thanks to consistent regulation and oversight, rigorous training standards, and advancements in skydiving tech – skydiving statistics have never been better. In 2021, there were 10 fatalities in 3.57 million skydives, zero of which were student skydivers. The vast majority of accidents in our sport are due to human error, not equipment malfunction, and most often involve experienced skydivers who push their limits and pay a price. Thankfully, as illustrated by USPA statistics, the price is almost always injury.
Historically, the tandem skydiving safety rate was one student fatality per 500,000 jumps or a 0.0002% rate of fatal incidents. You might be thinking, so what? That’s just a bunch of zeros and a percentage sign. For a little context, it may help to view these statistics alongside a more ubiquitous activity. According to the National Safety Council, the odds of dying in a motor vehicle crash are 1 in 101 or a 0.99% rate of fatal incidents. When compared to the 0.0002% rate of fatal incidents in tandem skydiving, it would seem driving to the dropzone is actually more dangerous than the actual skydive!
Now that you know how to answer your mom when she asks, “How safe is it to skydive?” what are you waiting for? Book your tandem skydive and then carefully drive over here for the best day ever! Blue skies!!