What Is Skydiving?

Home & Family, Outdoors
on February 7, 2012

There is a difference between jumping out of a plane while wearing a parachute and skydiving. The former sounds really scary. The latter sounds scary, too. Knowing the basics of skydiving, however, will allow you to face the fear of jumping out of a perfectly functioning airplane with confidence.

Skydiving in the military. The ability to fly becomes essential when the aircraft you're flying is no longer capable of flight. The military, proprietor of planes that get shot at by enemy military planes, needed to develop a means for its pilots to fly safely to the ground when their machines became disabled. The solution was a parachute. The first use of military parachutes occurred during World War I. According to Skydiving-guide.com, balloonists used parachutes during the war to escape from burning balloons. The first parachute bailout from an airplane didn't occur until 1922. Although the practice of skydiving via parachute from a burning airplane was soon scuttled in favor of ejection seats equipped with parachutes, the military determined that skydiving could still be utilized to place troops behind enemy lines. The practice of skydiving for military purposes began in World War II and continues to the present day.

Skydiving for recreation. Although not as extreme as jumping from a military aircraft while getting shot at by enemy troops, skydiving for recreational purposes — that is, jumping out of an aircraft without the risk of being shot — is considered an extreme sport, an extreme sport with roots, according to Skydiving.com, that go all the way back to 90 B.C. The forerunner of the modern parachute was utilized in the 18th century by French balloonists who skydived from perfectly good hot air balloons (and some not so perfectly good). The advent of the airplane led to the modern era of skydiving.

Training requirements. The sport of skydiving requires training. Before jumping from the aircraft the first time, you must take lessons. The first type of training is tandem training where you and a qualified instructor (the importance of having a "qualified" instructor cannot be overstated) jump together. The second type of training, static line training, takes about six hours and is employed primarily by the military. The third type of training is an all-day course and involves accelerated free-fall.

The steps of skydiving. The first step to a successful skydive is jumping from the plane. Before jumping, the skydiver must be sure he or she is at the right altitude and at the right location. Random jumps are discouraged and against the law, depending on where you land and whom you land on. The jumper then enjoys free-fall. Free-fall is the closest thing to human flight. The diver can maneuver, relative to other skydivers, up, down and side-to-side. Because at some point the free-fall will be interrupted by the Earth, the diver must employ his or her parachute. The initial shock of opening the chute is unpleasant and lasts just a few seconds. Guiding the chute to the ground is the penultimate step. Parachutes are equipped with easy-to-maneuver steering apparatus for a safe, controlled landing, at which point the skydiver is finished.