How Fast Do You Freefall When Skydiving?

Some people have a need for speed! They thrive in the hustle and bustle, and it’s even pretty likely they will exceed the speed limit by a minimum of 10 mph as often as they can (don’t worry we won’t tell). This type wants the rush, and their ears perked when they heard that 120 mph is how fast you are going when skydiving. On the other hand, you have the more tentative types, who get sweaty-palmed and nervous at the thought of zipping through the sky at speeds quite that high.

It seems the freefall portion of a skydive is one of the most anticipated, feared, and misunderstood parts of the skydive. We don’t want you going into the experience unprepared and unaware, so here are some facts you should know about skydiving freefall:

Everything Is Under Control!

How fast you’re going in freefall is predictable thanks to modern parachuting technology and physics. Without the technology we have today, a pair of people on a tandem skydive would get moving pretty fast. We are talking close to 200 mph! This would make for a pretty uncomfortable transition when the main canopy was deployed. To resolve this, modern skydiving systems utilize a drogue parachute. This is like a mini parachute for your main parachute. The drogue is deployed shortly after exit and creates drag to help decrease the terminal velocity reached by the jumpers. This decrease in terminal velocity slows their fall enough to ensure a softer opening of the main canopy when the time comes. It also builds in some time to your skydive (which is a definite plus) allowing you to enjoy stunning aerial views of Southern California. If you are wondering just how long you fall when skydiving, at Skydive Perris you reach an altitude of about 12,500 feet and can expect a glorious 45 seconds of freefall!

drogue controls speed of tandem skydiving pair

How Terminal Velocity Impacts Skydivers In Freefall

Now, here is where physics comes in. We mentioned terminal velocity. Unless you’ve recently refreshed yourself in a high school science class or are taking a physics lecture, you might be scratching your head wondering just what that is. Well, terminal velocity on a skydive is a constant speed that is reached when the force of gravity on an object is balanced by the resistance of the air while the object is in freefall. Once an object (here a tandem pair) reaches terminal velocity there is no further acceleration!

skydiving pair reaches terminal velocity

Freefall Doesn’t Really Feel Like Falling At All!

Now, we know that sounds crazy! Just give us a chance to explain. When you reach terminal velocity, you don’t feel yourself falling. Really, you feel more like you are floating. This is because your brain doesn’t really have the necessary information to process the speed you’ve reached. You see, you aren’t really ‘relative’ to anything else when you skydive in our wide open blue skies. Up that high, your brain doesn’t have anything to use to triangulate its position, which is why even people with a fear of heights can enjoy skydiving.

tandem skydiving pair in freefall

Regardless of what side of the coin you were on initially (need for speed, or filled with dread by acceleration), we guarantee the best way to reach 120 mph is via skydive!

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