WHAT IS A TANDEM SKYDIVE?
Tandem jumps are meant to offer an introduction to the sport of skydiving. A tandem jump requires from 15 to 45 minutes of ground preparation (it is not a full "First Jump Course"). It consists of an experienced skydiving instructor, or "tandemmaster", and the passenger: you! The passenger and instructor each wear a harness, however 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 altitude), open together, and land together under one large parachute.
WHAT IF YOUR PARACHUTE DOESN'T OPEN?
Clearly, this is the most Frequently-Asked-Question posed by 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 have a spare canopy in case the first one fails to open properly.
Additionally, it must be noted that the technology utilized in today's sport parachuting equipment is light years ahead of the old military surplus gear used in the '60s and '70s. The canopies are drastically different from the classic "Airborne" round parachutes. The materials are stronger, lighter and last longer. Modern packing procedures are simpler, and the deployment sequence is much more refined, providing smoother and more reliable openings.
The 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 neither you nor your instructor deploy the parachute for any reason, the AAD will "fire" it for you.
HOW FAST DO YOU FALL?
When you leave the aircraft, you are moving horizontally at the same speed as the aircraft, typically 90 MPH. During the first 10 seconds, a skydiver accelerates up to about 115-130MPH 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 comes.
HOW HARD IS THE LANDING?
The canopies used today bear little resemblance to the classic round canopies of years gone by. Today, nearly all jumpers and jump schools use "square" canopies for parachuting. These canopies are actually rectangular in shape, and when open, act like an airplane wing-- more like a glider than an umbrella.
The aerodynamics of the square canopy provide exceptional maneuverability, allowing jumpers to land almost anywhere they wish. This wing shape also provides tip-toe soft landings for even the novice jumper. The days of landing like a sand bag are history. You will probably land standing up, even on your first jump.
WHAT ARE THE PHYSICAL REQUIREMENTS?
In general, the prospective student should be in reasonably good shape. You will be required to wear around 25 lbs 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 ~230lbs/ 110kg, 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 illness or sinus congestion may cause a problem due to atmospheric changes at altitude (can you "clear your ears" prior to and after the jump?)
The better your physical condition, the more you will enjoy the experience. This being said, very few people havemedical or physical conditions which actually preclude jumping.
Skydive Atlas staff will work with you. If you have a question, ask them, or even better, consult your physician. You may be surprised at the relatively few physical constraints involved!
Concerning Weight Restrictions, there are two primary concerns.
First, does the drop zone have a parachute system which you can both legally use and safely land?
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 240lbs, and a 5'10" 240lb couch potato. If the linebacker has a bad landing, he'll probably brush himself off and get up. The couch potato may very well injure himself substantially, lacking both the strength to withstand landing and coordination to do a good Parachute Landing Fall (PLF).
Generally speaking, our guidelines are as follows: