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Published: September 25, 2017
How High Do Skydiving Planes Go?
In general, skydiving planes release howling jumpers out into the sky between 10,000 and 13,000 feet. With that information, you might think that skydiving altitudes are a one-size-fits-all affair, but that couldn't be further from the truth. To know how high a skydiving plane goes before the jumpers jump out, you have to know what kind of plane it is, who's on it, what they plan to do and what other considerations the "load" (plane full of skydivers) might have to account for.
A Flexible Feast
The common skydiving plane in the United States--the stalwart Cessna 182--is a reliable little beast that brings excited skydivers up to a lofty 10,000'. That's what we fly here at Skydive OC, so our typical "exit altitude" (the altitude at which the pilot has made all the required preparations and signaled the jumpers that we're good-to-go). We take it up to the highest altitude at which a Cessna can efficiently fly, which clocks in at approximately twelve thousand feet. That typically provides our butterfly-tummied tandem students with forty seconds of exhilarating freefall.
That said, we're no factory. You have a choice! We offer upgraded jump altitudes that make their way up to 15,000 and 18,000 feet. Jumps that high place a few extra details into the mix, because the air is pretty thin once you nudge up above 15,000 feet. The Federal Aviation Administration requires jumps done from those rarefied altitudes to be completed with onboard oxygen.
Sport Skydiving and Exit Altitude
Tandem pairs follow their own well-established rubric. Once you get your skydiving license to jump solo (which is a super-cool thing to do, natch), you'll start getting really interested in the little dial on the altimeter. More altitude means more time, after all--and time in the sky is what we're after.
All sport skydivers love to get a little more altitude, but some skydives require it. For example, complicated skydives involving a lot of people are best done from the highest possible altitudes in order to give each athlete the time they need to nail their piece of the puzzle. In other cases--often, at a skydiving event--there will be planned high-altitude loads, often coinciding with sunset, to give jumpers the opportunity to bask in a gorgeous light show. Finally, some stunt-style world-record skydives often require a lot more altitude (and a lot more gear to match).
When Way-Way-Up Is a No-No-No
Skydiving is aviation. So much is clear, right? That means that there are some activities in skydiving which are specifically prescribed by the FAA for the safety of the jumpers, the pilots and the citizens below. One of those forbidden activities seems too simple to be so serious: jumping through clouds. Skydivers need to see the correct landing area below them from the airplane door. If they can't see it, they have no true way of being certain that they'll end up there--which is, of course, a very dangerous thing. Clouds have a habit of forming above our normal exit altitude but below the highest.
That might sound like bad news, but never fear! If there happens to be a cloud layer preventing us from climbing up to peak jump altitude, we offer skydivers the option of a slightly lower skydive (under the clouds) or to reschedule their skydive to another day. After all, we're all about making sure you're experience is tippity-top--and if that means waiting a day, so be it. We understand the urge to get really, really high up there!
Curious to see just how great it feels to get a personal look at 12,000' (or above)? Give us a call! We'll give you a whirlwind tour.