We get more questions about safety than anything else. We have a perfect student safety record at Chicagoland Skydiving Center, and darn proud of it. But, that isn't really the question being asked, is it? The question is really, "Am I going to be safe when I go for my skydive?"
For the first time skydiver trying to wrap their mind around this activity, that’s a completely valid question. We'll do our best to answer, and explain the many factors that influence that answer.
Short answer: It's safe enough to have kept our company in business since 1968. Long answer: We believe the very existence of our dropzone speaks volumes. If skydiving were a dreadfully unsafe activity, you could bet that Chicagoland Skydiving Center and other skydiving companies would probably not be in business. New operators wouldn't be popping up all over the world. And the sport certainly wouldn't have any sort of ongoing appeal to the general public. The risk would simply be too great, removing any up-side to owning a business.
Short answer: New technology and research has made skydiving equipment safer than ever. Long answer: The days of jumping surplus military gear are long over. Modern parachute equipment is very advanced, highly researched, and tested in conditions that far exceed the stresses it will endure on a normal jump.
Chicagoland Skydiving Center only purchases the best tandem systems available on the market. Every rig has a main parachute, reserve parachute, Automatic Activation Device (a small computer that initiates reserve deployment if the user is unable to do so manually), and the containers are well cared-for. Our gear fleet is maintained by an FAA Master Rigger, inspected multiple times per week, and taken immediately out of rotation if maintenance is needed. Nothing on our gear rack is more than three years old. It's no small investment, but it's one we are happy to make year after year. We absolutely will not cut corners when it comes to equipment.
Short answer: Tandem skydiving is the safest training method for a first time skydiver. Long answer: Years ago, the only way to make your first jump was called "static line" - which involved jumping from the plane, a tether connected to it deploying your parachute for you, and you landing the round parachute on your own - more or less wherever the wind put you down.
The sport has evolved. Tandem skydiving is now the worldwide standard training method for first-time jumpers. "Tandem" means your harness is attached to your instructor, with gear designed for two. Tandem instructors must pass a series of courses and training tasks to earn a rating from the US Parachute Association, as well as the manufacturer of the gear they are using to take a passenger. Having an experienced skydiver literally attached to you, with an obvious vested interest in landing safely is certainly an advantage for the first timer.
Short answer: The skydiving company you choose matters. Long answer: All skydiving companies are not created equal (unfortunately). We don't say this to scare you. At a minimum, you should seek out a USPA Group Member Dropzone. USPA stands for United States Parachute Association. These businesses pledge to comply with USPA’s Basic Safety Requirements and to use current USPA instructors, provide USPA-required equipment, and use USPA-developed instruction methods.
If a skydiving business is not on this list, they have decided to bypass the oversight of the governing bodies of our sport. Home-made equipment, unrated staff members without legitimate licenses and ratings, we really don't want to keep going with this list. Unfortunately, these are realities in some places, and we strongly encourage you to consider the many implications of a skydiving company going rogue and defining all their own rules for how they want to operate.
Short answer: You get what you pay for. Long answer: Just like anything else, price is an indicator of the value of what you will get. We know everyone loves a deal, but you should carefully consider seeking out a discount skydiving provider. Deep discounts mean small margins (if any) on the business side. Can you feel confident that a business owner dropping prices so low simply to get people in the door is spending the necessary money to maintain aircraft properly, maintain equipment properly, and employing and paying well-trained staff?
Not to mention, you might be fooled into thinking you're getting a good deal, when really the provider is simply downgrading your experience in order to put a lower price on it. The most common way this happens is flying you to a lower altitude to save money on fuel, hoping you won't ask or notice. Be smart when it comes to an activity like skydiving. If one business is cheaper than others in the area, there's probably a reason why. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is!
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 to die on a tandem skydive. In fact, the most dangerous part of skydiving is driving to the dropzone. USPA makes current safety information available all the time on their website. Check the stats anytime.
The safety record for skydiving overall just keeps getting better and better. The numbers below account for all skydives made in the US (tandem, student, and solo jumps). While more and more skydives are made each year, it's clear to see the trends keep getting better. Back in the 60s - total number of jumps made per year were measured in thousands. Now, it's measured in millions. USPA estimates more than 4.2 million jumps were made in 2015.
To sum things up...
Skydiving safety involves many factors. Our strong safety culture is based on a simple idea: doing the right thing when it comes to factors we can control.
Here's how we manage safety procedures at Chicagoland Skydiving Center (in a nutshell):
- Training: We hand pick our staff, who all must have a proven track record of professionalism and training. Because of our impeccable reputation, we can hire the best in the industry.
- Equipment: We only use the best gear available, and stick to the inspection and maintenance schedule. Every rig is checked before every jump, without exception. A rig will never be jumped if there is any question of its airworthy status.
- Aircraft: Our planes are maintained above and beyond the standards of most other skydiving centers. They’re also flown by seasoned pilots who combine general aviation experience with specialty training for skydiving operations. And we actually enforce seat belt use on our flights (which some dropzones carelessly do not).
- Standard and rule enforcement: We have defined standard operating procedures, and hold our team accountable to following them (and checking to be sure our guests do, too). We have a zero tolerance policy for reckless behavior.
- Weather: We follow all USPA and FAA weather regulations for conducting jump operations. We will not jump in high or gusty winds, we will not bust through clouds, and we don't mess with storm fronts. There is no jump so important that it must be made in questionable conditions. Period.
Of course, skydiving involves some inherent risks, and the truth is, most skydiving accidents are caused by human error. We do everything in our power to remove known risks to maintain an award-winning culture of safety (seriously, we've won an awards for it) that makes us one of industry's most respected operations.
Have more questions? Contact us, we are more than happy to discuss these topics further.
Ready to jump? Let's fly!