Newcomers to skydiving tend to think of our sport in terms of extremes. On one end of the spectrum is tandem skydiving, the most popular entry point into the sky. The other end is home to the hard-core “crazy” folks who use their skydiving license to push the limits of human flight to the absolute edge. In the middle, you’ll find people working their way through the AFF curriculum toward their USPA A license, followed perhaps by their B, C, and D license, and those working toward various ratings.
Let’s take a look at some of the amazing feats folks all across the spectrum have accomplished! From oldest and most, to the biggest formation and highest, there’s no end to the fun skydiving facts the internet has to offer!
We know who the oldest in the skydiving community is because they’ve each smashed Guinness World Records! The oldest man to make a tandem skydive is Alfred “Al” Blaschke of Georgetown, TX, who made his first jump at age 100 and his most recent tandem at 103 years and 181 days old!
Al’s record only just eclipsed that of the oldest female tandem skydiver on record, Kathryn “Kitty” Hodges, who jumped at 103 years and 129 days old. Originally from Tacoma, WA, Kitty passed away at age 106 this past January.
The oldest female solo jumper is Dilys Price from Cardiff, Wales. She started skydiving at age 54 and jumped solo until age 85. By the time she sold her rig and elected to only jump tandem, she’d logged 1,139 jumps. Milburn Hart of Seattle was 96 when he made a solo (static line) jump. An injury on exit made him unable to steer his canopy, which resulted in a rough landing, but he earned a spot in the Big Book nonetheless, beating out Herb Tanner who’d jumped at age 92.
The youngest to jump is not so easy to verify. The consensus, however, is most likely German Toni Stadler who jumped from 10,000 feet at the tender age of four over Cape Town, South Africa. Toni’s jump was, of course, a tandem!
Licensed skydivers average about six jumps in a day … now, multiply that by 100! In 2006, Jay Stokes rang in his 50th birthday by completing 640 skydives in 24 hours – that’s about 27 per hour! What’s more, Jay’s success broke his own 2003 World Record of 534 – and in 2014, he tried to top it with 700 jumps but, alas, weather stopped his progress. Each attempt has enabled Jay to raise significant funds for charity.
Cheryl Stearns is the female skydiver who holds the record for most jumps in a 24-hour period. Not only did she achieve 352 on that cold November day in 1995, but she also landed on her five-centimeter target a whopping 188 times; another record! Cheryl also holds the distinguished title of history’s first female member of the US Army Golden Knights and has more than 21,000 total skydives – more than any other woman in the sport.
One of the most visually appealing disciplines in the sport is formation skydiving or FS. Big Ways integrate the most people possible in a single formation – it is incredibly cool and incredibly hard.
The largest all-female formation was achieved in Perris, CA in 2009 and featured 181 skydivers from 31 countries. Sponsored by Jump for a Cause, they raised more than $900,000 for their common enemy – breast cancer – as they jumped from nine planes at an altitude of 17,000 feet.
The co-ed record was set in 2006 in Thailand and featured 400 skydivers, ages 20 to 65, aboard five C-130s proudly provided by the Royal Thai Air Force. A little less than half of the skydivers were from the US, and the rest represented over 30 countries. Their mass exit at 24,500 feet provided about 100 seconds of working time, during which skydivers hit a terminal velocity of 200+ mph, and resulted in a beautiful formation that they were able to hold for 4.3 seconds.
Multiple “highest” skydiving records deserve mention here. Let’s start with Felix Baumgartner’s incredible jump from 10 years ago. In 2012, Austrian “Fearless Felix” skydived from a pressurized gondola attached to a helium balloon from 127,852 feet, or 24 miles up. Over the course of his more than four minutes in freefall, Felix reached a maximum speed of 843.6 mph and broke the sound barrier. In all, Felix broke five World Records – at that time, including highest freefall jump.
But several of Felix’s records were soon broken. In 2014, Google executive Alan Eustace jumped in a spacesuit attached to a helium balloon from 135,898 feet, or nearly 26 miles up, and remained in freefall for four minutes and 27 seconds. Unlike Felix, Alan jumped with a drogue, enabling his maximum speed to reach 820 mph – and, like Felix, broke the sound barrier. Alan believes that humans can jump from altitudes even higher.
The next highest in the realm of verified skydiving information is the highest jump intentionally made without a parachute and survived. In 2016, seasoned skydiver, BASE jumper, aerial photographer, and pilot Luke Aikens jumped from 25,000 feet with neither a canopy nor wingsuit. Just 121 seconds later, using only GPS, he landed in a 100 by 100-foot net suspended 170 feet in the air, his wife and four-year-old son watching from 100 feet away. His instructions: if I live, I’ll share my story; if I die, destroy the footage.
Recent among our sport’s interesting facts is the highest tandem skydiving record. In 2019, American skydiver James Wigginton and Polish Arkadiusz Majewski jumped tandem over Poland from 37,417 feet – that’s seven miles up. His next feat – diving seven miles down to the lowest part of the ocean – earned James the nickname The 7-Mile Man. James has broken many a World Record, and every one is to raise awareness of thyroid cancer in honor of his wife, Punya.
Do you have what it takes to be counted on the list of great skydiving statistics one day? If you’re learning, keep it up! And if you’re just getting started, come and jump with us!