How safe is tandem skydiving at Skydive Coastal Maine?
The United States Parachute Association publishes statistics about skydiving safety every year. Tandem skydiving has the strongest safety statistics of any type of jump, with only 0.003 fatalities per thousand jumps over the past 10 years. You’re more likely to be struck by lightning or win the lottery than die on a tandem skydive. In fact, the most dangerous part of skydiving is the drive to the airport.
Skydive Coastal Maine has a perfect safety record. We use state of the art equipment, all equipped with fail-safe automatic activation systems.. and our staff members are United States Parachute Association (USPA) certified. All have many years and thousands of jumps worth of experience in the sport. All carry FAA medical certificates and have been fully certified by the manufacturers of the parachute equipment.. and most are also pilots. Rest assured, your safety is as guaranteed as possible!
How long does the training take?
The training usually only takes about 5-10 minutes or so. The beauty of the tandem system is that your instructor handles all of the difficult parts of the skydive, while you have an up close and personal view of the world below. You will receive one-on-one training with your instructor and then he will gear you up. Afterward, you will meet and board the aircraft with your instructor(s). The time it takes to jump also depends on the size of the group: we will give you a more accurate time frame when you call.
Should I eat before my jump?
We recommend that you have at least a light meal before coming to jump. In general, most students don’t experience any discomfort, but those that do tend to have an empty stomach or just got back from a few hours at the all-you-can-eat buffet.
How loud is freefall?
There is certainly a bit of wind noise, as you are falling at 120 mph. It will be too loud to carry on a conversation, but you shouldn’t need ear plugs or anything like that. Under canopy the noise is greatly reduced, and you and your instructor will be able to communicate without issue.
What does free fall feel like?
Freefall is not the “roller coaster drop” feeling most people expect it would be. It is a comfortable sensation of floating and support, with a slight pressure of air against your body. There is also an overwhelmingly euphoric adrenaline rush that cannot be described in any other way than awesome!
What should I wear?
During the Summer months, dress in comfortable clothing such as shorts, t-shirts, tank tops, sweaters, jeans, yoga pants, or capris. For shoes, sneakers or similar comfortable, well fitting shoes are recommended. No sandals, flip-flops, open toed or slip-on shoes or boots with hooks, please. During Spring and Fall you may want to bring a fleece or sweatshirt; If not, we will provide you with a jumpsuit and goggles for the jump. Glasses or contact lenses are ok as we will provide you with goggles to protect your eyes (and glasses, if necessary).
Does it hurt when the parachute opens?
Not usually. It’s certainly a positive force (as you are decelerating from 120 mph down to about 20 mph in a few seconds), but in general it is comfortable. We utilize modern harnesses with specialized padding to increase your comfort during the opening and parachute ride. Heavier students (those who are close to the 230lb weight limit) may experience some discomfort in the leg straps due to the higher mass being distributed in the thigh region. This, unfortunately, cannot be avoided.
How much experience does my instructor have?
In order to qualify to be a tandem skydiving instructor, a person must have completed 500 jumps and have a minimum of 3 years in the sport of skydiving. They must pass an FAA flight medical exam as well as an instructor course given by the United States Parachute association and by the manufacturer of the equipment to be jumped.
However, we do not hire the bare minimum qualifications. Your safety is too important. Our instructors have a minimum of 9,000 jumps (often many more), minimum of 15 years in the sport (again, often more), and a proven track record of safety and customer focus. All of our instructors are drug free, professional, and give their all to show you the very best time and keep you as safe as possible. We have an on-site Safety and Training Advisor appointed by the United States Parachute Association, who oversees all things safety related. Rest assured, you will not find another skydiving center with as much experience or as impeccable a safety record.
What if I’m afraid of heights?!
Most humans have a healthy level of apprehension when it comes to heights. We all have a self-preservation instinct, and let’s face it; Skydiving isn’t an everyday activity for the average person. The good news is that the human brain doesn’t really process depth the same way when the eye sees it from so high up. The earth doesn’t really begin to get big until you are very low, and by then you will be under parachute for a few minutes. Most students don’t report any sensation of falling, either (which is actually the fear, rather than the actual heights themselves).
