What is a Tandem Skydive?

Tandem jumps are meant to offer an introduction to the sport of skydiving. A tandem jump requires 15 to 45 minutes of ground preparation, not to be confused with a full “first jump course” – those are typically meant for those who either wish to be instructors or solo jumpers.

Tandem skydiving ties the passenger (you!) together with an experienced skydiving instructor. The passenger and instructor each wear a harness, while only the instructor wears the parachutes. The passenger’s harness attaches to the front of the instructor’s harness, and the two of them freefall together for 30 to 50 seconds (depending on aircraft’s altitude), open the parachute together, and land together under one large parachute after approximately eight total minutes.

What if My Parachute Doesn’t Open?

Parachute-related questions are among the most pressing we get from all prospective jumpers.

By law (FAA regulations), all intentional parachute jumps must be made with a single harness/dual parachute system, with both a main canopy and a reserve canopy. In other words, you always fall with a spare canopy in case the first one fails to open properly.

It is also important to note that the technology utilized in today’s sport parachuting equipment is light-years ahead of the old military surplus gear used in the 1960s and ’70s. The canopies are drastically different from the classic “airborne” round parachutes. The materials are stronger, lighter, and they last longer. Modern packing procedures are also simpler, and the deployment sequence is much more refined. All of these factors make for much smoother and more reliable openings.

Reserve canopies are even more carefully designed and packed. The reserve parachute must be inspected and repacked every 180 days by an FAA-rated parachute rigger – even if it has not been used.

There are also additional safety features employed to ensure canopy deployment, such as automatic activation devices (AAD) and reserve static lines (RSL), which exponentially increase the level of safety. Should you and your instructor not deploy the parachute for any reason, the AAD will “fire” it for you.

How Fast Will I Fall?

When you leave the aircraft, you are moving horizontally at the same speed as the aircraft, typically 90 miles-per-hour (mph). During the first 10 seconds or so, a skydiver accelerates up to roughly 115-130 mph straight down. A tandem jump pair uses a drogue chute to keep them from falling much faster than this.

Once under canopy, descent rates of 1000 feet per minute are typical. However, the parachute is designed with steering controls and “brakes” to slow you down for a soft landing when the time arrives.

How Hard is the Landing?

The canopies used today bear little resemblance to the classic round canopies of years’ past. Today, nearly all jumpers and jump schools use “square” canopies for parachuting. These canopies are actually rectangular in shape, and when they open, they act like an airplane wing – more like a glider than an umbrella.

The aerodynamics of the square canopy provides exceptional maneuverability, allowing jumpers to land almost anywhere they wish. This wing shape also provides tip-toe soft landings for even the novice jumper, so the days of landing like a sandbag are history. In fact, you will likely land standing up, even on your first jump.

What are the Physical Requirements to Tandem Skydive?

Generally, prospective students should be in reasonably good shape. You will be required to wear roughly 25 pounds of equipment, endure “opening shock,” maneuver the canopy, land, and possibly walk a short distance after landing.

Problems may arise where a prospect is too heavy (over 230 pounds/ 110 kilograms – see below), or if they have medical conditions which may impair them during the activity. Someone who experiences fainting spells, blackouts, or heart conditions should not jump. Respiratory illnesses or sinus congestion may cause a problem due to atmospheric changes at altitude (can you “clear your ears” before and after the jump?)

The better your physical condition, the more you will enjoy the experience. This being said, very few people have medical or physical conditions which actually preclude jumping.

The Skydive Atlas staff will work with you to ensure you are ready to jump. If you have a question, ask them, and always consider consulting your physician. You may be surprised at the relatively few physical constraints involved!

So, What Exactly Are Skydive Atlas’ Weight Restrictions?

When it comes to a jumper’s weight, Skydive Atlas only has two primary concerns:

First, does the drop zone have a parachute system that you can both legally use and safely land with?

Second, if you are going to be at the top-end of the safe weight range for a particular parachute, are you in relatively good shape? An imperfect landing will be much less likely to injure an athletic person. If this is unclear, consider the difference between a 5’10” linebacker who weighs 240 pounds and a “couch potato” who stands just as tall and weighs the same. If the linebacker has a bad landing, he’s much more likely to recover in mere seconds. The “couch potato,” however, could severely injure themselves, as he or she might lack both the strength to withstand a harsher landing and the coordination to perform a safe parachute landing fall (PLF).

Generally speaking, our tandem skydiving guidelines at Skydive Atlas are as follows:

  • You must weigh less than 200 pounds with no restrictions
  • 200-230 pound participants may be dictated by your physical fitness and/or wind conditions
  • Prospective customers who weigh over 230 pounds may be able to jump, but it would depend on the size of the parachutes our airport has on hand, the weight of our available tandem instructors, wind conditions, and your physical shape.

For more information on how Skydive Atlas, located in Holdrege, Nebraska, can give you the thrill of a lifetime, please call us at 402-831-1231.