Jumping out of a plane and zooming towards the earth is not really what we humans were designed for, so every skydiving-related question is a good question. And the answer to this one is yes, you can pass out while skydiving. (You can pass out doing anything, actually.) The likelihood of passing out during your skydiving experience is slim, though, and not only are there things you can do to minimize the chance of losing consciousness but your instructor is also equipped to take care of you should the unexpected transpire.
So, deep breath in … exhale slowly. Let’s get into what feels scary and see about ironing out some of those knots in your stomach!
How Fast Do You Fall?
Some have the need for speed, and others see a comet of vomit in their future at the thought of it (:shudder:). When people ask, “What’s the scariest part of skydiving?”, the expected answer is freefall because it’s so fast – but that’s most frequently what skydivers love the most!
During freefall, you typically accelerate to 120 mph … and it might not feel as you imagine it to feel without prior skydiving experience. For many, this is a revelation: freefall doesn’t feel like falling. It feels more like floating! You don’t get that heart attack waiting-to-happen feeling of a roller coaster because you leap from a fast-moving plane and continue going mega fast. You don’t halt at the top of a hill and plunge without warning!
The speed you develop when you jump is a gradual transfer of momentum until you reach terminal velocity. Terminal velocity is a fabulous physics term that describes the state of air resistance rushing up being equal to the force of gravity pulling down. With experience, skydivers have tremendous control while riding this supportive cushion of air. It’s not a helter-skelter plummet like movies might have you think.
Let’s Talk About Parachute Deployment…
After about 45 seconds in freefall, the parachute will deploy. Parachute openings happen in stages, purposefully designed to grant swift but steady deceleration. Skydiving is supposed to be fun, not painful. If the canopy deployment consistently hurt, people wouldn’t do it again and again (and again …).
Tandem students are not responsible for deploying the parachute, and tandem instructors are highly credentialed and extremely experienced (regardless of the “this is my first-time” jokes they toss your way!). Your United States Parachute Association (USPA) certified instructor is well-versed in the sophisticated technology and stringent safety protocols associated with their rig. They have everything covered so you can relax and enjoy the peaceful parachute ride.
Should something go awry, not only does every skydiver jump with a reserve parachute but the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires that every tandem parachute have an automatic activation device (AAD) installed on the reserve. In the unlikely event that your instructor passes out, for example, the AAD would trigger parachute deployment. This happens via the unit continually measuring the air pressure, and if you are still falling over a certain speed at the end of freefall, it activates and deploys your canopy.
Tips to Win Out Overwhelm
As we noted at the top, there are things first-timers can do to steady the ol’ nerves – and it’s probably advice your mom has already given you!
We mammals are wont to hold our breath in the face of potential danger, especially if we perceive we may encounter a shortage of oxygen. Good news: there’s plenty for all at 10,000 feet – take it in! Ground yourself by focusing on your breathing. If you forget to breathe, as is common too, make a conscious effort to scream on exit. You can’t roar without first filling your lungs.
One reason people feel faint is by eating too much or not eating enough. Have yourself a regular-sized, healthy meal before heading to the dropzone. Avoid fried foods or those that feel “heavy” in your belly.
Drink Water (Not Alcohol)
A sure-fire way to feel sick is dehydration. Drink plenty of water ahead of your reservation, and pack a cooler of water and snacks to bring with you too. Lay off the alcohol the night before – skydiving hungover feels awful, and there’s tons of time to celebrate afterward. Note: you cannot jump under the influence; no exceptions.
Get a good night’s sleep! Rest is best for a great day at the dropzone. Skydiving feels a-m-a-z-i-n-g, and getting the most out of your experience means taking time for self-care ahead of self-empowerment. Boom!
So, your mom might not know to recommend that you get the video, but we’re here to tell you that you oughta. Watching yourself accomplish something extraordinary is incredible fuel that can propel you to achieve other things that feel overwhelming. You. Can. Do. This.
At Skydive STL, safety is our top priority and skydiving is our passion. Have other questions? Check out our FAQs or connect with our team – we are here to support you. And when you’re ready for an epic adventure – come jump with us!