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Skydiving is a popular form of extreme sport in which you exit a plane at anywhere from 10,000-18,000 feet (3,050-5,500 m) and fly / fall through the air. Many people go skydiving because they enjoy the feeling of freedom and the adrenaline rush that it gives them.
When you first exit the plane whilst skydiving, the force of gravity far outweighs that of air resistance and this causes you to rapidly accelerate downwards. After a few seconds, and a several hundred or a thousand feet, the two forces become equal and you will reach a speed of around 120-180 mph. Once you pull your parachute cord, and your main canopy releases and fills with air, you will then start to decelerate because of the sudden increase in air resistance and will float down at about 10 mph, which is a safe enough speed at which to make a landing.
Your parachute is made up of several component parts, which are contained in a single pack that you wear on your back. Another standard piece of skydiving equipment is the automatic activation device (often shortened to just AAD). This a sophisticated hand held computer that measures elevation and descent rate and automatically cuts a strap to deploy your parachute if you fail to do so by the appropriate height. An altimeter is a piece of equipment that lets you know how far above ground level you are and how fast you are descending.
Skydiving suits are worn to give protection from the wind whilst in the air and cuts and scratches on landing. A skydiving helmet is necessary because there is a possible chance of head trauma when hitting the ground. Landings should be made on your feet, and it is very rare for a skydiver to have to hit the ground and roll, but it is possible for a gust of wind, a trip or other event to put a skydiver's head on the ground. They also typically incorporate two-way radios which allow in-the-air and air-to-ground communication.
Your skydiving equipment needs to be thoroughly checked prior to taking off and should ideally be done by a professional. This is a critical step and should never be overlooked due to time constraints. Always insist on it and watch it being done; do not accept someone simply saying that it was done earlier.
The risks involved when you go skydiving (malfunctioning equipment, turbulence, mid-air collisions, etc.) are relatively low, with only about 1 jump every 100,000 leading to a fatality, but it is important to be alert and safety concious at all time. The weather also plays an important role in your safety whilst skydiving and any reputable skydiving school should not allow you to jump in windy or potentially stormy conditions.
The most important thing to do is to be aware at all times. If you are constantly alert to what is going on with you, your equipment and the environment around you, then you are well placed to pre-empt or rectify any problems before them become serious. Never relax until you have safely landed on the ground; even if everything seems to be fine and in control whilst in the air, everything could change in an instant.
Depending on the type of skydiving you want to do - Tandem, Static Line, AFF (accelerated free fall) - you may spend anywhere from an hour to eight hours in training, which will cover: some basic physics about how the body and parachute work together; how to use the equipment; how to jump from the plane; the different falling / flying techniques; how to land safely.
It can be a fairly expensive to go skydiving , with jumps running anywhere from $50 to $200, depending on the type of skydive being performed and the location and reputation of the skydiving school. Even with a relatively high price tag it is still great value though, as it is something that you will remember, and can talk to others about, for a lifetime.