How Fast do you Fall When Skydiving?

When you come across a tandem skydiving advertisement on the internet, you will realize that marketing talks more about speed than any other aspect. 120MPH! It’s as fast as the race car and gives an adrenaline-pumping meteor. The rate on the ads is a way to appeal to your adventuresome traits.

The speed number is the average speed that skydivers fall at ‘belly to earth’ – a position that you are most likely to imagine when one is skydiving. ‘Flat flying’ or ‘belly flying’ is a stable and relatively simple position that you first learn to keep you adequately up; at this point, the parachute is on the back, pointing to the sky. That’s the orientation used for tandem skydiving- with the instructor in the higher position and the student in the lower part.

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The tandem skydiving pair has a unique system known as drogue that slows them down since they move so fast after the jump. It helps the team to experience a comfortable, safe opening. Systematically speaking, the speed is often regulated; all along and beyond that, there is the terminal velocity that sets the speed ceiling.

Now, for people who are thirsting to know more about how fast one falls when skydiving, it’s time to get nerdy and provide the nitty-gritty details on speed. Also, you’ll have to revisit some physics knowledge that you never thought you would ever need in life situations.

How long a freefall lasts.

When skydiving, the fastest part of the experience is a freefall. As you might have thought, it’s the period between exiting the plane and deploying the parachute. At that time, you are falling free, not free falling! It’s a semantic reason: In physics terms, freefalling is the downward motion of an object due to the force of gravity only.

Typically, skydiving lasts for around 5-6 minutes, with 50 seconds spent falling free and about 5 minutes riding down on a parachute. However, how quickly a skydiver lasts will depend on different aspects such as equipment used, weight, and altitude.

It might not sound like a long-distance, but it will be the longest seconds of your life! It is so because you get to encounter multiple sensory stimulations; thus, you tend to be more alert, and the time will drag itself more than ever before. For instance, tandem skydivers often jump off the airplane at an altitude of 13,500 feet, after which they deploy the parachute at 5,000 feet. In the first 1,000 feet, you calculate freefall time at ten seconds; then, after that, you count five seconds after every 1,000 feet. It means that you get to spend about 50 seconds in freefall.

On the other hand, for skydivers jumping alone and in probably a standing position, the descent rate is quicker, meaning very little time is spent in freefall. Professional jumpers leaving at 13,500 feet and jumping in this faster position will use around 35-45 seconds of freefall time.

How fast can one freefall?

The speed at which you fall free from an aircraft will depend on various determinants such as body position and weight. A comfortable place such as a belly-to-earth body position usually results in a 200kph or 120mph terminal velocity. For a head-down part, which means when you are upside down with the head facing the ground and your legs facing up, you get to the bottom at around 150-180mph, that is 240-290kph.

Remember that, typically, the terminal velocity for tandem skydiving is about 125mph, which is a little faster than the solo skydiver. It’s so because tandem is a pair but slower compared to head down skydiving. The duo uses drogue for the additional support, thus slightly slowing the rate of descent.

The importance of a freefall.

Freefall is the most fantastic experience ever while skydiving! There are no words to describe that moment as you exit the plane and begin falling via the air. It’s a great feeling to forget your problems, all the stress, and everything left in that space is pure bliss.

One thing that you don’t realize is how much one can do while in the air. With the common principles of aerodynamics, you could move around the sky. It’s only achievable when you tilt one arm down while the other face-up; you could as well turn your body around the center. Also, when you put your legs straight out, you get to propel yourself forward.

Sometimes, you will see competitive skydivers creating formations above the sky or probably flying at various orientations such as upside-down or seated positions. All that- and more – is a possibility during freefall. So, freefall is generally a playground! It’s another primary reason why it matters a lot to skydivers.

Calculating freefall time.

It’s effortless to calculate the amount of time spent during a freefall. On average, it takes a second to fall off 200 feet. With that said, it will take a little more time to accelerate to terminal velocity, the fastest you can fall during the jump, which is about 120mph. A few seconds after you leave the plane, you get to reach this speed. At that point, you will fall a bit slower and thus cover very little distance.

As earlier mentioned, in the first 1,000 feet, the estimate is about ten seconds, while after that, it takes 5 seconds for every 1,000 feet. Remember that the speed you at while skydiving is based on various factors. Keep in mind that the terminal velocity of an object isn’t the set speed, but it’s a combination of how heavy and significant it is and how much of a drag the shape creates.

