What To Know About Our Tandem Parachutes

September 23, 2023

Jumping tandem is pretty much the best way for beginners to get a taste of skydiving! You'll be securely attached to a skilled instructor, and then you'll both jump out of the airplane together. No need to worry about your lack of experience, because you'll get to enjoy all the exciting freefall and parachute rides while your instructor takes care of the nitty-gritty stuff. 


Now that we can all objectively agree that tandem skydiving is exceptionally awesome, let’s jump into the logistics of tandem parachute jumps, how tandem parachutes actually work, and if they’re the same as solo skydiving parachutes. 




The Parachute Definition: A Breakdown  


The spherical parachutes you see in old military movies, called “rounds,” are not used in modern-day skydiving operations. The parachutes that are used in the civilian world today are called ram-air parachutes. Simply put, they’re shaped like rectangles, made up of two “layers,” called a top and bottom skin, and these are sewn together at different points to create cells that fill with air. The back of the canopy – the tail – is sewn together, while the front – the nose – is open to allow wind inside. In between each cell are softball-sized holes called crossports that allow the wind entering the nose of the canopy to inflate all the cells! This all happens in a few seconds after deployment, and then your canopy is ready to soar through the skies.


Tandem canopies and solo skydiving canopies are essentially the same. The two primary differences are size and purpose. Tandem canopies are much larger than those used for single jumpers because there is double the weight to be held! Solo and tandem canopies serve the purpose of delivering the jumper(s) safely to the ground, but solo canopies can also be designed for certain skydiving disciplines, like swooping and CRW. 



Main Canopy VS Reserve Canopy


The main canopy is the primary parachute, and the reserve canopy is the backup parachute – we don’t often have to use it, but we’re so grateful it’s there! Reserves are made to deploy fast and are re-packed and inspected every 180 days by a USPA-certified parachute rigger, regardless of whether they were used or not, to ensure they remain in good working order. 


How Do Parachutes Work? 


Despite the size of tandem parachutes being much larger, the functionality is similar to the parachutes used for solo skydiving. Their primary objective is to deliver a soft and successful landing for both the instructor and tandem student. 


  • What is wing loading? A skydiver’s wing loading is the jumper’s exit weight (their body weight + the skydiving gear) divided by the square footage size of their canopy. A wing loading can generally tell us how quickly the descent rate of the skydiver will be once they deploy their parachute. Someone with a wing loading of 1.8 (220 lbs exit weight / canopy size of 120) will have a quicker canopy descent than someone with a wing loading of 1.0 (120 lbs exit weight / canopy size of 120). 


So, how much weight can a tandem parachute hold? This number is based on how much weight the rig is designed to accommodate rather than the parachute alone. Gear weight limits are set by its manufacturers, not individual dropzones. The weight limit for United Parachute Technology’s Sigma rig, for instance, is set at 500 lbs – this includes the weight of the instructor, the student, and the rig. Skydiving weight limits are never intended to be discriminatory, and like all skydiving regulations, are put in place for your safety


  • What is an AAD? An Automatic Activation Device (AAD) is a small computer fastened inside the skydiving rig which is designed to automatically deploy the reserve canopy if the jumper cannot. They are turned on on the ground before jumping and calculate the differing air pressures at each altitude to determine how high the skydiver is. The AAD also calculates the speed, or velocity, of the skydiver. If the jumper is falling too fast and is too low, the AAD will fire and cut the reserve cord to deploy the reserve canopy.


  • What is an RSL? A Reserve Static Line is a lanyard that attaches the main canopy cutaway system to the reserve pin to allow a main cutaway to simultaneously initiate deployment of the reserve canopy. Think of the reserve deployment being like a knee-jerk reaction to the main canopy being cut away! 



What Is The Tandem Skydiving Height? 


The height of tandem skydives ranges from 8,000 feet to approximately 14,000 feet. Any jump 15,000 feet or above is considered to be “high altitude” and requires supplemental oxygen on board the plane. Here at Skydive Danielson, we regularly jump from 14,000 feet to ensure the maximum amount of freefall time! How fast do you fall in a tandem skydive? The average terminal velocity is around 120 mph, and with a minute of freefall, you’re fast-tracked to hit this!









What Can Go Wrong with Tandem Skydiving? 


Tandem skydiving, much like any adventure sport, naturally brings with it a flutter of anticipation and excitement, and you might have more than a few butterflies in your stomach at first. That's perfectly OK and, we think, a part of the thrill! That said, skydiving is not entirely like walking on a tightrope over a canyon. Yes, it's an extreme sport, but one where meticulous safety measures are in place. As skydivers, we understand that skydiving can be inherently risky so we are proactive in taking all possible steps to help lessen those risks. Remember: the tandem skydiving rig we use is equipped with a reserve canopy, an RSL, and an AAD – all additional safety measures on top of your instructor’s extensive training. Rest assured that your tandem instructor is all in for a smooth skydiving experience as much as you are!


Our tandem parachutes are more than ready to take you on the adventure of a lifetime – are you ready for the flight? Book your tandem jump today! 

For more information on tandem skydiving, please visit our First Skydive page.