About Sky Diving

Overview

Sky diving, which is also known as parachuting, is the action taken when one exits an aircraft and returns to the earth (alive) with assistance from a parachute. Sky diving usually involves a certain amount of free-falling, which is the time where the parachute has not yet been deployed, as the body gradually reaches terminal velocity.

Sky diving is performed world-wide as both a competitive sport as well as a recreational activity. Air forces also consider sky diving to be an integral part of the deployment of troops, and forest firefighters often use parachutes to get to areas which are difficult to access via other more traditional means.

The History of Sky Diving

The history of sky diving began with Andre-Jacques Garnerin, who made successful parachute jumps from a hot-air balloon in 1797. The military developed parachuting technology as a way to save aircrews from emergencies aboard balloons and aircraft in flight, and then later as a way of delivering soldiers to the battlefield. Early competitions date back to the 1930s, and sky diving became an international sport in 1952.

National sky diving associations exist in many countries, with most of them affiliated with the World Air Sports Federation (FAI) to promote sky diving as a recognized sport. In most cases, national representative bodies, as well as local dropzone operators, require that participants carry certification. This is so that they can attest to their training, their level of experience in the sport, and their proven competence. Anyone who cannot produce such proof of experience is treated as a student, requiring close supervision.

The majority of jumpers tend to be non-competitive, enjoying the sport recreationally with their friends on weekends and holidays. The atmosphere of their gatherings is relaxed, sociable and welcoming to newcomers.

Notable people associated with sky diving include Valery Rozov, a gold medalist from the 1998 X Games, who has more than 1,500 jumps under her belt; as well as Georgia Thompson Broadwick who was one of the first American sky divers to make the sport popular.

Sky Diving Safety

Despite the common perception of danger when falling from the sky, fatalities in sky diving are quite rare. However, each year a number of people are either injured or killed parachuting worldwide. About 30 skydivers are killed each year in the US, roughly one death for every 100,000 jumps.

In the United States and in most of the western world, sky divers are required to carry two parachutes. The reserve parachute must be periodically inspected and re-packed (whether used or not) by a certificated parachute rigger. Many sky divers use an automatic activation device (AAD) that opens the reserve parachute at a safe altitude in the event of failing to activate the main canopy. Most sky divers wear a visual altimeter, and an increasing number also use audible altimeters fitted to their helmet.

Injuries and fatalities occurring under a fully functional parachute usually happen because the sky diver performed unsafe maneuvers or made an error in judgment while flying their canopy, typically resulting in a high speed impact with the ground or other objects on the ground. One of the most common sources of injury is a low turn under a high-performance canopy and while swooping. Swooping is the advanced discipline of gliding parallel to the ground during a landing.

Changing wind conditions are another risk factor. In conditions of strong winds and turbulence during hot days, the sky diver can be caught in downdrafts close to the ground. Shifting winds can cause a crosswind or downwind landing. These could have a higher potential for injury due to the wind speed adding to the landing speed.