It may come as a surprise to you to learn that there are several different altitudes used for skydiving, ranging from 3,500 feet all the way to above and beyond 40,000 feet for licensed jumpers! First-time tandem skydivers usually exit anywhere from 8,000 feet to 14,000 feet with the average skydiving height being 10,000 feet.
At Skydive STL, our tandem skydivers jump from 10,000 feet – right in that skydiving ‘sweet spot’ – and we promise that it is juuust right!
What Determines Skydiving Altitude?
A few factors determine the skydiving altitude: type of aircraft, specific Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) restrictions, or just based on what exactly you’re looking to do!
Licensed jumpers have the most options. Skydiving license holders can choose to do a low-altitude jump called a “hop ’n pop” (between 3,500 and 5,500 feet); a regular “sport jump” at the dropzone’s normal altitude (for us, 10K feet); or sometimes there is an option for a high altitude jump, or “HALO” jump. Specific altitudes and offerings are determined by the dropzone that you are jumping with, of course.
Why so many different altitudes you ask? Well, different altitudes are used for different disciplines, military operations, sick stunts, record settings, or simply to get more thrill! Let’s look more closely and answer a frequently asked question, what altitude do you pull your parachute?
Low Altitude Jumps: Hop ’N Pop!
The term hop ’n pop is shorthand for licensed skydivers and it means to jump out of the plane and “pop” your parachute right away. Hop out, pop your parachute – hop ’n pop!
This is exactly as it sounds – there is essentially no freefall time during a hop ’n pop and they are usually performed at a lower altitude (3,500 to 5,500 feet). The purpose is to focus on the parachute or canopy ride – whether you just enjoy flying your canopy, want to improve your canopy piloting skills, or are practicing for a canopy piloting competition. A hop ’n pop comes with the added benefit of dealing with less ‘traffic’ in the sky between exit and landing.
Most skydivers need a minimum altitude of 2,500 feet in order to have time to make a series of very important decisions regarding a safe canopy ride. Without an altitude limit, we might not have enough time to ensure that our canopy opens properly and is steerable – and if it’s not, the main parachute is cut away and the backup parachute comes to the rescue.
* It is recommended that tandem skydivers jump from a minimum altitude of 8,000 ft – as such, tandems cannot perform low altitude jumps.
High Altitude Jumps
Technically, anything above 15,000 feet is considered a high-altitude jump and will require supplemental oxygen to help you breathe and to help you avoid passing out from hypoxia (lack of oxygen). Don’t worry, you can totally breathe with ease on a tandem jump from a normal altitude.
Why would someone want to jump from a higher altitude? In short, higher altitudes mean more freefall time in the sky! Typically, the parachute is deployed anywhere between 3,000 to 3,500 feet for licensed jumpers (5,000 to 5,500 feet for tandem jumpers). The freefall time at Skydive St. Louis is about 45 seconds from a 10,000 ft exit altitude.
An altitude of 18,000 ft can add 20 seconds to your skydive – which doesn’t sound like much, but it adds just enough extra time to pull off super cool stunts and big-way records. Big-way records are jumps that have hundreds of skydivers come together and connect in a dynamic formation. The current record is 400 skydivers set in 2006! This unbreakable record needed some calculation before they could pull it off and since they needed about 100 seconds of freefall – they knew that the exit altitude needed to be 25,400 feet!
Currently, the record for the highest skydive is held by Google Executive, Alan Eustace, and stands at an impressive 135,889 feet. Wow!
High Altitude for Military Operations
The military will use HALO (high altitude, low opening) or HAHO (high altitude, high opening) jumps as a way to gain covert entry into hostile regions for military operations. These jumps are typically performed anywhere from 30,000 to 40,000 feet.
Can You Skydive From 50,000 feet?
Currently, the highest verified altitude that you can skydive from in the United States is 30,000 feet, which is essentially as high as commercial airplanes! This altitude is rarely offered at skydiving dropzones but every now and then you’ll see one that will do them seasonally. If you really want to go higher than high, keep an eye out for this truly unique experience! Skydiving from this altitude is so rare because of the additional care and requirements that are needed in order to even get approval from the FAA to perform any skydive above 28,000 feet. And you can just imagine the increased cost! *Gasp!*
Don’t fret – freefall time isn’t everything! You can still get the same amount of joy with a shorter freefall time and a breathtaking parachute ride. For some, the canopy ride is their favorite part! Nothing beats that unobstructed view and incomparable sense of peace from thousands of feet in the air; it is pure bliss.
Experience the thrill from 10,000 feet at St. Louis’ closest skydiving center – Skydive St. Louis – and book your skydive today!