When thinking about making a skydive, it’s unlikely you’ve given much thought about the skydive exit altitude. For those new to the sport, 3,000 feet sounds mighty high much less, 13,500 feet. The purpose of this article is to educate on every aspect of skydiving altitudes and starting with the most simple question – How High Do You Skydive From and what’s the preferred exit altitude for skydiving. We’ll cover all the bases below:
In the sport of skydiving, the exit altitude is usually 10,000 feet or between 13,000 and 14,000 feet. These exit altitudes are usually determined by the aircraft used at the dropzone. Most dropzones that fly a 4-passenger Cessna 182, exit at 10,000 feet. Larger skydiving operations using turbine aircraft usually exit between 13,000 and 14,000 feet.
At Skydive Carolina, we routinely exit at 13,500 feet.
What’s the best altitude to be jumping from? Should you care about altitude? At what point does it no longer matter? Here’s your first rule of thumb that most skydivers would agree with: higher altitude is better because it allows for a longer free fall.
If you’re new to skydiving, the concept of free-falling for a longer period of time may seem less desirable, but once you make that first jump, you’ll understand why a few thousand extra feet make this experience that much better. Skydiving isn’t falling uncontrollably out of the sky but is an experience that’s more fun than it is scary and once you experience it, you’ll not want it to end!
Jumping from any altitude is a thrilling experience, but if given the choice to jump from 10,000’ or 13,500’, we recommend going with the 13,500’ jump especially if you’re making a tandem skydive. The added 3,500’ will add about 25 seconds to the free-fall experience allowing for about a full minute of free fall. A 10,000’ jump is usually between 30 and 35 seconds in free fall time.
The deployment altitude (when a skydiver pulls their parachute) for a tandem skydive is usually between 6,000’ and 5,500’. It’s why jumping from 13,500’ feet is preferred as the deployment altitude for a tandem skydive is higher than that of an experienced, licensed skydiver.
For new skydivers, the deployment altitude is usually 4,000 feet. For more experienced skydivers, the deployment altitude is usually 3,000 feet.
Skydiving beyond 13,500 feet is not uncommon, but it isn’t a standard practice due to efficiency (an efficient dropzone needs to be sending flights up every 20 minutes), costs (higher altitude requires more fuel) and most importantly, the need for oxygen beyond 15,000 feet. Breathing oxygen in the aircraft increases the risk quotient as the purpose for O2 is to avoid hypoxia at higher altitudes where the air is thinner. Becoming hypoxic is a serious condition that can have fatal results if jumping when oxygen is starved from reaching the brain.
Simply stated, hypoxia occurs when the body is starved of oxygen. Without oxygen, your brain and organs can be damaged just minutes after symptoms start. Symptoms of hypoxia include:
If you happened to watch David Blaine’s recent high altitude balloon jump “Ascension” you will have noticed that he was always paying attention to his blood oxygen levels. The reason for this is to avoid becoming hypoxic.
Skydivers jump from lower altitudes all of the time! There are many different disciplines within the sport of skydiving and not all of them include much free fall. For example, there are many skydivers who are more passionate about flying their canopies (parachutes) than the actually freefalling. Canopy pilots often exit at 3,000 feet. In skydiving parlance jumping at an altitude of less than 9,000’ is usually known as a “low pass.”
HALO tandem skydives are not common, but some dropzones in the United States do offer them. These high altitude jumps usually take place between 16,000’ and 18,000’ feet.
Our friends at Skydive Perris in California now offer 16,500’ tandem skydives every Friday morning at 8:00am and they are being well received! If you remember when James Corden made his skydive with Tom Cruise at Skydive Perris, it was from 15,000 feet, but you’ll notice they were breathing oxygen because of prolonged exposure at that altitude with all the filming that was done for the Late Late Show.
It’s likely if you’re searching for ‘How High Do You Skydive From?’ it’s because you’re thinking about making a tandem skydive or learning to skydive and if that’s you, we’d love to host you for your jump and certainly answer any questions you may have. We realize that making your first jump can be intimidating and it’s our goal to ensure you feel comfortable and prepared!
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