The Sport

 

Is skydiving totally safe?

If there was any likelihood of our club being dangerous, the university would not allow us to operate.

It would be wrong to say that skydiving is totally safe in the same way that driving a car, or walking down the road isn’t completely without risk. As in all sports, there is an element of danger, which is all part of the excitement, but as a university club we are not classed as “high risk”.

The levels of safety now built into the sport are incredible. Parachutes are built to increasingly high specifications, and are now easier than ever to control and use safely. Additionally, reserve parachutes are repacked by highly experienced professionals every six months, regardless of usage, to ensure they always function. Parachute systems now always include an Automatic Activation Device (AAD) – if your main parachute isn’t open by 1200ft, the reserve WILL open automatically. Plus, your kit will be checked on the ground by an instructor, then by you, then by the instructor again and then finally once more in the plane. Nothing is left to chance, and you’ll be certain it’s going to work by the time you need it. Not to mention the very rigorous training you have to undergo before completing your first jump.

How is the risk measured?

Risk in skydiving is best expressed as Injuries per 1000 Jumps and as Fatalities per 500,000 Jumps (For reference the average qualified skydiver will perform 100 jumps per year). ‘Injury’ may mean anything from a minor cut, bruise or scratch through fractures and sprains to multiple fractures and internal injuries. If a parachutist reports any injury, as is required by British Parachute Association (BPA) procedure, it is counted. Fortunately most of the injuries are minor or are simple fractures. Multiple or internal injuries are rare. The injury rates quoted are fairly stable and are useful for comparing one type of skydiving with another. Fatality rates (excluding suicides) are very unstable from year to year due to the (thankfully) tiny numbers involved – it is debatable whether they are stable enough for comparing one type of skydiving with another or any sort of statistical analysis for that matter. As a guideline though, the odds of an experienced (fully qualified) skydiver ending up as a fatality on any given jump are around 1 in 500,000. It is also worth mentioning that the majority of fatalities occur in jumpers with 1000+ jumps attempting to develop high speed experienced landing manoeuvres, which again skews the average data.

AFF (Accelerated Free Fall)

The novice injury rate averages 4/1000 jumps (about 1 injury per 250 jumps) but ranges from 3/1000 jumps for men (about 1 injury per 330 jumps) to 12/1000 jumps for women (about 1 injury per 80 jumps).

RAPS (Ram Air Progression System)

The novice injury rate averages 6/1000 jumps (about 1 injury per 160 jumps) but ranges from 5/1000 jumps for men (about 1 injury per 200 jumps) to 10/1000 jumps for women (about 1 injury per 100 jumps).

Tandem

The injury rate is about 1.4 injuries/1000 jumps (about 1 injury per 700 jumps) and varies little for men or women.

Comparison with Snowsports

Using the statistics available from http://www.ski-injury.com in order to compare skydiving against skiing/snowboarding and using an equivalent scale of injuries/fatalities it is possible to show that injuries requiring medical attention are approximately 4 per thousand skier days (compared to 0.4 per 1000 jumps for experienced skydivers). Given this information it could be reliably argued that if you accept the risk of going skiing the risk of skydiving are also within your threshold.

At the end of the day it is a decision only you can make (but we have done our best to make sure it is at least an informed decision).

Information from Marc Fletcher