Skydiving: Parachuting Pleasures and Perils
By KRISTEN STERNBERG | NIE Educational Consultant
You hear a plane droning overhead. Grabbing your binoculars, you focus on the aircraft just in time to see passengers leap, one by one, from its open door. The jumpers spread their arms and legs in freefall, and you watch them hold their poses for a full minute or more. During this time they fall over a mile—reaching a speed of about 120 miles per hour. Then, colorful parachutes begin to appear. The parachute deployment (opening) results in an abrupt change in speed. After the 'chutes catch the wind, you watch in fascination for some minutes as they soar above you while they descend, seemingly without effort, safely to the ground.
About 10 to 12 skydivers are competing in the World Cup Speed Jumping competition at Skydive DeLand. (Photo: News-Journal/Peter Bauer)
Until recently, most people considered skydiving to be a sport that only professionals or extreme risk-takers would try. Lately, its popularity has increased. According to an article published recently in The News-Journal, the sky diving business is thriving. A relatively new sport, it is growing to include synchronized teams, stunt divers and national and international competitions. For example, the DeLand Majik are a local team in training for World Championship Competition. On another front, speed divers, sometimes known as "downhill speed racers," are pushing existing records by falling at speeds of up to 300 miles per hour!
Skydiving is not easy. Because of the special risks involved, kids, even those who have a parent or a guardian's permission, aren't allowed to jump. Eighteen years is the minimum age for skydiving. As the number of people who take to skydiving goes up, age notwithstanding, so, however, does the number of serious injuries. Rigorous equipment standards and the latest, high-tech equipment greatly reduce that risk. All parachutes must be inspected before every jump. As in most sporting activities, safety depends on the use of proper equipment and procedure.
To make sure everyone is ready for skydiving, training is required before a parachutist ever leaves the ground. Two basic factors influence freefall: one's body and the wind. With practice, skydivers learn how to move and position themselves for maximum control over their descent. Novice (new or inexperienced) jumpers must jump in tandem (together) with an experienced skydiver. To jump solo, a skydiver must complete a certain number of supervised jumps as well as complete more advanced training.
Do skydivers truly, as some people claim, have a "death wish?" Of over three million jumps in the year 2000, there were 30 deaths; about the same rate as many other extreme sports. On the other hand, each year, hundreds of thousands of new skydivers successfully take their first plunge into thin air!
Try these interesting activities using The Daytona Beach News-Journal
1. How are skydivers influenced by the weather? Turn to the weather page in The News-Journal. Using the extended forecast provided, rank each day's predicted weather in terms of how favorable you believe it will be for skydiving. As you work on this activity, consider factors such as air temperature, wind speed, precipitation and visibility. Create a chart that shows how these and other variables combine to produce both favorable and unfavorable weather conditions for skydivers. Ask a teacher or other adult to listen while you summarize your findings. (Sunshine State Standards: SC.C.2.2.2, SC.C.2.2.4, SC.H.1.2.2)
Royal Marine Capt. Charlie Morgan, right, boards one of the Skydive DeLand jump planes along with fellow Marines Adam Lison, left, and Alistair Mciver in DeLand on Thursday. 22 Royal Marines completed jump school in only three days. (Photo: News-Journal/Kelly Jordan)
2. All skydivers must take lessons before they are allowed to jump. Learning how to jump safely and accurately may not only save lives, but can also increase confidence and enjoyment. Lessons aren't reserved just for skydivers, however. In many areas—sports, music, academics, art and dance are just a few examples—people take lessons so that they can better their skills. Use The News-Journal to find articles, display ads or classified ads that offer lessons or training in an activity you're interested in. Figure out how much money you would need to earn to take lessons for one year. Research ways you can make it possible. (Sunshine State Standards: MA.A.3.2.2, MA.A.3.2.3)
3. "Skydive" is a compound word, combined from two separate words to form one, larger one. The English language contains lots and lots of compound words. How many can you identify in a current News-Journal? Start your own dictionary by alphabetically listing all that you find. Add your own drawings, as appropriate, to illustrate the meanings of the words. Use your dictionary to teach a younger friend or sibling about how words work. (Sunshine State Standards: LA.A.1.2.3, LA.A.1.2.4, LA.A.2.2.5, LA.E.2.2.2)
4. As you can probably imagine, sunrises and sunsets are popular times for parachutists to jump. Consult The News-Journal over a period of several weeks. Each time, jot down when the sun rises and sets. When you have determined a pattern in these two events, predict the times they will take place one week from today. Be sure to check the newspaper on that day, to see how accurate your predictions were. (Sunshine State Standards: SC.H.1.2.2, SC.H.2.2.1, SC.H.3.2.2)
5. Without airplanes, skydiving, as we know it, could not exist. Airplanes, and aviation in general, are important to Central Florida for many reasons other than skydiving, though. How many can you think of? After brainstorming for a moment, get ready for a scavenger hunt! Your task is to search The News-Journal—news and sports articles, illustrations, comics, ads and more—for anything to do with aviation. Sort your results by how each item relates to one of the following categories: History, sports, education, entertainment, news, business and others you think of. Give yourself a pat on the back if you find six or more items! (Sunshine State Standards: SS.A.1.2.1, SS.A.3.2.1, SS.B.2.2.2)
A copy of Florida's Sunshine State Standards can be found at intech2000.miamisci.org.
Check out these links to learn more
Why do people jump out of airplanes? Find some possible answers and then take a look at some interesting skydiving photos, at this web site devoted to the sport Be sure to click on Frequently Asked Questions to get even more of your questions answered. skydiving.com
You can learn about the physics or skydiving in words and through animations at this site created by students in an Illinois classroom. Have fun! www.glenbrook.k12.il.us/
"If riding in an airplane is flying, then riding in a boat is swimming," reads the home page of this site. To learn its authors apply that quote to skydiving, visit this extensive site. Don't miss out on the links to skydiving history and culture, safety and training, equipment and even humor. www.afn.org/skydive
Skydiving, according to this Cyber Parent site, is not for the faint of heart! Check out these cool descriptions of different kinds of jumps. www.cyberparent.com/sports/skydive.htm
Some skydivers who are extremely experienced in solo jumping enter into team competition. Check out team news and profiles of your favorite skydiving superstars at The National Skydiving League site. www.skyleague.com/
Skydive DeLand (local to Central Florida) attracts parachutists from all over the world. Visit their web site to learn when skydiving events are scheduled. If possible, arrange a visit to watch the action. www.skydivedeland.com
The Newspaper Association of America's web site contains links to many newspapers in the U.S. and around the world, which may contain additional news stories about this topic. To access the newspapers at the site, select a state. Click on the "Internationals" button to view choices from other countries.
The Daytona Beach News-Journal NIE Program, published June 3, 2002
HICI Special Report — Skydiving: Parachuting Pleasures and Perils