Published: October 3, 2015
Are All Skydive Centers the Same?
Did you know that not all skydive centers are the same? Though the activity of skydiving is essentially the same, the experience can be vastly different based on several variables that include the aircraft type, altitude you're jumping from, professionalism of the staff, quality of the media you're receiving (photos and videos) and the facility itself.
Not many people give the type of aircraft you're jumping from much thought, but it should be considered. The Cessna 182 aircraft is the most common aircraft used at the majority of skydive centers in the world. It's reliable, not terribly expensive to maintain and reasonably efficient on fuel burn. The negative of the 182 is it's quite small. A Cessna 182 holds 5 people, (pilot plus four skydivers) and is cramped on a long ride to altitude (usually 20 minutes). The biggest limitation of the Cessna 182 is altitude. In skydiving, the higher the altitude the better as it allows for a longer free fall time.
Skydive Carolina operates three aircraft - a Cessna 182 (the first airplane we started with 30 years ago and only used for special operations and events), a 14 passenger, Beechcraft King Air (with an amazing 8 minutes flight time to 13,500 feet) and a beautiful, 16 passenger Cessna Grand Caravan that takes jumpers to 13,500 feet in 14 minutes.
The biggest differentiation between most skydiving centers is altitude. Licensed skydivers will tell you the higher the altitude, the better. More altitude means more time in free fall which equates to more enjoyment. Before booking, be aware of skydive centers that use the term "up to" when describing their altitudes. This can add some grey area in their advertisement. Be clear to identify the standard jump altitude as many will claim that they jump up to 10,000 feet, but often get out at 8,000 feet to save on the fuel expense. First time skydivers have no idea the altitude they're jumping from as they have nothing to compare it to and many operators will take advantage of that. It's an unethical practice and one we don't condone.
If you decide to skydive, be sure to get the most out of the experience. Try to book with a company that jumps between 13,000 and 14,000 feet at a minimum. There are some skydiving centers that offer 18,000+ jumps, but the costs are usually much higher due to the added expense of equipping airplanes with oxygen, but still a great experience.
Some DZ's may need to drop from lower altitudes if low clouds dictate that, but there are few circumstances that should force a lower jump altitude. So be sure to have clarity of what altitude you're jumping from.
Skydive Carolina is committed to delivering the very best experience to its guests and routinely drops from 13,500 feet to allow maximum free fall time without oxygen allowing for the ultimate enjoyment and value for money.
Like any business in the world, customer service can vary. Some drop zones are fantastic in their service while others focus purely on the skydive itself missing out on the more complete customer experience from the cleanliness of facilities, bathrooms and even the professionalism of instructors. Do your homework - read reviews on Google, TripAdvisor and follow the skydive centers on Facebook or Instagram. You'll get a sense of whether that DZ is right for you based on the experience you're looking for.
Quality of Media
Many dropzones are now offering hand-cam video versus outside video. Not coincidentally, the majority of DZ's offering hand-cam are Cessna 182 operators. Because there is no space in the aircraft for an additional camera person, hand-cam is the best solution. To be fair, a hand-cam production isn't bad as GoPro cameras are so advanced that it gives a nice product, but it's from a very up close perspective (the instructor's wrist) so you lose the sense of altitude that a separate videographer can deliver plus the many different angles only an outside videographer can provide.
The facilities of many skydiving centers don't equate to the price point you're paying. The facility is usually the last thing you think about and is not listed on a company's website. There is some wait time between check-in and boarding the plane and that wait time should be comfortable and not in a facility that isn't clean or well-maintained. Some skydive centers operate out of pop-up tents, dirty hangars or even temporary car garages. You are buying a skydive and not the facility, but we believe that the entire experience is every bit as important as the skydive itself.
We hope this article helps those researching a skydive to look for the right things that will enhance the experience. Have questions? Contact us!