The Adrenaline Junkies of Aerial Work Aviation

Have you ever thought of parachuting out of a perfectly good airplane? Or, are you looking for something that frightens, invigorates, and overwhelms your senses while at the same time providing an experience of a lifetime? If you want to know, Patrick Ryan will ‘Jump’ you to the answer and ‘Freefall’ you through the details of how one specific Aerial Work aviation sector does just that – Skydiving Services.

Patrick Ryan  |  13th July 2022
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    Patrick Ryan
    Patrick Ryan

    Patrick Ryan brings over 30 years of experience as a Senior Consultant helping government and business...

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    Skydiver jumping out of plane

    Skydiving is a risky sport or an extreme entertainment event where people voluntarily (at risk) throw themselves out of airplanes, off a bridge, or jump into a vertical windtunnel for fun. Generally speaking, this sport or sector is no different than other thrill-seeking Aerial Work operations, e.g., Aerial Entertainment, Aerial Tours, etc. 

    Today, you will find that many people are getting more adventurous and looking for competitive sports and recreational activities that go beyond the norm, i.e., they want something like Skydiving to fill the challenge void. Even though this extreme sport comes with a risk because you have to jump from an airplane only with a harness and a parachute, it’s definitely worth taking if you’re looking for your next thrill in life. 

    Yes, Skydiving has risks; however, it is not as dangerous as you may think! The skydiving community works hard to ensure every flight and jump is conducted safely. On top of that, statistically speaking, Skydiving is safer than driving to work every day if you didn’t know. 

    So, with that, what are skydiving services, and what are the things that make this particular Aerial Work sector exciting, safe, and fun? 

    Skydiving Services 

    The civilian skydiving sector consists of for-profit businesses and non-profit clubs. Both are generally structured the same. 

    In the case of Skydiving, these businesses or clubs are structured around a specific type of skydiving operation, offering specialised parachutes and gear, supporting parachute packing (rigging), organising and managing a Drop Zone (DZ), providing training, and delivering the means to elevate you before you fall, e.g., going airborne with an aircraft or literally throwing you off a cliff (BASE jumping). 

    Additionally, many skydiving businesses and clubs supplement their revenue stream by selling parachute equipment and offering specialised accessories. Plus, even operating an on-site café or restaurant to enhance the experience of being part of a unique community. Other unique and fun services provided by skydiving businesses and clubs are: 

    Demonstration Skydiving – This service comprises of skydivers parachuting into special events such as music concerts, sporting events, and special national holiday gatherings. Skydivers usually use a smoke system during free fall and land within the area of an event, e.g., within a stadium or on a beach, to make an event even more memorable. 

    Birthday Skydiving – Birthday skydiving is a service that provides an unforgettable experience for those who want to go beyond blowing out a few candles on a cake. This service consists of jumping strapped to a skydiver and free-falling from 14,000 ft. Plus, It is followed by a party at the DZ. 

    Skydiving Marriage Proposals – Like birthday skydiving, skydiving marriage proposals take advantage of an already fast-beating heart after free-falling with an experienced skydiver from 14,000. If done right, both partners jump together, but the ‘asking’ partner lands first and lays out a large banner that says “Will You Marry Me” and prepares the ring while the other partner – probably totally confused at this point ¬– slowly glides to earth for the big moment. 

    Charity Skydiving Events – Charity skydiving events consist of demonstration skydiving teams jumping for free to support a community project or even organising a charity jump where a portion of the jump fee is donated to a good cause.

    Types of Skydiving Operations 

    Besides the basic structure of a skydiving business or club, there are many specialised skydiving operations that these groups provide or support routinely or on special occasions. Here are some of the most popular or unique operations or services you’ll see at a DZ. 

    Tandem Skydiving

    Tandem skydiving is the most prevalent type of operation, and its customers are primarily first-time skydivers or jumping for a one-time experience. A customer will be attached to an experienced skydiving instructor in this operation. The instructor’s job is to operate the equipment and ensure the customer has a great time. Tandem skydiving is an excellent approach to experience Skydiving without having to go through extensive training. 

    Static Line Jumping

    A static line jump, also known as ‘automatic opening’, is usually carried out from a short height of 3,500 ft or higher, e.g., similar to Paratroopers jumping from a military transport aircraft. In a static line jump, the parachute is deployed automatically via a ‘static line’ connected to the aircraft as soon as the jumper exits the plane. 

    When it comes to training, static line jumping falls between tandem skydiving and free fall skydiving. Most static line training involves learning the nuances involved in making a safe PLF (Parachute Landing Fall). Conversely, the downside of static line skydiving is the lack of freefall time. 

    Accelerated Freefall (AFF)

    AFF is what most people associate with Skydiving, i.e., a skydiver free-falling for many seconds before deploying their chute. However, AFF is a training operation instructing a solo skydiver how to exit an aircraft, free-fall, and make basic manoeuvres. Plus, navigating to the DZ and landing. 

    AFF consist of a student jumper accompanied by two highly experienced AFF instructors who will hold the student at first. Still, as they progress through several jumps, the instructors will be less active, and the student will be able to fly independently. However, during their last AFF jump, they will have just one instructor, and then the student is expected to complete a series of consolidation jumps before obtaining their skydiving licence. 

