Over 3 million people made a skydive in the US in 2016! That’s huge. But y’know what? We’re pretty sure that, if every single one of them made their jump with their pockets stuffed with fun facts about skydiving, there would still be a pile of skydiving facts left over on the ground. Our sport is so unique, so fascinating and so historical that there have got to be as many interesting skydiving facts as there are jumpers (and then some). Here are a few of our favorites.
1. JAY STOKES HOLDS THE RECORD FOR THE MOST SKYDIVES DONE IN ONE CALENDAR DAY: 640!
That clocks in at an average rate of a little under 27 skydives per hour–a feat that required the total focus of a highly caffeinated ground crew. At the end of that epic day, they were basically pouring an exhausted Jay into his gear, heaving him into the side of the plane and clipping him in as the plane started to roll down the runway for another takeoff. The record raised a bunch of money for charity (and reliably impresses the heck out of every experienced skydiver on the planet). He tried to make 700 on another attempt, but weather got in his way. (For comparison: Most sport skydivers call it a day at around six.)
2. TANDEM GEAR IS EQUIPPED WITH AN “AAD”.
Tandem skydiving gear is equipped with an automatic activation device (“AAD”). Almost every sport skydiver does, too! This device was designed by a German skydiver named Helmut Cloth in the early 1990s, when he lost a friend who was unable to manually deploy his parachute in time. Helmut’s invention–the “CYPRES” AAD–has saved many hundreds of skydivers’ lives.
3. SKYDIVERS DON’T ALL FALL AT THE SAME SPEED.
Some people fall faster; some, slower. When we’re jumping, we can change our body position to aerodynamically increase or decrease our speed, too. Experienced skydivers will sometimes fly with weights to adjust their freefall speed so they can stay on-level with other jumpers in the sky.
4. SKYDIVING PHOTOGRAPHERS CONTROL THE CAMERA WITH THEIR MOUTH.
You can imagine how difficult it would be to use a camera during a skydive in the same way that you use it on the ground–especially when it’s your job to capture professional-caliber images. To make sure the shot gets got, “camera flyers” have invented ways of triggering the shutter with their mouths.
There are three methods: the “tongue switch,” the “bite switch” and the “blow switch.” To use the tongue switch, the camera flyer holds the trigger between her teeth and uses her tongue to push a button. The benefit of that setup is that the action you use to trigger the shutter is separate from breathing and from biting down, so it’s hard to trigger accidentally. You do, however, have to hold it in a particular position for it to work properly. The second method–the bite switch–triggers the shutter when the flyer bites a compression switch between her teeth. It’s reliably easy to do, but it’s easy to mis-trigger. The final method–the blow switch–works when the flyer blows into a tube she’s holding in her mouth. Some flyers love this method, but if you forget yourself for a moment and you hold your breath you don’t get the shot.
5. 400 SKYDIVERS MADE A FORMATION ONCE.
The highest population of skydivers ever to share the sky in a single formation was a whopping 400 people. They linked arms during freefall for 5 seconds in the skies over Thailand. Nobody died! That said: Nobody has ever tried to organize a similar record. Why? Because it sent 1,600 knees and elbows zooming around 400 heads, at 120-ish MPH, in a very small part of the sky–and the problem of safely landing 400 parachutes at once is a hair-raising prospect indeed. The record participants will likely keep that amazing bragging point as a feather in their caps for eternity.
6. OUR GRANDMAS AND GRANDPAS ARE COOLER THAN YOURS.
Okay: Our adoptive, de facto “grandmas” and “grandpas”–but still. There are active communities of skydiving athletes over 40, 50, 60, 70, 80 and even 90. These “societies” have their own skydiving traditions (often featuring beer and rocking chairs included in the process of a jump), and they regularly shoot for (and achieve) world records. One of these folks–Pat Moorehead–made 80 jumps in a single day to celebrate his 80th birthday. How many 80th-birthday parties have you been to that involved world records and parachutes?