If riding in an airplane is flying, then riding in a boat is swimming. If you want to experience the element, then get out of the vehicle. — Anon.
Feel your adrenaline pump through your veins as you plummet rapidly towards the earth! Relief as your parachute ejects, admire the calming scenic beauty of the South African landscape below as you float back to the ground. South Africa offers many locations to skydive, make sure to take to the skies on your next adventure.
#PickYourPlayground in the sky today:
- Skydive Parys | Skydiving | Johannesburg
- Rustenburg Skydiving Club | Skydiving | Rustenburg
- Pretoria Skydiving Club | Skydiving | Pretoria
- South African Skydiving School | Skydiving | Pretoria
- Adventure Skydives | Skydiving | Johannesburg
- Sky Adventures | Aviation Adventures | South Africa
Parachuting, or skydiving, is an activity involving the breaking of a free-fall from a height using a parachute. The history of skydiving began with a descent from a balloon by André-Jacques Garnerin in 1797. Skydiving has been used by the military since the early 1900s, including use in World War I and World War II. Early competitions date back to the 1930s, and it became an international sport in 1951.
Today it is performed as a recreational activity and a competitive sport, as well as for the deployment of military personnel and occasionally forest firefighters.
The sequence of a main parachute deployment relies on a series of interrelated parts getting into the airstream in order. There are different systems available that vary slightly, including gear designed for student training.
- Activation – Most experienced skydivers use a throw-out pilot chute system for deploying their main parachute. A small, round parachute, called a pilot chute, is packed in an external pouch. To initiate deployment, the skydiver extracts the pilot chute from the pouch and throws it into the surrounding air stream.
- Deployment – The pilot chute is attached to the rest of the parachute by a length of fabric webbing or tape, called a bridle. Midway along the bridle is a pin holding the main parachute container closed. When the pilot chute inflates in the air stream, it pulls the pin, thus opening the main parachute container. The pilot chute and bridle then extract an internal deployment bag containing the main parachute.
- The fabric portion of the parachute, or canopy, is folded or stuffed into the bag with the lines stowed outside in elastic bands. As the pilot chute and bridle pull the deployment bag out and away from the back pack, the lines release one stow at a time until fully stretched. With the release of the lines from the outside of the bag, the bag is now open, allowing the main parachute to inflate.
- Inflation – Ram-air canopies are made of a series of inflatable tubes or “cells,” connected side-by-side along their length. Each cell is designed to form the cross section of an airfoil, so when the parachute inflates, it forms a wing-shaped canopy, ready for flight. The front of each cell is open to the air, and the back is sewn closed. Once inflated, the ram-air canopy is a semi-rigid, rectangular plane, similar to an airplane wing. It is attached to the jumper in a nose-down attitude to keep it inflated and flying forward. The jumper steers and lands the canopy using two control lines attached along the rear of the wing near each end. When both toggles are depressed, the wing slows, causing the jumper to swing forward, momentarily pitching the flight angle of the wing upward, in the same way an airplane flares for landing.
Equipment Used To Skydive:
A skydiver’s equipment is made up of three main parachute system components and generally a reserve automatic activation device. One main and one reserve parachute are packed into a specialized backpack with a chest strap and leg straps cinched to keep the jumper securely fastened.
Skydiving equipment has advanced considerably over the last several years. Round parachutes are seldom seen these days and have been replaced by modern, rectangular “ram-air” canopies that have better directional control and offer softer landings. Reserve parachutes are typically worn on the back above the main parachute, as opposed to the older front-mount assembly, and parachute fabrics today are more durable. Parachute canopies are usually made of zero-porosity nylon fabric that lasts for for thousands of jumps.
No parachute is 100% reliable. However, most malfunctions result from human error, not mechanical failure. Main parachute malfunctions can usually be traced to improper packing, poor technique at the time of deployment, or inadequate pre-jump inspection. These errors make it necessary to carry a reserve as well as a main parachute. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires that the reserve parachute be inspected and repacked every 120 days (whether it’s used or not) by an FAA-certified parachute rigger. In the event of a malfunction, the jumper jettisons the main parachute by pulling the cutaway handle. A second handle activates the reserve parachute.
Other Equipment Used By Skydivers:
Automatic Activation Device (AAD) – An AAD is a self-contained device that calculates rate of descent and altitude and deploys either the main or reserve canopy at a preset altitude. AADs are back-up devices required for student skydivers and worn by most experienced jumpers.
Reserve Static Line (RSL) – RSLs are attached to the main parachute’s risers to activate the reserve parachute if the main parachute is jettisoned during an emergency.
Jumpsuit – Though jumpsuits are not required, they have different functions depending on the skydiving discipline. Specialized fabrics and different tailoring help control descent speeds and give the skydiver more freefall control. Tight jumpsuits made of slippery materials allow for a faster fall rate for smaller people, while large, canvas-like jumpsuits provide a slower fall rate for bigger people.
Altimeters – Visual altimeters show altitude and are typically worn either on the wrist or front of the torso. Audible altimeters with pre-set alarms are worn near the ears to aid in altitude awareness.