    Formation Skydiving (FS)

    Another image the public has of Skydiving is formation skydiving. Formation skydiving is the operation of a group of skydivers (4 FS divers or 8 FS divers) jumping and falling together in a belly-to-earth position (as you do on a tandem skydive) and creating shapes – or formations – by holding one another’s arms and legs. Formation skydiving is the next stage of Skydiving after AFF training. 

    Indoor Skydiving

    Even though it’s not the real thing regarding actually falling towards mother earth at 120 miles per hour, indoor Skydiving opens the experience of Skydiving to a broader population. Indoor Skydiving uses an upright windtunnel that allows customers to feel the freedom of human flight. The skydiving windtunnels work with powerful propellers which lift the body vertically in the tunnel. 

    Customers then control their position by moving with hands and legs and can experience the enjoyment of Skydiving in a much safer and more manageable environment. This operation can be practiced by children and adults and has many health benefits and much lower medical restrictions. 

    Skydiving Jump Planes 

    Different airplanes are used in the skydiving sector when it comes to the aircraft that support Skydiving. These aircraft are often referred to as ‘jump planes’. Each DZ has its own jump plane. The aircraft type used depends on the airfield set up, the type of skydiving operation conducted, and how many skydivers jump regularly. 

    Jump aircraft vary from small GA trainer aircraft up to commercial C-130 Hercules. However, most jump aircraft used today primarily carry between 4 and 24 jumpers. Additionally, they’re usually high-wing aircraft with large exit doors. Although there are numerous different types of jump planes used every day, there are preferred ones in the skydiving sector. 

    Today, if you visit a skydiving business or club near you, don’t be surprised to see one of these aircraft delivering their jumpers to altitude. 

    Cessna, C-182 Skylane – The Cessna 182 is probably the most common skydiving jump airplane globally. The average Cessna 182 can carry four skydivers to 10,000 ft in about 20 minutes. Unfortunately, there are no seats in this plane except for the pilot. So skydivers are sitting on the floor. 

    Cessna, C-208 Caravan – Another popular aircraft is the Cessna 208. The Cessna Caravans can carry 15-21 skydivers to 13,000 ft in about 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the model. Skydivers admire this jump plane because of the high wing and big door, with lots of space for exiting. Usually, there are two benches in the aircraft for skydivers to sit during the climb. 

    Pilatus, Porter – The Pilatus Porter is a common jump plane in Europe. A turbine Porter can carry up to ten skydivers to a jump altitude at a moderately quick speed. Although it’s a bit cramped, a Porter has a nice high wing for jumpers and a sliding door. Plus, it is usually fitted with a big step outside for large group exits. 

    Daher, Kodiak – The Daher Kodiak is new to the skydiving world. Like other popular skydiving aircraft, Skydivers love their large door and high wing. However, in its skydiving configuration, the aircraft is outfitted with a sliding door and can accommodate up to 15 skydivers to 12,000 ft in nine minutes. Because of its newness and performance, you’ll see more of this aircraft at DZs worldwide. 

    Viking, Twin Otter – The Twin Otter is a famous twin-engine turbine jump plane. The Twin Otter is respected as a fast and robust aircraft. It can carry up to 22 skydivers seated on two long benches to standard jump altitudes in less than 15 minutes. The wide door accommodates large group exits, and the wing is high and out of the way of jumpers. 

    Dornier, Do-28 G92 – Like the Pilatus Porter, the Dornier G92 is a common skydiving plane in Europe. This aircraft is a twin-turbine high-wing aircraft with a fast climb to altitude capability. It can take 15 jumpers to 15,000 ft in just 11 minutes. Skydivers love this aircraft because of its climb rate and sizeable sliding door (slightly larger than a Caravan door). 

    Jumping with Drones 

    Like with the other Aerial Work aviation sectors, many drone entrepreneurs and inventors are exploring ways of introducing drone technology into Skydiving. However, drones will probably not have a dominant presence in this sector anytime soon. The main reason for this is Skydiving is an individual human-driven experience or a personal ‘need for speed’. So, what is the purpose of replacing one’s need for speed with a robot? 

    However, outside of replacing the human experience, drones are starting to find a minor supporting role. If you’re curious, here are some of the unique things people are developing with drone technology and supporting the skydiving community today: 

    • Drone Jumping – A heavy-lift drone does the job instead of an aircraft taking a jumper up to altitude. 

    • Shadow Drone – A shadow drone is a smart robot camera designed to autonomously free fall along with a skydiver and film the event. 

    • BASE Jumping Drone – A BASE jumping drone is a small FPV (First Person View) racing drone, operated by a pilot on the ground and nearby, closely films the descent of a skydiver who just jumped off a cliff or high tower. 

    The Last Jump of the Day 

    When the last jump of the day is completed at any DZ, and all the jumpers walk away exhilarated, safe, and passionately affected by what they accomplished, the skydiving service sector did its job. 

    As you read, the skydiving sector of Aerial Work aviation is not a loosely organised activity but rather a focused group of independent businesses and clubs with similar structures, standards, and aircraft. The skydiving sector also supports many unique and specialized operations, from simple tandem skydiving to high-risk BASE Jumping. 

    The next time you see a skydiver plunging to earth at 120 mph, think of the passion, dedication, and skill these Aerial Work Aviation service providers joyfully bring to the adrenalin junkies of the world. Without them, people would not genuinely have the chance to fly like a bird.


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