Throwing yourself out of a plane is an amazing experience.
An experience which differs greatly depending on what height you jump from!
The altitude you leave the plane defines how long you get to freefall. So what altitude will you jump from, and how long will that give you soaring in the air?
In this guide, I’ve covered all the popular skydiving heights.
In short, you typically skydive from 10,000ft – with about 30 seconds of freefall. This can increase to 14,000ft, or even 18,000ft, depending on the airplane and drop zone. That said, skydives can happen from anywhere between 2,200 – 45,000 ft!
Read on to find out what altitude you’ll likely be jumping from, and how skydiving from that height will look.
Note: freefall time depends on whether it’s a solo/tandem jump, and what altitude you pull your chute at. Tandems need to deploy higher – at 5,000ft.
Super Low Altitudes: 3,000 – 5,000ft.
Freefall time: 0-15 seconds. Solo jumpers only.
The lowest altitude we’re safely allowed to jump at is around 3,000ft. In some rare cases, experienced jumpers may even go from 2,200ft for a quick “hop ‘n’ pop”. These extreme cases are done on super cloudy days (common here in Scotland) where there’s not enough visibility higher up, and skydivers get bored waiting around!
A very common altitude is 4,500ft. This is the number for static line jumps – where the parachute is automatically pulled after you leave the plane. If you’re learning to skydive solo, this is your home base altitude until you unlock real freefall.
Hot Air Balloons
This category also includes hot air balloons! They can fly between 3,500 – 5,000ft when allowing skydivers to jump from them. This kind of skydiving feels totally different to jumping from a plane, because you get the butterfly feeling when jumping from a hot air balloon.
Base Tandem Height: 10,000ft.
Freefall time: 30-40 seconds.
10,000ft is the first ‘big’ altitude when it comes to skydiving. It’s the base for any tandem jump (below this wouldn’t have enough freefall time to justify it).
It’s also where many smaller airfields max out at. Running small Cessna planes like the one below limit you to around 10,000ft of jumping height.
Ideal Height: 14,000ft.
Freefall time: 60-70 seconds.
Moving up in the world of planes and altitude gives us the great all-around altitude of 14,000ft. This gives you over a minute in freefall, and is generally the best option available for a tandem skydive.
Reaching these kinds of heights needs a combination of good planes and workable weather. Too much cloud cover means we’d be flying blind for too long!
Maximum Height: 18,000ft.
Freefall time: 80-90 seconds.
Now this is high!
It’s super rare for an airfield to offer altitudes this big. In the US, for example, there’s only a small handful on airfields which can take you to 18,000ft.
However, it does give you an extra ~20seconds of freefall time on top of the already massive 14,000ft jump. One jump from this height is the same skydiving time as three jumps from 10,000ft. Crazy!
At this height, you need a plane equipped with an oxygen supply just to avoid passing out. Though I don’t believe the oxygen is necessary in freefall, unlike the next category.
HALO Jumps: 45,000ft.
Freefall time: ~210 seconds (3.5+ minutes!)
A HALO jump is a special type of skydive pioneered by the military.
It stands for High Altitude, Low Opening.
It was developed (and is still used) for undetected insertions of people or equipment behind enemy lines. The idea is to fly above radar detection, then drop a cargo which is moving so quickly downward, and so little forward, that it also isn’t detected. Typically, they also jump with very low amounts of metal to minimize the chance of getting picked up, too.
The low opening part refers to deploying the parachute at around 3,000ft. This is lower than most civilian jumpers, AND is done after falling for 3 or more minutes. Often at night. Ballsy.
Note – High Altitude, High Opening is also a thing. It’s used to glide over impassable terrain or equally avoid detection in other ways. Particularly from the loud noise of a canopy deploying.
Civilian HALO jumps are possible – but extremely rare.
Unless you’ve got friends in very high places (pun intended), there’s very few opportunities to take part in a HALO jump.
The only accessible one I know of is with the crew at halojumper.com.
Jumps start for a cool $6,000 for a solo jump, or over $20,000 for them to take you as a tandem jumper. You can imagine how much it costs them to cover the huge plane, the oxygen gear, the training, and authorizations.
That about covers all the possible heights you can jump from.
Not forgetting the ‘0ft’ altitude of indoor skydiving jumps, of course!
I hope this quick guide helped clear up what altitude you’ll be jumping from, and what you can expect.
The most important part about skydiving is simply to enjoy it. Don’t worry about exactly how many seconds of freefall you’ll be getting – it’s truly the experience of it that matters!
If this content has helped you, be sure to check out our related content below.
Thanks for reading, and happy jumping.