What happens if there’s a problem with the parachute?
This is a common question! Luckily, there are TWO parachutes in the pack. A main parachute, and a reserve (auxiliary) parachute. While you may have heard stories about parachutes “failing to open”, that phrase is often a misguided summary of an incident used by the media to sensationalize a story. It is true that sometimes a parachute can encounter a problem during deployment or flight making it unsuitable for a safe landing, but that’s why there’s a backup plan! Some parachute malfunctions are minor problems and can be corrected quickly for a safe landing. Others cannot be fixed in time for landing so the reserve parachute is used instead. Your instructor is trained to recognize these situations and make an immediate decision. Should that occur, it’s likely you wouldn’t even realize it. Remember, the both of you are connected and you’re in this together, so your instructor has a vested interest in completing the jump safely.
All of our main and reserve parachutes are inspected, packed and maintained in accordance with FAA regulations by an on-site FAA licensed rigger. All of our reserve parachutes are inspected and re-packed at least every 180 days whether they are used or not per FAA guidelines. Also, all of our equipment is equipped with an Automatic Activation Device (AAD) which monitors vertical speed and altitude. If there is ever a situation where you are still freefalling and getting too close to the earth, the device automatically fires a pyrotechnic charge to deploy your reserve parachute with no input from the user. The triple redundancy we have brings your skydiving safety to another level.
What happens if I decide I don’t want to jump after I’m in the plane?
We will never force anyone to jump if they change their mind. Your participation in skydiving is voluntary, and payment for the skydive is refundable up until you are in the airplane. After that point, we are unable to refund the price paid for the jump (unless there is a weather or mechanical issue). There are a lot of moving parts and costs associated with the operation of a skydiving center (such as fuel and mechanical costs) that must still be paid whether or not you decide to jump. Please understand that changing your mind once in the airplane does not entitle you to a refund.
Can I get videos or photos of my jump?
Absolutely! Our instructors are also trained videographers, and we have professional editors to turn the footage from your jump into an awesome production with transitions, fades, music, and all the magic to make it an awesome video to share. Don’t want video? Just want photos of your jump? No problem! We can do that too!
We shoot with modern equipment specifically designed for the skydiving environment. Your instructor has tons of experience in getting the shots that count. Your only job is to smile!
Can I bring my own camera to jump?
Recently, we have noticed an increased interest by our students to bring their own cameras with them on their skydive. Skydive Coastal Maine does not allow this for a variety of reasons.
The first reason is safety. Since you are considered a student jumper, the United States Parachute Association does not allow students to carry photography equipment of any kind. We are a group member of the United States Parachute Association, so we have pledged to follow those rules. Also, we are falling at speeds of 120 mph, and any projectile that may dislodge from a non-skydiving specific mount at that speed is very dangerous. Our camera equipment has been specially designed and modified to be skydiving friendly, and the instructor has extensive experience in safely operating that equipment. Should the camera be dropped, bumped, or fall away for any reason, everyone below is at risk. Anything dropped from that altitude (even the lightest of equipment) is extremely hazardous. We regularly jump over highly populated areas, and we are not willing to put those below at risk, nor have to answer to the FAA as to why a camera went through someone’s windshield.
The second reason lies in the fact that our instructors have been highly trained in how to film in freefall and during the canopy ride, and are much more likely to produce a product that accurately reflects your jump. The sensory overload on one’s first jump can be a bit overwhelming, and being able to catch the angles and lighting takes great practice and skill. Our instructors are as much photographers as they are instructors!
And finally, the third reason is that you are required to participate to a certain degree in the skydive itself. If you are focusing on the perfect selfie pose, or getting that “epic shot”, you will not be doing what you are supposed to. This can lead to greater chance of injury during the landing. We will not put your safety at risk, so this is a non-starter.
You and your family/friends are more than welcome to bring your own cameras for on-the-ground fiming/photography before and after the jump, but please do not attempt to bring one onto our aircraft. You will not be allowed to jump with it. This policy is non-negotiable, and is shared by all other skydiving locations in the United States.