First it was former President George H. W. Bush marking milestone birthdays. Then actress Shirley Jones wanted to get in on the act, although she has since reconsidered. Tandem skydiving has become the latest recreational pursuit for those craving adventure to experience the thrill of skydiving without a long-term commitment to the sport.
How it works
The jumper, in this case the paying customer, is strapped to a harness connected to an instructor. Since the jumper is in front of the instructor, this gives an unobstructed view of the ground. The instructor guides the jump itself: the free fall, releasing the parachute, and hitting the drop zone.
The height of the jump varies from one location to the next. Most occur between 9,000 and 13,000 feet. The highest jump zone offered to first-time jumpers in the United States is 18,000 feet.
There is a short training period prior to the jump, with instructions on how to exit the airplane, how to pilot the canopy, and how to land safely. This usually lasts about 30 minutes.
Who can do it?
Potential jumpers must be at least 18 years old.
There is a weight limit in accordance with the guidelines set by manufacturers of the parachutes. The maximum weight limit ranges from 220 to 240 pounds depending on company policies. Check with them first, and be prepared to be weighed at the site.
Companies want to know in advance if you have any medical condition, such as epilepsy or heart trouble, that may put you at greater risk. Get a note from your doctor first, saying it is okay.
How much does it cost?
Prices range from $200 to $300 for the basic package. Enhancements such as DVD recording usually run $100 extra.
How long does it take?
Plan for the whole day, in case of uncooperative weather. Plus, you’ll want to celebrate the event with family and friends.
What to bring with you
Yourself, to begin with, and a spirit of adventure. Beyond that, leave children and pets at home, and wear comfortable clothing. Tennis shoes or sport shoes only, please. No boots or sandals allowed. You want to make sure they are securely tied to your feet.
Cameras are forbidden on the jump itself, since they can get loose and interfere with the parachute. Taking pictures on the ground is acceptable.