Terminal Velocity

Most people wonder if one can control terminal velocity. The answer is yes! Though it’s hard to change the weight during freefall, it’s possible to change the shape and how much drag one can create. If you can manage drag, it lets you be in charge of speed; thus, you can match your fall rates. For instance, making yourself smaller makes you move faster since there is less drag, and vice versa is true.

When tandem skydivers are falling, not the only force of gravity acts upon them, there are other components. Though you might think that the air is literally “empty,” it’s made up of multiple invisible molecules.

As the pair falls, they get into a collision with the particles, which are pushed aside. It’s similar to how swimmers move their way via the water. The clash with the air molecules creates resistance or drag and protects one from falling at an infinitely increasing speed. That’s why your rate is in connection with something known as terminal velocity.

How terminal velocity affects skydiving

As from the sentences above, tandem skydiving pairs comprise a student, instructor, and parachute system. Everyone has a unique form and shape; even though the bunch of skydivers weigh the same, the bodies tend to have a different shape that could lead to a little less or more drag than the others.

Note that drag can also be affected by the way you dress; for instance, if you are in tight clothes, it’s more aerodynamic, hence faster than the person in baggy ones.

So, skydivers leave the aircraft together and intend to join in freefall; they tend to manipulate all those aspects to help them move around. You can achieve it by putting on weights to move faster and baggy clothes to move slower- or adjusting the body position to form less or more drag. Properly creating a drag is essential to help build up freefall skills. If one part of the body is moving faster than the other one, the body tends to lean towards that direction – the angle you create will then deflect air with a specific reason to create movement.

Reaching terminal velocity

When one thinks of how quickly a skydiver will fall after exiting the plane, you picture someone moving straight down. That’s not the case; the terminal velocity is not instantly achieved; it takes some time.

The moment you exit the aircraft, you are thrown forward on a similar trajectory as the aircraft. The gravity effect overhauls this momentum for ten seconds as you move on a substantial graceful arc into the freefall. In skydiving, that is referred to as “going down the hill.” It tends to visualize and indeed feels like a curve or a hill.

How the terminal velocity feels

The most prominent part about how fast one falls when skydiving is how fast the speed feels. As earlier mentioned, the terminal velocity of skydiving is around 120mph. A little less, a little more.

However, the speed sensation made from gravity alone is exciting, distinguishing it from other encounters where you move fast for thrills. That sensation of speed is purely created by gravity alone, and your body weight is like nothing else. It’s the whole reason that you should experience skydiving speed in your lifetime.


Discipline is a factor that affects how fast one moves. Various disciplines have different speeds:

Free Flyers

They use sophisticated body positions to move together in various orientations, especially head-down and head-up. If the body is vertical in those two positions, and you are using the limbs for control and drag, your average speed tends to be higher – often about 160mph.

Speed Skydivers

They try to fall as quickly as possible. Here, the skydivers point their heads to the ground as they streamline everything else; they achieve much greater speeds, with the latest world record being 373.6mph.   


The wingsuits are designed to lower the fall rate and change you into a human flying device. There are modern designs that are very interesting at flying, but they have no power and still use gravity to create motion, which counts as falling.

You can obtain a glide ratio of close to four feet forward for each foot you lose in height with good wingsuit pilots. It results in a decent speed rate of around 40mph – but a general forward speed of about 120mph.


The cruelest thing you should understand about the freefall speed is that the more you descend, the sooner you should open the parachute. The opening altitude ranges between 3000ft to 5000ft – it gives you some minutes of canopy flight before landing on the ground.

For a skydiver to enjoy freefall more, there are two methods to do that, you either exit the plane from higher up or go again and again. You could jump more elevated than the average tandem skydiving, which means you will spend about 60 seconds in freefall. Awesome, right?

Some people also do skydiving at night, which is a rare treat- particularly to people trying the activity for the first time. But it would be best if you only experimented when the conditions were right. It’s an unmatched cherry on top of an exciting and adventurous day.

Final word

With that said, even during a cloudless day, the preferred speed is 120MPH. Though the feeling will not be similar on a racetrack, it’s the best experience you will ever have. The 120 mph is used multiple times for marketing purposes; the correct answer is more involved in the skydiving speed, an excellent thing about the sports activity.

Skydiving might look simple and comes in various ways, such as go up, jump out, and then land; however, there is much more to grasp if you intend to dig deeper. You could even spend your entire life involved in skydiving sports activities, and you get to learn new things each day.

If you consider skydiving as an excellent experience that you would love to recall for the rest of your life, it’s a short amount of time you’ll need to spend doing it. Most people take photos and videos while they jump to relieve the feeling again and again. For now, you could give it an attempt. You will know how it feels to skydive.

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