Is Skydiving Safe? Stats, Equipment & Your First Time

Monday, June 22, 2020

With the advancement of technology and training in skydiving, the sport has never been safer than it is today. Wisconsin Skydiving Center’s owner Bo Babovic is a living testament of this having made over 18,000 skydives! In this article, we’re going to address the number one question on everyone’s mind – how safe is skydiving? 


How Safe is Skydiving? 


According to the United States Parachute Association’s safety records, statistics from 2019 show there were 15 fatal skydiving accidents out of an estimated 3.3 million jumps. That is only .0045 fatalities for every 1,000 skydives made! Tandem skydiving has a more impressive record with 1 fatality for every 500,000 tandem jumps (or .0002 fatalities for every 1,000 tandem jumps). One is more likely to die from being bitten by a dog or a lightning strike


As for non-fatal injuries, USPA members reported only 2,522 injuries out of the 3.3 million jumps in 2019.


The USPA attributes these excellent (and ever-improving) statistics to strict safety standards, improvements to skydiving equipment over the years, and rigorous training programs like USPA Safety Day that takes place annually.



What these numbers don’t explain is how people are dying in the sport. Ironically, the majority of skydiving fatalities today are the result of highly-experienced skydivers as opposed to newer, less experienced jumpers. The cause of this is mostly due to aggressive parachute or “canopy” flying. It’s typical for many advanced skydivers to fly smaller, more aggressive parachutes which ups the risk quotient significantly. Today, it’s rare for incidents to occur due to gear malfunctioning, but rather due to operator error. 


Per the USPA, here are safety statistics for fatalities per total jumps between 2000 and 2019:


Year US Skydiving Fatalities Approximate Annual Jumps Fatalities per 1,000 jumps
2020 11 2.8 million .0039
2019 15 3.3 million .0045
2018 13 3.3 million .0039
2017 24 3.2 million .0075
2016 21 3.2 million .0065
2015 21 3.5 million .0061
2014 24 3.2 million .0075
2013 24 3.2 million .0075
2012 19 3.1 million .0061
2011 25 3.1 million .0081
2010 21 3.0 million .0070
2009 16 3.0 million .0053
2008 30 2.6 million .0115
2007 18 2.5 million .0072
2006 21 2.5 million .0084
2005 27 2.6 million .0104
2004 21 2.6 million .0081
2003 25 2.6 million .0096
2002 33 2.6 million .0127
2001 35 2.6 million .0135
2000 32 2.7 million .0119


Graph of skydiving fatalities per 100,000 jumps by year


Safety Equipment Used In Skydiving 


Through the years, the development of technology in the sport has made skydiving significantly safer from the days when skydivers would daringly jump what was then known as “gutter gear” – old military surplus parachute equipment! Today’s tech is on the cutting edge!


Skydiving equipment and gear at Wisconsin Skydiving Center near Milwaukee


Here are a few safety features of the best modern skydiving equipment: 


Reserve Parachutes – this isn’t so high tech, but it’s important that you know that skydivers always jump with a backup parachute known as a reserve parachute. Deploying the reserve parachute can be done easily (not too easily whereby the reserve deploys on accident), so know there’s a secondary parachute should it be needed. 


Automatic Activation Device – The automatic activation device or ‘AAD’ has saved thousands of lives in the sport. This small computer system is installed in a skydivers container system (the backpack) and is designed to deploy the reserve parachute automatically if the main parachute hasn’t been deployed by a predetermined altitude. For skydivers who have either lost altitude awareness, lost consciousness in free fall, or have had a medical event during free fall, the AAD has come to the rescue reliably. It’s the piece of equipment every skydiver hopes they never have to use, but it’s a great insurance policy to have during a skydive. 



Audible Altimeters – New, audible altimeters help skydivers stay aware of their altitude during a skydive. These altimeters are designed to compliment wrist or chest-mounted altimeters to ensure skydivers never lose track of where they are in the sky. Predetermined beeping signals let the skydiver know when they reach specific altitudes throughout the skydive. 


Reserve Static Line – The reserve static line or “RSL” is designed to automatically deploy the reserve parachute as soon as the main parachute is cutaway. During a cutaway sequence, a skydiver must cut away the main parachute by pulling on a cutaway handle and then pulling the reserve handle. The RSL deploys the reserve the moment the main is released. 


Ram Air Parachutes – When many people think of parachutes, they often imagine them to be round. Modern technology with airfoil design has seen the round parachute become a thing of the past within recreational / sport skydiving. Generally, round parachutes are only used for military applications. Ram air parachutes are rectangular in shape, highly maneuverable, steerable, and stable. These parachutes are more like fixed wings and as a result, allow for greater controllability and accuracy during landings. 


Skydiving Apps – Smartphone apps have even proven to be helpful with skydiving safety. Occasionally, a skydiver may land off the dropzone and if jumping with their phone, can use an app called Burble. Burble shows skydiving staff the location of where the skydiver has landed. This may serve as a life-saving app should the skydiver that landed off of the dropzone be unconscious for any reason. 


Is Skydiving Worth the Risk? 

First-time skydiver giving a thumbs up during her tandem skydive at Wisconsin Skydiving Center near Milwaukee


If you’re doing some research on the safety statistics of skydiving, it’s likely that you’re contemplating making your first jump – we applaud you for doing your homework! Now that you’ve looked at the data, you’ll need to consider whether the risk of making a skydive is worth taking. For many, the stats show skydiving to be an acceptable risk, but it would be worth also considering the reward. 


Skydiving is so much more than an adrenaline experience; for many, it’s like therapy. Much of the media highlights skydiving as an adrenaline-soaking experience (and it is), but there is far more happening below the surface. When skydiving, the brain produces endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine – all-natural chemicals that many doctors prescribe to help reduce stress and anxiety. The problem with these prescriptions is they can be addictive (like opioids), but when they are produced naturally, it’s not addictive at all. 


Skydiving literally produces a natural high or euphoric feeling that feels so good! Ask anyone who has jumped and they’ll share that it’s one of the best experiences in life because of how it makes you feel. 



Making Your First Skydive


If you’ve decided that you’d like to make a skydive – great! We think the experience will exceed your expectations! Your starting point will be making a tandem skydive. A tandem skydive will allow you to jump with a professional skydiving instructor who has at least 500 jumps (the minimum requirement to become a tandem instructor). A tandem skydive is the most popular form of skydiving as it requires minimal training – usually between 45 minutes to an hour. 


There are a few requirements as it relates to who can make a skydive: 


Click here for a more detailed look at how to prepare for your first skydive! 



Are You Ready to Skydive? 


We hope this article has helped answer all of your questions relating to the safety of skydiving! Should you have any questions, we’d love to answer them for you! Please feel free to call us directly or contact us via email. We offer the best skydiving experience in the Midwest, we’re passionate about what we do, and we’ll enthusiastically answer any of your questions! 


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A lady smiles while in free fall during a tandem skydive at Wisconsin Skydiving Center near Milwaukee, WI

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