Fun Facts About Skydiving

Thursday, March 28, 2024

If you’re even thinking about jumping out of an airplane for the first time, you’re probably trying to learn about all of the skydiving facts and statistics that you can. We don’t need to give you a list of fun facts about skydiving to answer the question, Is skydiving fun? (hint: the answer is yes), but learning a bit about the cool parts of skydive history makes the whole experience even more interesting. 

In this article, we’ll cover some super cool skydiving statistics and amazing facts about our favorite sport, including:

  • Skydiving history
  • Most skydives in one day
  • Highest parachute jump
  • Skydiving speed record

Keep reading so you’ll have more than one answer next time someone asks you for an interesting fact about skydiving!

1. 18th Century Daredevils Invented Skydiving

Many people think of the early skydiving days as the 50s and 60s. Or maybe even the brave WWII Paratroopers of the 1940s. However, the first use of a parachute can be traced back to the late 18th century. 1783 to be exact! 

The parachute was invented by Louis-Sébastien Lenormand in France, and, to prove his faith in his own creation, he made the first recorded public jump from the tower of Montpellier Observatory (which technically also makes it the first BASE jump). His daredevilry quickly caught on, and the next decades saw more people using parachutes to jump out of hot air balloons. 

Lenormand coined the word “parachute” in 1785 by hybridizing the Italian prefix para (an imperative form of parare: to avert, defend, resist, guard, shield or shroud), and chute, the French word for fall, to describe the aeronautical device’s real function. 

2. Oldest and Youngest

You might think that skydiving is a young person’s game, but the truth is, you can never be too old to skydive. There are even skydiving clubs for different age groups within the sport that go up to 90+ years old! One of the most popular people to skydive into their golden years is former United States President, George Bush. 

And there are plenty more where that came from! The current world record holder for the oldest person to make a tandem skydive is Al Blaschke, a 106-year-old WWII veteran who has held this very record before. He set the current record of 106 years old in November of 2023 and the previous record of 103 in 2020. Even more impressive, his very first skydive happened in 2017 for his 100th birthday! 

The record for the youngest skydiver is a little bit harder to pin down. Skydiving has changed a lot over the years, and that includes new and evolving rules and regulations. Nowadays, you must be 18 years old to skydive at a United States Parachute Association (USPA) Member Dropzone, and even non-member dropzones throughout the world typically set the age limit at 16. 

But back in the day when things were a bit more wild-west, experienced skydivers would sometimes take their small children on jumps with them. Because it happened before the sport committed to keeping detailed statistics, 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!

3. Most Jumps in a Day

Skydivers are indeed a bit addicted to the sky. Ask any skydiver what they’d prefer to be doing any day of the week, and they’ll tell you they’d rather be jumping out of an airplane. But some of us take that to extremes. 

And Jay Stokes is the king of going full send! In 2006, he completed an unbelievable 640 skydives in 24 hours. And on his birthday! That comes out to one skydive every 2.25 minutes. He took the previous record of 534 jumps in a day from … himself! As you can see, he’s a pillar to look up to for the rest of us who are stuck at our desks on those sunny summer workdays.

It took a dedicated team of packers, pilots, and other support crew to help Jay achieve both of his 24-hour jump records. With no time for anything but jumping, landing, and repeating, he needed people to prepare his equipment for each jump, remove his used equipment after each jump, and make sure he had any food, drinks, and supplies on hand that he would need to keep himself energized for the day. 

In addition to the fun and glory, Jay used his efforts to raise a considerable amount of money for charity. 

4. Largest Formation

Probably the most common image people have of skydivers is a group of jumpers holding hands and creating large patterns in the sky with their bodies. You may have even seen the inspirational posters and desktop backgrounds that feature these amazing feats of skill. 

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. 

But did you know that these formations are used to achieve world records? Several different categories of formation records encompass everything from flight discipline to age and gender. Records can be held on the state, national, and global levels. Check out some of these incredible formation skydiving records:

  • The world record for the largest formation skydive still stands from 2006, when 400 skydivers from across the globe came together to hold hands and make history over Udon Thani, Thailand. 
  • The largest all-female vertical formation record was set in the fall of 2022 by 100+ women from 22 different countries. The final record was set at 80 women flying in the head up or head down position and was organized by Project-19. 
  • In October 2022, 25 members of the skydiving group Jumpers Over Seventy set a Florida State Record at Skydive Deland for the largest formation skydive in the state of Florida. The men and women on the record-breaking jump had a combined 155,500 jumps between them! 

5. Highest Skydive on Record

Every skydiver is different, but many of us are in it for the freefall. It’s all about the speed, baby. And the more time we’re free falling, the happier we are. That’s why it’s no surprise that the highest skydive on record resulted in a staggering 123,414 feet of freefall!

Alan Eustace set the record for highest skydive in history in October 2014 by jumping from 135,889 feet and reaching speeds up to 822 mph. His descent lasted four minutes and 27 seconds – something we’re not jealous of at all. 

But he’s not the first jumper to take things to extremes, and he probably won’t be the last. Skydivers have been pushing the upper limit of the atmosphere since the 1950s. Joseph Kittinger was an Officer in the United States Air Force who had a penchant for altitude. His first high-altitude jump was from 76,400 feet in 1959. From there, he steadily increased his exit altitudes until jumping from 102,800 feet in 1960. 

A handful of people attempted high altitude jumps in the subsequent decades, but Felix Baumgartner shouldered the mantle of extreme skydives in 2012 with a jump from 127,852 feet, a record that would stand for two years before Eustace came along. 

6. Terminal Velocity Means Something Different For Each Person

It’s a common misconception that terminal velocity means falling at 120 mph, and it’s impossible to go any faster. The reality is that 120 mph is the average speed at which a human being falls in a neutral arch position, but weight, clothing, and body position can change that speed drastically in either direction. The reason that falling speeds are inconsistent is that we don’t skydive in a vacuum – gravity and wind resistance (aka drag) work together to result in different terminal velocities for different people. 

For instance, a person weighing 300 lbs who is wearing tight clothing is going to fall much faster than a person weighing 150 lbs wearing an equally tight outfit. But if the heavier person changes into something baggy, they may fall at an equal speed to the lighter person in tight clothes. This is because the drag in effect on their body will counteract some of the speed that is induced by gravity and their weight. 

The fastest freefall speed ever recorded is 846.3 mph by our guy, Felix Baumgartner! He actually broke the sound barrier on his 2012 stratosphere jump. 

7. Tandem Rigs Have 3 Parachutes

Everyone knows that skydiving rigs come with a parachute – that’s sort of the whole point! And most people are aware of the fact that there’s even a reserve parachute packed in there in case of emergencies. But did you know that tandem skydiving rigs are equipped with a third, mini parachute? 

This little piece of equipment is called the drogue, and it’s one of the most important innovations in tandem skydiving gear history. The drogue is a small, circular parachute that is deployed immediately after exiting the airplane door, and its purpose is to slow you down. We already mentioned how fast a single skydiver can travel in freefall, imagine what two people strapped together can do!

Before the invention of the drogue, tandem parachute openings were painful, unpredictable, and dangerous. The drogue slows a tandem pair down just enough that they can enjoy a soft opening when it’s time for freefall to end. It also serves the dual purpose of extracting the main parachute when the deployment ripcord is pulled! 

Are you ready to be a part of history? Write your own story and come jump with us

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