People started skydiving in China in the 1100s. Leonardo DaVinci also contributed much to the development of this amazing sport: in the 15th century he designed a wooden framed, pyramid-shaped parachute. As he was generally a foretimed pioneer with his inventions in the Middle Ages, his idea was tested only much later, in the 20th century, by Adrian Nichols.
Although World War I was the first big event, when pilots needed to consider jumps as a method of escape and not just a sport anymore. The first jump from an airplane was performed in 1922 and experiments with freefall started in 1925. Between the two world wars jumps got to be part of airshows. After World War II, it became a hobby.
Raymond Young called coined the term skydiving in the mid-1950s. This was the time when the first skydiving centers and schools were established. If you are curious about more details of skydiving history, or simply want to meet fans of this sport, you could attend the “2015 Skydiving Museum & Hall of Fame Celebration Event” from 1st till 4th October 2015. You can register on the url http://skydivingmuseum.org/celebration-form/ for different kinds of entries and programs.
If you are interested in learning skydiving, there are many possibilities to do it all around the world. You need to be above 18 years old, have a little pocket money, and understand and memorize the given instructions. In the U.S.A. there are around half a million people jumping for the first time yearly.
First of all, you need to inform yourself about learning possibilities at skydiver centers, clubs or schools. They offer several types of training programs, and should be able to give you details about the qualification of their staff. You may ask if there are any special limitations as per weight or tallness, and any health concerns should be also clarified to be able to jump safe.
The second part is much more exciting, as you need to choose the type of jump you would want to try: tandem, AFF, or IAD and static-line jump. The tandem jump is the most popular and easiest for first-timers: it requires only half hour of instruction. Trainees are securely fixed to an experienced coach while jumping from 13000 feet. The price of this experiment is around $150-$250.
The other type is a higher level, AFF, stands for Accelerated Freefall. In this case the newbies use their own parachute system, and they jump with two coaches at their side, but they are not harnessed together. That is why the training is more detailed and lasts around five hours. The applicants learn body flight maneuvers and agreed hand signals to be able to communicate while jumping. The student, after the deployment of his parachute, is instructed on how to land safe with radio instructions. You need to be prepared with around $250-$350 for a jump like this.
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IAD stands for instructor-assisted deployment. Here the coach initiates the deployment of the trainee´s parachute as he exits the airplane, or a static-line is fixed to the plane. The jumper has only one or two seconds to enjoy this experiment, but has the chance to have a solo parachute freefall with radio instruction to manage the landing safely. The instructions last also around five hours before jumping, and everything together costs around $100-$200.
As you get your basic skydiving license and you buy your own equipment, the price of a jump decreases to around $25. The average price of all the necessary equipments is between $2,000 and $6,000.
Skydiving equipments include three main components and a reserve automatic activation tool. The specialized backpacks skydivers wear are fixed with chest and leg straps. One main, and one reserve parachute are packed into them. Skydiving equipment has improved significantly in the last tow decades.
Round parachutes are replaced by rectangular “ram-air” canopies. They are easier to use, control direction, and landings will be softer. Reserve parachutes are packed above the main chute. Nowadays canopies are made of zero-porosity nylon fabric, which enables thousands of jumps.
I have bad news for you. There is no parachute with 100% reliability. It still depends on you. Most errors result from human mistakes and not mechanical malfunctions. The reason for main parachute failures are generally inappropriate packing, poor quality, or incorrect or imperfect pre-jump examination. That is why the reserve parachute is needed. According to regulations, the reserve parachute needs to be checked and repacked every 180 days, even if it was not used at all. If the main parachute does not function, the jumper gets rid of it by pulling the cutaway handle. The reserve parachute is activated by a second handle.
Although all security steps are done carefully, and people are trained well, the devil never sleeps. Most of the tragedies happen to those, who already have more years of experience. It is possible, that the too big confidence and continuously pushing the boundaries increases the chance for accidents.
A very tragic skydiving accident happened on 28th September 2015, to Erik Roner, a celebrity in the action sports community. He was part of a group, which was the opening event of a charity golf tournament in California, at the base of Squaw Valley. Roner hit a tree at high speed as he was coming in for a landing – he died immediately, at age 39. Around 120 people saw this. He left behind two children and a lovely wife. Rest in peace, Erik.