First Commercial Skydiving Center in the United States
Published: February 21, 2017
Everyone knows that--like everything in this life that's worthwhile--there's risk involved. But what exactly are those risks in skydiving? Most folks who ask us this question are looking for a more technical, data based response than the standard "aw, no, bro; don't worry; you'll be fine."
We applaud your resolve. Asking these questions is an important first step, because this sport is all about evaluating risk in a calculated, well-thought-out way. In that spirit: Here are the actual facts that matter when you're asking yourself about the inherent danger of making a skydive. They might surprise you!
We, in the sport, are very proud of our safety record. Since the sport started to take off as a hobby in the 1970's, we've tirelessly optimized our technology and procedures and made enormous strides.
Back in the days of Donna Summer and macramé, about 42.5 skydiving fatalities occurred per year in the sport. That was before tandem skydiving was even invented, which happened in 1984. (Fun fact: from 1984 to 2001, tandem skydiving was only possible in America if you were willing to take on the kinda-scary documented identity of "volunteer experimental test jumper.") In the 70's, honestly, everybody in the sport was kinda-sorta an experimental test jumper. The gear was being developed with each sport jump that each hobbyist made, making the skydiving scene something of an unofficial worldwide laboratory.
Skydivers are remarkably good at saving their own lives, however, even under the most challenging of circumstances. For the number of jumps that were made, that fatality rate wasn't even that bad--and those were the bad old days.
Fast-forward a bit, and we see something pretty cool: all that hardcore R&D worked! Since about the time Nixon left office, the average fatality rate has steadily dropped over the passage of each new decade. In the 1980s, the average was 34.1; in the 1990s, the average was 32.3, and in the first decade of the new millennium (2000-2009), the average dropped again to 25.8.
In 2015, the United States Parachute Association recorded just 21 fatal skydiving accidents in the U.S. out of roughly 3.5 million jumps. That calculates out to a 0.006% chance of dying from a skydive which is the lowest rate in the history of the sport. And that figure is for sport jumping where folks push their personal limits. Tandem skydiving has an even better track record for safety, as you might imagine. There have been only 0.002 student fatalities per 1,000 tandem jumps over the past ten years.
So, how safe is tandem skydiving, really? Well, The National Safety Council notes that you're much more statistically likely to be killed by lightning or by being stung by a bee than you are to be killed on a tandem skydive. Driving to and from the dropzone is a way scarier prospect, mathematically speaking, than jumping out of the plane.
Of course, it's not just flat-out dying that you're worried about. Right? You're worried about skydiving injuries, too, and you're right to think about that. The key to intelligently avoiding injuries on a tandem skydive is simple: go to a responsible dropzone, as most injuries in tandem situations occur when jumps are made in inappropriate weather or when the tandem student doesn't receive meaningful instruction. At Jumptown, we care deeply about your experience, and we take the time to review your gear--and the conditions--before you go up. Our sterling record backs up our choices.
We're happy to take the time to talk to you about the risks and the rewards of making a tandem skydive. Don't hesitate to reach out!