How Safe is Tandem Skydiving?

Thursday, June 1, 2023

When you are considering leaping thousands of feet above terra firma, it’s only natural to be a little apprehensive and wonder: how dangerous is skydiving? What are the risks of tandem skydiving? You’ll be plummeting toward the earth at 120mph, after all, so it would be a little surprising if safety wasn’t your number one concern. 

The good news is, skydiving incidents are a lot less common than you probably think they are. The sensationalism of online and broadcast media would have us believe that skydiving risks are sky-high (pun intended). But the reality is that accidents are few and far between, and skydiving fatalities are even more rare. 

The even better news is that a tandem jump is the safest way to make your first skydive. Instructor requirements, training, and safety regulations all work together to make tandem skydiving the best choice for your first leap of faith. It can’t get any better than strapping hundreds (or thousands!) of jumps worth of knowledge to your back before you leave the airplane. 

You’re probably thinking, that’s all well and good, but how does a dropzone ensure safety? And when it comes to tandem safety, who’s keeping track? Is skydiving safe??? 

To answer the question, “Just how safe is a tandem skydive?” let’s take a look at the data.

How safe is tandem skydiving? If you have an expert instructor like this woman, then very!
How safe is tandem skydiving? If you have an expert instructor like this woman, very!

Statistics Say A Lot About Tandem Safety

The statistics have spoken – and the verdict is: skydiving isn’t as dangerous as you think. 

But what exactly does that mean? Well, it’s safer than driving!

The United States Parachute Association (USPA), the primary member organization for the sport of skydiving in the US, has been busy collecting statistics on skydiving since 1961. These statistics reveal that the sport of skydiving is consistently becoming safer. In 2021, out of approximately 3.6 million jumps, there were 10 recorded fatal skydiving accidents – one of the lowest fatality rates in the sport’s history.

In addition, the same data uncovers something pretty impressive about tandem skydiving safety: over the past decade, there has been one student fatality per 500,000 tandem jumps. Data gathered by the National Safety Council (NSC) reveals a person is more likely to be killed by a bee sting or dog bite than during a tandem skydive.

As for driving? The same NSC report shows that the odds of dying in a motor vehicle crash are one in 93. You are statistically safer during your tandem skydive than driving to the dropzone!

So what is the cause of most skydiving accidents? Most skydiving accidents occur because highly experienced jumpers push the limits of what’s possible in the sky. These accidents typically happen with fully-functioning gear and during otherwise uneventful skydives, and are usually the result of jumper error in an extreme situation. So … nothing to do with tandem skydiving!

You Have a Professional Skydiving Instructor on Your Side

On a tandem skydive, you’re not going it alone. You can rest assured you’re always paired with a professional instructor here at WNY. Tandem safety is our top priority, and on your tandem skydive, you will be securely harnessed to a qualified skydiving instructor.

When it comes to safety, these guys are trained to handle just about anything. Your instructor’s first priority is to get you safely to the ground. All of the tandem instructors at WNY have met incredibly strict criteria. To become a WNY Skydiving instructor, a skydiver must:

  • Have a minimum of 500 skydives
  • Have been active in the sport for at least 3 years
  • Hold a USPA D license
  • Possess a current FAA Class III Flight Medical Certificate

Additionally, to receive a rating and be eligible to take on tandem passengers, an instructor must complete rigorous coursework developed by the United States Parachute Association and be rated on the particular gear that the drop zone uses. Talk about high expectations!

And speaking of gear…

Parachute rigging training at WNY Skydiving
Parachute rigging training at WNY Skydiving

We Only Use State-of-the-Art Equipment

Skydiving equipment has come a long way since the old days, and the improvements that have been made over the last 30 years have given us assuredly safer equipment. Decades of research and development have gone into making the gear we fly the most cutting-edge equipment available.

When you make a tandem skydive, you will be using equipment that contains two parachutes. One of these parachutes is called the “main” and, as its name indicates, is the primary canopy. The other canopy is called a reserve. In the unlikely event there is an issue with the main canopy, the reserve is used.

To keep the tandem gear as safe as possible, the reserve parachute is only handled by an expert FAA-certified rigger (WNY even offers FAA parachute rigger training programs!). These riggers inspect and repack the reserve every 180 days like clockwork. 

Equipment is also outfitted with a pretty neat piece of technology called an Automatic Activation Device (AAD). This little computer ensures that the reserve parachute will deploy when a certain altitude or speed is reached. So, if the instructor is unable to open the main or reserve, the AAD works as a great backup device. 

Because tandem safety is so important here at WNY, your instructor is well-versed in the use of every piece of tandem skydiving equipment. It’s even part of their training!

So you see – tandem skydiving isn’t as death-defying as it seems. You’re always welcome to come out to the drop zone and observe our tandem skydiving operation; you’ll get a feel for our culture and see our safety procedures in progress. Then, when you’re ready to give it a go, join us at WNY skydiving – we would love to share this once-in-a-lifetime experience with you!

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