Skydiving, also called as parachuting, is an extreme sport and recreational activity that involves acrobatic performance during freefall and is followed by parachute deployment. It is also a way of deploying Airborne forces of the military personnel and sometimes forest firefighters.
The first recorded skydive was made by Andre-Jacques Garnerin in 1797. He jumped from a hot air balloon successfully and it marked the start of the history of skydiving. Later on, parachuting technology was developed by the military as a means of saving aircrews during emergencies aboard aircrafts. After the development of parachutes, it was soon used to deliver soldiers to the combat zone.
In a typical jump, skydivers jump out of an aircraft (could be an airplane, a helicopter or the gondola of a balloon) then fall freely for a certain period before parachutes are activated to lower down the landing speed to a safe rate. Skydivers can make turns, lifts, forward and backward motions by controlling the shape of the body.
It's going to take hundreds of jumps to be an expert in the complex skills of skydiving but the basic skills which are very useful can be understood fully in your first few skydives. The basic skills involve four areas namely free fall tactics, basic safety, operating the parachute and landing.
1. Free-fall tactics
The fundamental skill required for a reliable parachute deployment is to learn how to keep up a steady belly to earth position, also known as arch position. The next thing that skydivers should learn is how to turn or move in any course while maintaining the position belly to earth.
2. Basic Safety
In most countries, skydivers are required to be of legal age before they can engage themselves in the sport. Being an extreme sport, danger is always present and skydivers need to take safety precautions.
Skydivers in the United States and other western countries are obliged to carry two parachutes, the second one for emergency purposes in case there is any malfunction in the first. An automatic activation device (or AAD) is often used by most skydivers because it opens the reserve parachute automatically at a safe altitude in case of main canopy failure.
Another risk factor is changing wind conditions. There is a higher possibility of injury when winds shift because it can cause a downwind or crosswind that adds wind speed to the landing speed.
Injuries and fatalities are seldom caused by equipment failure. In the case of malfunction on the main parachute, the reserve parachute is always present to bring skydivers to a safe landing.
3. Operating the Parachute
Deciding when to set out the parachute is a safety matter. Parachutes need to be deployed at an adequately high altitude so that the skydiver will have enough time to deal with any malfunction. For advanced skydivers, the sensible and realistic minimum altitude is 600 meters or 1,970 feet. Skydivers use a device called altimeter to determine when their parachutes need to be opened.
There are two challenges involved in flying a parachute, first is avoiding injury and second is landing on a planned area. In safely completing a jump, the proper execution of a parachute landing is very critical. Skydivers need to take note that the knees should NEVER ever be the first to come in contact with the ground.