The world of skydiving is wondrous – although one that relatively few really know about. Skydiving is more than haphazardly tossing oneself with reckless abandon from an aircraft in flight: it’s an intriguing pastime for many, a profession for some, and a whole ’lotta fun for everyone!
Want to learn more?
Here are 9 fun facts about skydiving you probably don’t know!
The Women’s Vertical World Record was set in Fall of 2022!
In 2020, a group of women organized by Project-19, a division of the Women’s Skydiving Network, planned to complete the largest all-female vertical formation. This means, creating a shape in the sky together while in skydiving freefall, either in a head-up or head-down orientation!! When four people are involved, it’s a 4-way; when 50, it’s a 50-way, etc.
The plan was to build a 100-way formation to celebrate the centennial of the 19th amendment, which granted women the right to vote. Unfortunately, the global pandemic thwarted their ambitions, and the event was postponed. (Boo!)
In the fall of 2022, the time had come to take up the mantle again. In November, women from 22 different countries gathered together and set an Official World Record by building an incredible, all-female, 80-way formation! Talk about girl power!
Speaking of records, did you know the largest World Record for Formation Skydiving was set back in February of 2006?
Nearly two decades ago now, the World Team assembled skydivers from across the world to build a 400-way over stunning Udon Thani, Thailand. This epic formation was to be the high point of the Royal Sky Celebration honoring the 60th anniversary of the reign of King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
Just to put this achievement into perspective, it took the resources and airpower of the entire Thai air force to make the record possible. To complete the skydive, jumpers exited from five C-130 aircraft from a height of 26,500 feet AGL, built the formation, and held it for 4.25 seconds. Now that is some extreme hand-holding!
This record is still highly prized by the skydiving community, and in October 2022 the 400 members of the multi-national sports team were presented with the Path of Excellence Award by the International Skydiving Museum and Hall of Fame.
Get ready to rattle your noggins: did you know that skydivers don’t all fall at the same speed?
So, how fast do you fall when you skydive? The answer is, it depends. If you are completing a tandem skydive, where you are attached to an instructor, you’ll fall somewhere right around 120 mph. However, when flying solo, a skydiver can alter our body position and orientation in order to aerodynamically increase or decrease our fall rate.
For example, by increasing our surface area in a belly-to-earth orientation, we can slow our fall rate tremendously, but if we were to change our orientation to have our heads toward the ground, thus dramatically reducing our surface area, we can reach speeds of up to 200 mph!! As a matter of fact, according to Guinness World Records, the fastest speed recorded for a freefalling skydiver is 512.97 km/h (318.74 mph)!
The most skydives completed in a 24-hour period is 640.
In 2006, a man named Jay Stokes celebrated his birthday in an epic way: by completing 640 skydives. And, by doing so, he stripped the record from the current record holder … himself! You see, Stokes had previously held the record by completing 534 jumps in a day, but if there’s anything we know about skydivers, it’s that we don’t like to rest on our laurels! To best his record and complete this feat, Stokes had to make a skydive every 2.25 minutes.
It’s important to note this extreme sports record wasn’t just for his own glory. With this venture, Stokes was able to raise a considerable amount for charity.
Skydiving photographers don’t use their hands to take photos … they use their mouths!
Skydiving photographers, or videographers as we call them in the industry, have to be creative to get the best shot. Holding a camera still in their hands while freefalling 120 mph won’t cut it, so cameras are mounted onto the skydiving helmet. In addition to a ring sight that is aligned with the camera’s viewfinder to ensure the subject is in the frame, videographers will use a mouth-held switch to capture the shot.
The three primary types of switches that videographers use are the “tongue switch,” the “bite switch,” and the “blow switch.”
Held between the teeth, it’s activated by pressing the tongue against a pressure-sensitive mechanism which triggers the camera’s shutter.
As the name suggests, it requires the videographer to bite down on a compression switch that is held between the teeth.
Uses bursts of breath blown into a tube to trigger the camera’s shutter
Each has its benefits, so videographers will have their own preference for what switch works best. All that really matters is they get the perfect shot of you in freefall!
How many people die from skydiving? The most recent skydiving data from the 2021 USPA Safety Report recorded 10 fatal skydiving jumps out of the approximately 3.57 million skydives that were made that year. That’s a rate of 0.28 fatalities per 100,000 jumps, the lowest fatality rate in recorded skydiving history.
In terms of tandem skydiving, where a novice is securely attached to a professional tandem skydiving instructor, the numbers are even better. The average across a 10-year period is one student fatality per 500,000 jumps. What’s more, the most recent report noted that there were zero student deaths in 2021.
The highest skydive ever completed was from the stratosphere!
Technically, the jump completed by Alan Eustace in October 2014 from an incredible 135,889 feet (that’s nearly 26 miles above the ground) could be considered a space dive rather than a skydive!
Meanwhile, the majority of skydiving occurs right here in our own atmosphere. What is the highest you can skydive from? Most skydives, including a jump with us at Skydive STL, will occur from 10,000 feet.
Achieving higher altitudes is possible, but it requires additional equipment and is quite expensive. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has strict rules regarding high-altitude skydiving, and skydives completed above 15,000 feet require supplemental oxygen. Currently, the highest altitude you can skydive from is 30,000 feet.
You’re never too old to skydive.
Many think they are too old to jump, but that simply isn’t the case. Just look at centenarian Rut Linnéa Ingegärd Larsson from Sweden. In 2022, she became the oldest person to skydive at the young age of 103 years and 259 days old! The oldest skydiver before her was Alfred “Al” Blaschke, who jumped in 2020 at the age of 103 years and 181 days. It really gives credence to the saying “age is just a number!”
In 2021 alone, nearly 3.57 million jumps were completed in the United States!
Why is skydiving so popular? For some it’s the thrill, for others it’s the supreme feeling of freedom. Regardless of what brings you to your first jump, it’s likely that the supportive community of skydiving enthusiasts will inspire you to jump again!
Want to find out firsthand what skydiving is all about? Join us for your first tandem skydive today!