As you might imagine, skydiving is incredible. But relative to other sports, it doesn’t last very long!
One of the most common questions by first timers is how long is their skydive going to last?
The answer is that it mainly depends on your altitude. As well as some other factors.
In short, a skydive from 10,000 feet typically lasts around 35 seconds. A skydive from 14,000 feet lasts up to 55 seconds. Generally, a skydive lasts for 10 seconds for the first 1,000 feet, then 5 seconds for each 1,000 feet afterwards – until we pull the chute at 4,000 feet.
To help illustrate this, I’ve put a quick table below:
|Skydive Height (ft)
|Fall Distance (ft)
|Skydive Time (Seconds)
Skydive times assuming you pull your parachute at 4,000ft.
Fall time = (FallDistance)/1000*5+5
That said, there’s a bit more to it than that.
Below I’ve covered all the different factors that affect your skydive time. Interested? Then let’s dive in.
How Long Does A Skydive Take: From Waking to Landing
Before I get started on the actual skydiving speeds and jump times, I know some people are curious about how long their experience will last on the day.
The most common “skydiving experience” is a tandem jump. These are relatively quick, and don’t need much training. You’ll typically get a slot ‘booked in’ on the day. After you turn up, there’ll be a little admin time (filling in forms), a quick training brief, and then some sitting around – waiting on the plane.
The skydive itself takes around a half hour by the time you get to altitude, gloriously fly through the sky, glide under parachute, land, and walk back to the drop zone.
All in all, I’d give yourself at least a good 3 hours from turning up to the airfield.
However – do bear in mind the weather! Delays due to clouds, wind, or rain can mean you might be there much longer, or even need to come back. (Skydiving is a very weather-dependent sport).
The different between a first time tandem and a first time solo is in training.
Before you’re allowed to hurl yourself out of a plane, you need significant ground training. Not only to cover skydiving and piloting a canopy, but also basic air rules and flight paths for landing.
Expect around a full day’s worth of training for start to finish if you’re going solo skydiving. It may be a case of training one day, then becoming a fully-fledged skydiver on the next.
Understanding Fall Speed
If we really want to understand how long our skydive lasts, we need to understand what affects the speed we fall at. Obviously your skydive time is most influenced by the altitude you jump at, but some jumpers do fall quicker than others!
First, I just want to explain the table in the intro.
For a basic skydive, we estimate that you get 10 seconds of freefall for the first 1,000 feet (as you speed up), then 5 seconds of freefall for every thousand feet below that (once falling at terminal velocity; 120mph).
So to estimate your skydive time:
- Take your fall distance (jump altitude – parachute altitude)
- Divide it by 1,000
- Multiply by 5 seconds (for every 1,000ft)
- Add the initial 5 seconds (speeding up in first 1,000ft)
The Falling Equation
Okay, let’s touch on the real fall speed. Now, I’m not planning on whipping out a scientific calculator and estimating your fall speed to the 100th of a second, but looking at this equation does help explain what’s happening when you fall.
The equation for your terminal velocity (or maximum fall speed) is:
- m is the mass of the falling object (aka you!)
- g is the acceleration due to gravity (9.8 m/s2 or 32.2ft/s2)
- Cd is the drag coefficient (~0.7 for head down position, ~1 for belly-to-earth position)
- ρ is the density of the fluid through which the object is falling (air is thinner higher up, so less dense)
- A is the projected area of the object, or area cross-section (your body shape in contact with the air)
Again, don’t worry. I’m not about to break out a calculator!
What’s important here are the different factors that go into this equation. There’s three main things to bear in mind:
- Your mass. Simply put, heavier objects have a greater terminal velocity. This means that a big and tall person will fall faster (and for less time) than a short and light person. This especially comes into play in a tandem jump – where we double the mass by combining two people. (Though tandem jumps are slowed by a small pilot chute).
- The ‘drag coefficient’ and object area. The reason that skydivers all fall in an ‘arch’ is partly because it puts most of our body in contact with the air. As opposite to that, there’s a thing called head-down skydiving, or speed skydiving ##. This is where we fly head first downwards, with our limbs tucked in – like a bullet shooting down. This greatly reduces our area and drag coefficient, skyrocketing us up in speed.
- The air density. This isn’t a big deal at normal skydive altitudes, but we do fall quicker – thanks to less air resistance – at higher altitudes. For example, this is the reason that Felix Baumgartner broke the speed of sound ## in his record-breaking space skydive.
Average Skydive Times Per Altitude
With the factors covered, I just want to touch on the average times (and experiences) at skydiving from different altitudes.
This is the most common skydive altitude. It’s a great balance of plenty of air time, without needing a larger plane or extra fuel to push higher.
A 10,000ft skydive will net you around 35 seconds of pure fall time.
This might not sound like much, but trust me – it is! Each of those seconds contains so much experience and intensity. It’s enough time to jump, embrace the feelings, reach max speed, play around a bit, and soak it all in.
4k up from the standard height, skydives at 14,000 feet are the ‘ultimate’ height for a tandem jump.
A 14,000ft skydive will last around 55 seconds.
For those of you reading from the top, that’s the 5 seconds per 1,000 ft really adding up.
Almost an entire minute of hurtling through the sky is more than enough get everything you can out of the experience. 20 seconds is like 20 minutes up there! You’ll truly appreciate the difference in altitudes between jumping at 14 and pulling chute at 4.
However, not every airfield will give you a minute-long jump opportunity. They need the right planes and will need to charge extra for the fuel. If you can do it, though, it’s definitely worth it.
3,000 – 10,000 Feet
Yes, people do jump from 3,000ft!
These altitudes are essentially reserved for solo skydivers practicing their maneuvers or just having fun. We typically only jump from below 10,000 feet due to weather issues (read: clouds).
Super low skydives are often called “hop ‘n’ pops” since you hop out and pop the parachute almost immediately.
These skydives can last anywhere from 3 seconds (leave the plane and pull) to 30.
In static line courses, lower altitudes are used to let the students complete different jump drills. For example, static line jumps, timed pulls (i.e. after 10 seconds), and practicing turning.
Skydives don’t seem to last long, but they’re so intense it’s like you’re up there for 10 minutes.
I hope this quick guide has helped clear up how long you’ll be sailing through the air for.
I would say that the time you’re skydiving for doesn’t matter much. What you’ll remember is the feeling and experience of it. Of flying in a small plane, leaping out of it, hurtling downwards, and the delight of seeing that parachute open above you.
A skydive is a skydive – and they’re all fantastic!
Thanks for taking the time to read this through. Be sure to check out our other related articles below.