Helmets – Helmets are required for student jumpers and worn by most experienced jumpers. For experienced jumpers, they range from leather aviator-style hats to full-coverage motorcycle-like hard helmets, made especially for skydiving.
Goggles – Jumpers wear goggles or sunglasses to protect their eyes from freefall speeds ranging around 150 mph.
Skydiving schools provide their students with all the necessary equipment during training to maximise the experience of this adventure sport. Upon graduating from the school, skydivers may continue to rent equipment, but most purchase their own.
A skydiver can outfit himself with airworthy equipment for between R14,000 and R42,000
Besides the training and assisted skydives the modern parachutist has excellent safety equipment. To begin with all skydivers carry a reserve parachute. This reserve parachute is examined and packed by a certified parachute rigger (FAA) . This is as close to a guarantee as you can get that the reserve parachute will open. Not only carrying a reserve parachute a skydiver carries an – automatic activation device -. This device opens the reserve parachute without the assistance of the parachutist in any way. This safety device has saved many lives in skydiving. There are cases where skydivers have collided, become unconscious and the automatic activation device saved their life.
Other safety items skydivers carry is both visual and audible altimeters. This may seem like a silly thing but it is not. When a person is skydiving it is difficult to tell how close to the ground you are. It is absolutely necessary to open a parachute at a specific altitude while skydiving to make sure it fully deploys before you reach the ground.
With all these safety items in place and with the great safety record skydiving has its no wonder many people go skydiving. The reasons they go skydiving vary from person to person. Some do it as a test of courage. Others for the simple thrill or as a means for stress relief. If you ever take the big jump into skydiving what will be your reason? Have you ever been to an airport and seen people skydiving? If you have, you might have asked yourself why they do it. You may have even thought about skydiving yourself once or twice, if you are into adventure sports and extreme adventures. The reasons people skydive varies from person to person. Some people do it for the thrill, others as a test of courage. Still yet, some people do it as part of a birthday celebration like President George Bush Sr. He went parachuting on his birthdays with army airborne soldiers.
If you are thinking about going skydiving you should know some things about the sport. The first being what the risk is. Speaking statistically parachuting is a very safe sport. It’s not the same as watching a football game on your couch but it’s not supposed to be. Every year there are around 3 million skydives performed, of these 3 million jumps an average of 35 deaths result. Over 90% of these fatalities resulted from human error. This is not to say skydiving is not dangerous because it is. However, if you do everything as you are instructed, your odds of being injured or killed are extremely low.
Interesting Facts About Skydiving:
World Record number of tandem jumps made in one day (24 hours): 403 at Skydive Hibaldstow on 10 July 2015
Worlds largest freefall formation: 400 linked persons. This record was set February 8, 2006 in Udon Thani, Thailand.
Highest parachute jump: 1st – 41,422 m (135,890 ft), Alan Eustace on 24 October 2014
Felix Baumgartner from Austria became famous on 14 October 2012 when he decended from the “edge of space”. In his 3 hour decent he set 3 records for; highest jump altitude, the highest freefall and the highest speed in freefall. He also become the first skydiver to break the speed of sound.
A Short History Of Skydiving:
People have been using parachutes for hundreds of years, even back to China in the 1100s. Around 1495, Leonardo DaVinci designed a pyramid-shaped, wooden framed parachute that Adrian Nichols jumped in the late 20th century. It descended slowly enough to land, but Nichols worried the heavy contraption might crush him to death. So at a safe altitude, he released from it and landed under his reserve.
The modern history of the sport began in the late 18th century with Jacques Garnerin from France who performed display jumps from balloons flying over Europe. Later in the 19th century, women, who still number only between 15 and 20 percent among skydivers, began to appear on the scene. Kathe Paulus from Germany jumped professionally in Germany around the turn of the 20th century. Tiny Broadwick, another professional parachutist in the U.S., became the first woman to jump from an airplane in 1913 and the first to make a freefall in 1914.
During World War I, parachutes were introduced as rescue devices for observation balloon pilots, but airplane pilots were instructed to land with their aircraft. The first emergency bailout from an airplane didn’t occur until 1922. In 1925, early experiments with stable, extended freefall began. In the years between the World Wars of the 20th century, barnstormers, typically adventurous orphans and runaways, performed parachute jumps at airshows. In WWII, the first troop insertions with parachutes are credited with turning the tide of the war against the Axis powers.
After World War II, an abundance of surplus parachutes and former soldiers with the courage to jump them for sport resulted in the growth of parachuting as a hobby. Competitions began to develop and gain acceptance among the international air sports. People first heard the term “skydiver,” coined by Raymond Young in the mid-1950s, as the first commercial skydiving centers opened. By 1957, the first commercial skydiving schools began to appear, and the National Parachute Riggers-Jumpers, Inc., started in the 1930s, became the Parachute Club of America. PCA renamed itself the United States Parachute Association in 1967.
Once you’ve thrown your pilot chute, you’re done. It’s out of your hands. From that moment on you just enjoy the view or panic. — Tim Rigby, BASE jumper, quoted in ‘Men’s Journal,’ September 2005