How Long Do You Freefall While Skydiving

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Tom Petty wasn’t the only one infatuated with freefalling. For many, freefall is the most notable aspect of the skydive, the headlining act, if you will. So, naturally, we get a lot of questions about skydiving freefall. Specifically, how long does skydiving last?

Typically, we estimate that a tandem pair takes 10 seconds to fall the first 1,000 feet after exiting the aircraft, and once reaching terminal velocity, it will only take 5 seconds to fall the next 1,000 feet. Based on these calculations, your skydiving freefall at WNY Skydiving will last about 30 seconds. While 30 seconds may not seem long, because of the barrage of new sensory stimuli, it will feel much, much longer. 

How Long Do You Freefall While Skydiving | WNY Skydiving

What does freefall feel like?

Many assume that the freefall portion of skydiving feels like falling but, truly, you’ll only feel a slight acceleration in the moments just after exiting the aircraft. Freefall doesn’t feel much like falling at all. It’s more akin to feeling like you’re being supported atop a cushion of air. Make no mistake about it, though, you’ll be flying at an incredible speed.

How fast do skydivers fall?

The average freefall speed for tandem skydivers is 120 mph. However, individual skydiver speeds can vary quite a bit due to an individual’s size, weight, and body orientation. Jumpers flying in a head-down orientation will fall between 150-180mph. There is even a discipline in skydiving where the intention is to reach the highest freefall speed possible. 

Fast Fact: U.S. Parachute Team Competitors Maxine Tate and Kyle Lobpries ​​set a new world, North American Continental and USPA National record for the speed skydiving competition at the 2020 FAI World Championships – Mondial. Maxine Tate set the female record with a performance of 443.85 km/h (275.80 mph) and Kyle set the general record with a performance of 508.93 km/h (316.23 mph).

How long does skydiving last?

During your skydive, you can expect to experience 30 blissful seconds of freefall. As we mentioned above, though, 30 seconds seems like it would fly by, because of the sensory intensity experienced on a skydive it feels like time has slowed!

In a time anomaly coined “The Matrix Effect” by Psychology Today, it appears that in situations of “fight or flight,” the way we process our surroundings and circumstances changes. When in perceived danger, our internal processes run more quickly. Because we are processing environmental stimuli more quickly, the external world appears to move more slowly. This is also what happens when in freefall on your skydive. Although you are falling 120 mph for 30 seconds, the time will seem to stretch – somehow passing in the blink of an eye while simultaneously moving with a viscous slowness.

Fast Fact: The longest duration of freefall was 4 minutes and 36 seconds from a height of 102,800 feet completed in 1960 by Joseph Kittinger.

6 Cool Pieces of Skydiving Gear You Didn't Know About | WNY Skydive

How long is the parachute ride?

For tandem skydivers, the parachute must be deployed by a minimum of 5,000 feet. Usually, tandem skydivers will enjoy a parachute ride that lasts 4 to 5 minutes. The parachute ride can be as docile or as zippy as you’d like. It’s like a “pick your own adventure” experience. You just need to let your tandem instructor know what you’d prefer ahead of time.

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  • Wittmann, Marc. “The Matrix Effect: When Time Slows Down.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 9 July 2017, 

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