An Introduction to Skydiving

Skydiving, as the word implies, is an activity in which you’ll be literally diving down from the sky with some safety measures, of course. It’s done from an airplane or a helicopter which takes off from a drop zone, which is like a small airbase.

A Bird’s Eye View Of Skydiving

If you’re planning to do this breathtaking activity, then you should be prepared to know that skydivers would usually exit their airplane at the height of 4000 meters or 13,000 feet. After doing so, you would have to do a freefall for a period of time and then you could open your parachute to slow down your descent until you reach a safe and slow landing speed.

Generally, the chute should be fully inflated by the height of around 2,500 ft. In fact it is part of the law that skydivers should jump with two chutes. One would be the main chute and the other would be the reserve, just in case the main parachute would fail.

Once your parachute is in its full inflation, you now have the ability to control your speed and direction using your chute’s steering lines. With that, technical maneuvers could be executed by experienced skydivers giving them the ability to land with great accuracy. In fact, there are even some competitions held on being able to land in a specific spot with the most precision and style.

Other than bundling yourself out of the plane, opening a parachute and floating your way down to Earth, skydiving also have some specialization areas, and here are some of them.

Formation Skydiving: Creating Art While You Fall

During the freefall period of the jump, some experienced skydivers would combine to create and hold different formations before they breaking off and open up their parachutes and float down to earth as normal skydiving does. In fact, the world record for this kind of skydiving is actually a 400 man dive. The formation was maintained for 4.25 seconds from the altitude of 25,000 ft. in Udon Thai, Thailand.

Freestyle Skydiving: A Solo Performance

This kind of diving can be a very entertaining one. It is where the skydiver would perform some acrobatic maneuvers and stunts, such as rolls, tumbles and graceful formations by himself throughout the freefall period and before he opens his parachute. Freestyle dives would also need the participation of another skydiver.

The second diver on the other hand would not do any kind of stunts. However, he would be the one to film his partners’ performance through a camera that is mounted on his helmet. This kind of dive is actually a registered competitive sport that was declared in 1996 by the FAI.

Freestyle Skydiving

Where a skydiver performs acrobatic maneuvers like rolls and tumbles during the freefall, before opening his chute. Freestyle also involves another skydiver whose job it is to film their partners performance via a helmet-mounted camera. It was registered as a competitive sport by the FAI in 1996.

Free Flying: Do It Your Way

This is considered to be the art of controlling your body and having the ability to move through different static positions while you are in the freefall period of your jump, before you open your parachute. If you’ll be doing dives like this, you would have to do some maneuvers like Sit Flying, Back Flying, and Head Down. These would allow you to have more control on your speed and trajectory. You also have to do some exit rolls or tumbles at the end of your freefall stage so that you can safely deploy your parachute by the time you reach the right altitude.

The art of controlling ones body and being able to move through various static positions during the freefall stage prior to opening one’s chute. Common maneuvers such as Back Flying, Sit Flying, and Head Down allow a skydiver to control his speed and trajectory as well as exit rolls and tumbles in order to safely deploy their chute when the correct altitude is reached.

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The first successful parachute jump was made from a hot air balloon in 1797 and, from that point, the military developed parachuting as a means of evacuating staff from emergencies on board airplanes and balloons. Later, parachuting was used as a method of deploying ground troops in war zones.

These days, sky diving is the recreational form of parachuting and can involve a period of freefall, wherein aerial acrobatics and formation maneuvers may be performed before deployment of the actual chute. Competition sky diving began in the 1930s and was recognized as an official sport in 1951.

Skydiving is done from a plane or sometimes a helicopter which takes off from a small airbase known as a drop zone. Skydivers usually exit the aircraft at a height of 4000 meters (13,000 feet) and freefall for a time before opening their chute to slow their descent to a safe landing speed.

A parachute is normally fully inflated at around 2,500 feet. It is law that a skydiver jumps with two parachutes, a main chute and a reserve in case the main one should fail. Upon full parachute inflation, a skydiver can control his speed and direction with steering lines. As such, technical maneuvers can be performed by experienced sky divers and they can land with great precision, sometimes competing to land in an area with the most accuracy and style. In addition to simply bundling oneself out of a plane, opening a chute and floating down to earth, there are many types of skydiving specializations.

Today, there are sky diving clubs all over Britain that run everything from beginners day courses to advanced technical specializations. Here is a list of the various offshoots of sky diving available in the UK:

Accuracy Landing

A type of competitive skydiving where a sky diver earns points for landing as close as possible to a target on the ground.


Jumping The most dangerous and extreme of all types of skydiving. BASE is an acronym that refers to the launch sites of its practitioners – Building, Antennae (an uninhabited tower structure or aerial mast), Span (like a bridge) and Earth (a cliff or canyon). Only very experienced sky divers can take part in BASE jumping as the risks of such a short jump in close proximity to structures threatening entanglement and/or collision are enormous. Between 1981 and 2007, it is estimated that some 111 experienced BASE jumpers have died as a result of failed BASE jumps. You can see a list of fatalities here.

Formation Skydiving

During freefall, experienced skydivers combine to make and hold formations before breaking off to open their chutes and parachute to earth as normal. The world record formation skydive was a 400 man formation held for 4.25 seconds starting from an altitude of 25,000 feet preformed in Udon Thai, Thailand.


An even more radical method of skydiving, wherein a skydiver has a board akin to but smaller than a snowboard attached to his feet. Such an apparatus is extremely difficult to control and even standing straight up requires skill and balance only garnered through considerable experience in freeflying. Experienced skysurfers can use their boards to initiate rapid tumbles, rolls and spinning helicopter acrobatics. As in Freestyle, an auxiliary partner is required to film the skysurfers performance. For safety reasons, the board is detachable mid-air but of course this involves an extra hazard for anyone on the ground. As such not all skydiving clubs allow skysurfing.

Wingsuit Flying

A recent invention where skydivers don a specially designed suit with webbing stitched between the legs and the arms. The resulting suit creates an airfoil, giving lift to the skydiver and apportioning him an advanced level of control over his trajectory and descent speed otherwise not possible. Wingsuit users often employ the use of portable computers to record velocity and distance traveled and a momentary speed as low as 25mph has been recorded. At the specified altitude the arm webbing of the wingsuit is unzipped so that the parachute can be deployed.

Wingsuits are particularly popular among BASE jumpers, as they can turn a 60 second freefall into a 3 minute one. However, wingsuit skydiving is only for the very experienced, and it is recommended that a skydiver have several hundred jumps under his belt before he embarks on this branch of skydiving.