Thursday, June 10, 2004

Making the big leap


Where to go:

Choose a school at The skydiving centers listed are group members of the United States Parachute Association and have pledged to follow the organization's safety requirements.

One of the member centers, Skydive Wayne County near Richmond, Ind., is about an hour from Cincinnati. Visit it at

Who can skydive:

Almost anyone. A person should be in good health and physical condition and should not be on medication that could affect judgment. Many skydiving centers also require that skydivers be at least 18 years old.

What kind of skydive you can do:

• Tandem - The student and the instructor are attached to the same parachute system. Freefall lasts around 60 seconds. Training takes less than 30 minutes.

• Accelerated freefall - The student exits the aircraft with two instructors. They freefall together for about 50 seconds while the instructors maintain a grip on the student's harness to provide in-air instruction as well as to assist with stability. The student then opens the parachute and pilots it to the landing area with the help of a radio. Training takes a few hours.

• Static line or instructor-assisted deployment - The student exits the aircraft solo with the parachute deploying immediately. The student pilots the parachute to the landing area with the help of a radio. Training takes a few hours.

How fast you'll fall:

About 120-150 mph. You can go faster with different types of skydiving.

How high you'll be:

Tandem and accelerated freefall jumpers jump from 13,500 feet. Static line students exit the plane at 3,500 feet.

The time it takes:

Freefall (during a tandem or an accelerated freefall jump) lasts about 60 seconds. There is minimal (about 2 to 3 seconds) freefall during static line. You will be under a parachute for about two or three minutes before landing.

The price of skydiving:

Your first skydive can cost between $150-$300, depending on what kind of jump you do. Once you have a solo skydiving license and your own gear, skydives are about $15-$20. Your own equipment can cost about the same as a decent set of golf clubs ($1,800-$6,000).

What kind of equipment you'll use:

A skydiver's equipment is made up of three main components - a rectangular main and reserve parachute are packed into a specialized rig - as well as an automatic-activation device in some cases. That device is like a little computer that automatically deploys the reserve parachute if no other parachute is out at 1,000 feet.

Skydiving and safety:

It's difficult to estimate how many people are injured each year in skydiving, because many accidents are minor and go unreported. In 2002, 1,275 USPA members reported having injuries requiring medical attention.

In 2003, millions of skydives were made in the United States, and 25 jumpers were killed.

Many of the fatalities involved experienced skydivers doing fast, dangerous procedures.

Source: The United States Parachute Association

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