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Whenever people find out that I skydive they ask me the same questions. Here are the most common questions and answers.
1.) What do you like about skydiving?
Just the thought of getting out of an airplane is terrifying to most people. Lots of people ask what Ann and I like about it. I’m always surprised by this question because I feel the answer is obvious. I love the feeling of flying. The absolute freedom that I feel as I arc into a dive and punch through some clouds with my wife is only otherwise experienced in my dreams. Since God made the world very few humans have had such an opportunity. It is true that on your first couple of jumps you will get quite a burst of adrenaline pumped through your blood stream, but this is not why I love it. I love just flying and playing up there; it is like nothing else I have ever experienced.
2.) Aren’t you afraid of dying?
Yes, the fear of dying is what paralyzes most rational folks from ever putting on a rig. Climbing out onto the wing of a Cesna goes against the deepest of our inclinations. Everyone that I have ever met is afraid of dying. Death is not a natural thing, it is rather the curse against all the earth. The first time I jumped was not pretty. I was scared out of my mind. My life literally flashed before my golf ball sized eyes. I didn’t even like skydiving until I got through the AFF course. Free fall is something that a person must get used to. It is the most unusual of all experiences.
Because the ground rushes at you so fast and because you only have moments if something goes wrong, skydiving does bring a person to comprehend his or her own mortality more than any other sport. I usually say a prayer as the plane climbs to altitude. Very few things will put you more in touch with Jesus.
3.) Isn’t it dangerous?
Are you kidding me? Of course it’s dangerous – you’re climbing out of an airplane, remember!? Anyone who claims that skydiving is as safe as knitting mittens is lying. Here are the actual numbers:
In 2010 21 people died in skydiving accidents. According to the United States Parachute Association, there were about 3 million skydives performed in 2010. This means that the likelihood of dying while sky diving 1 in 143,000.
To give some reference, roughly 40,000 people die each year in traffic accidents in the United States. That’s 1.7 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles. Therefore, if you drive 10,000 miles per year, your statistical chance of dying in a car wreck in any given year is something like 1 in 6,000. This means that you would have to skydive 23 times per year for your risk of dying in a skydiving accident to equal your risk of dying in a car accident if you drive 10,000 miles per year. Ann’s and my statistical chance of dying in a car is approximately 1 in 1000, and we would have to jump 71 times each per year to equal the risks we take behind the wheel. So skydiving isn’t safe but it isn’t quite as dangerous as riding in a car.
Because skydiving accidents are so infrequent, averaging between 20 and 30 per year, they are much more newsworthy and you are much more likely to hear about them then the 110 fatal car accidents that happen in the US everyday. I just told this to my mom and she said, “What about skydiving injuries?” Well, it turns out that there are four documented injuries per 10,000 skydives. That’s a lot lower than ski injuries.
Skydiving involves inherent risks, but most skydiving accidents result from human error in extreme abnormal skydiving conditions. Such as trying to swoop the ground at 60 miles an hour. Thanks to a few decades worth of FFA safety standards, training policies, and equipment upgrades the sport has a remarkably low fatality rate.
Every parachute rig is equipped with two totally redundant parachute systems. One of those two, the reserve parachute, gives you a second chance if there is ever a tangle in your main parachute. This innovative system in itself has saved literally thousands of lives, including mine.
Skydiving honestly isn’t about being dangerous or dying and I hate how the questions always start there. Skydiving is about feeling alive, enjoying the creation, making new friends, and spending time with the people you love most. It’s not for everyone but most people would greatly benefit from making a tandem jump.
4.) How long are you in free fall?
Free fall lasts between 50 and 65 seconds. It takes about ten seconds to fall the first thousand feet but then every additional thousand feet only takes about five seconds each. It doesn’t sound like a very long time, but try this. Look at your watch and stare at it for 60 seconds and imagine falling toward the earth for that entire time.
5.) What’s your favorite part?
My favorite part is seeing my wife’s smile in the air. Her love for it is what justifies the cost and the risk every time. There are very few things on my mind during a jump. I am able to focus fully on what we are doing and enjoy the moment without any other worldly distractions. It’s so cool to learn how to fly across the sky and be in control.
6.) How do I become a skydiver?
Even though I have never jumped tandem (connected to an instructor), I recommend that for the first jump to get the experience. A tandem skydive normally costs about $200 and you don’t need any training whatsoever. Just enjoy the ride.
If you love going tandem, then I would recommend taking the AFF (Advanced Free Fall) course. This course covers 7 to 10 hours of classroom time prior to your first jump. On your first jump you dive out with two instructors who hold onto you in the air and help you maintain stability. Your only job on your first jump is to pull your parachute at the proper altitude. If you pass this first jump then you advance to level two. There are seven levels in all and each requires a different set of skills. Each jump will cost roughly $200.
Once you pass the AFF course you will need to work your way to your A license. This means you will have to make about 20 more jumps, performing different skills on each jump. Each jump now only costs about $20 so if you are dedicated to the sport this will come quick. Once you get your A license you can jump at 15,000 feet with any other licensed skydiver.
7.) What’s next for us in the sport?
Ann and I have about sixty jumps each and are enjoying ourselves! Maybe we will get our B licenses this year, but who knows. The sport can get expensive quick and so we will have to see what’s in our budget come summer time.
8.) Should I start skydiving?
Yes! Unless you have an injury, go right away. It’s so worth the money. You will love it. If you need any help or have any questions, just ask. We would love to help you and jump with you! Skydiving will bring you closer to God, closer to those you love, and awaken your heart to a panoramic horizon.