How Long Skydiving Takes (and How to Save Waiting Time)

A tandem skydiving pair over a breathtaking view of the blue ocean and coastline. The person in the front is in a black and white jumpsuit, while the one behind is in a yellow jumpsuit. Both are equipped with helmets and goggles for safety. The parachute has just been deployed.
Time in the Air Flows Differently

After rigorous months of planning and waiting, finally, the long wait is over. The only thing left is what time should one arrive at the skydive center for your tandem jump. How long does skydiving take?

The freefall of skydiving takes between 40 – 60 seconds, while the canopy ride takes 5 – 10 minutes. On average, the total skydiving trip will take between 2.5 – 3.5 hours on weekdays and 3.5 – 5 hours on weekends, depending on the number of visitors. 

The reason why weekends take so much longer is due to an increased waiting time for the check-in, the check-out, and the video preparation. However, there are different ways to reduce these waiting times.

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How Long Is Each Step of Skydiving?

Skydiving is a scary activity that takes courage to perform. It is important to know the process and the steps in advance to calm down. The following is an overview of the steps you will follow before your skydive and how long each takes. Keep in mind that these are averages that vary from dropzone to dropzone.

StepsTime During WeekdaysTime During Weekends
Check-In45 minutes90 minutes
Training with Tandem Instructor20 minutes20 minutes
Wait Time – Boarding the Aircraft30 minutes60 minutes
Plane Ride20 minutes20 minutes
Freefall1 minute1 minute
Canopy Ride5 minutes5 minutes
Check-Out 30 minutes60 minutes
Waiting for Video45 minutes90 minutes
Total3 hours and 16 mins5 hours and 1 minute
An Overview of Each Step of Your Skydiving Experience

To save time at the dropzone, you either skydive during weekdays or early in the morning. Although it means getting up early, being in the first group avoids the delays of prior groups delaying your jump.

Most skydiving companies take bookings 48 hours before the jump, which means that many people book spontaneously. If you book two weeks in advance, you are likely to be in the first group that jumps on your day. 

There is a possibility of weather changes, and the jump may be postponed to another day. If everything works out, you will arrive at the dropzone at your booking time (this is usually the arrival time and not jump time) and you will be briefed with the safety instructions.

Speaking of safety, did you know that besides saving the skydiver’s life in many situations, there are other reasons to wear a skydiving helmet? Read my article about it here where I also went in detail about the different types of skydiving helmets, as well as the different provisions for it.

To know each step of the skydiving process and how long they take, let us go through them one by one. 

How Long Is the Check-in for Tandem Skydiving?

Upon arriving at the skydive center, the first thing that you need to do is to check-in for your tandem appointment. During the check-in, you will be asked to do the following: 

Fill Out a Waiver – When signing the waiver, you voluntarily release your legal rights and claims for damages towards the skydiving company. For example, the skydive center will not be held responsible and liable for any injuries or death during the activity. Even though skydiving is a safe sport and it is unlikely that anything will happen to you, you should spend around 10-15 minutes reading and fully understand the waiver before affixing your signature.

But also do not freak out if you read the waiver – it is normal that skydiving companies have you signed such a document. Some skydiving companies also offer an e-waiver that you can fill out online. Using the e-waiver is a good way to save 10-15 minutes of check-in. 

Add the Photo or Video Package – Skydiving is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many people, and getting video footage will be worth it even though it is expensive. If you have a video, you will be able to relive your skydiving experience even after years, and you can share it with your family and friends.

Deciding whether you want a photo or video coverage normally takes 5-10 minutes. If you are not sure if you want a video or not, this guide will help you arrive at a more informed decision.

Go to the Counter to Pay for Your Skydive Package – If you did not pay online already, you would have to pay via card or cash at the counter. If you are lucky and there is no queue, it will only take you a few moments. However, if there is a queue, it can take between 5-15 minutes. If you want to reduce this waiting time, many skydiving companies allow for online payments via PayPal or credit cards (MasterCard, VISA, American Express, Discover cards are accepted). 

Watch Orientation Video – Some skydiving companies require you to watch a 5-10 minutes skydiving orientation video that provides you with skydiving 101 (from pre-jump to the landing). It also contains the dos and don’ts of your skydive. For example, it explains how to exit the aircraft, how to get into an arch-like/banana position during the freefall, to never at any point grab your instructor’s hands (since it might cause injuries), and how to lift your feet towards the sky in a seated position for the landing process.

Training With a Tandem Instructor – You will also spend around 20 minutes meeting and training with your tandem instructor. They will conduct a safety briefing and give a few reminders. Your instructor may ask some personal questions to gauge your level of excitement and fear. It is also a good time to discuss any physical constraints you might have such that the instructors know what to address.

The tandem instructor will also calm you down if you feel very nervous and scared of the jump. For example, they will tell you how many jumps they already performed, and nothing has ever happened.

Asking questions and gaining an understanding of skydiving can help individuals feel more at ease and calm before the jump. If you’re interested in learning about the mechanics of tandem skydiving and actions you can take to enhance your landing safety, take a look at my comprehensive article about how tandem skydiving works before your jump! It covers all safety aspects and provides practical tips to make your jump as enjoyable and memorable as possible!

Duration of Skydiving Experience and Tips to Minimize Wait Time
Overview of the Skydiving Duration and Tips to Optimize Wait Time

How Long Is the Wait Time for Boarding the Aircraft When Skydiving?

After the check-in, the next step would be the wait time. It can be a domino effect, which means once there has been a delay of some sort, the wait time starts accumulating. It can be as short as 30 minutes or can take up to several hours.

  • Weather Delays – Skydiving is completely dependent on the weather conditions. Weather delays can be caused by ground fog, rain, clouds, high winds on jump altitude, and ground winds that are more than 20 mph (17 knots). For your safety, you need to wait patiently and be respectful of the changing weather conditions – even though it can be frustrating.
  • Air Traffic Controls – Most skydive centers are located next to airport facilities. As a result, the Airport Control Tower operates the airspace for both commercial and recreational activities. The skydiving pilot needs to seek permission from the ATC for every drop request. These can be frustrating at times, but it is important to follow the aviation safety regulations.
  • Aircraft Efficiency – Flying an aircraft is expensive to operate, and minimum slots should be met. If not, then it will need to shut down and wait for the arrival of the next skydiving appointment. It is also environmentally unfriendly to operate a half booked airplane. Aircraft efficiency is impacted by passenger delayed arrival at the drop zone. Other causes of delays are flat tires and any other problems with the aircraft.
  • Instructor Efficiency – Tandem instructors can also experience delays. They need to be fetched if they land offside dropzone at their previous jump. The tandem instructor might also need time to change clothes if the last student jumper vomited during the jump.
  • Packing Efficiency – If a tandem pair lands too deep in the landing area, it will take some time to get the equipment back to the packing team to be prepared for the next jump. A parachute malfunction can also cause delay since the skydive center will have limited equipment to use for that day.

Bringing a book, downloading a new game on your phone, or tagging along with friends are good ways to optimize your wait time. You can explore the entire drop zone and watch other skydivers as they glide in the sky or during landings. If you are lucky, you might also witness competitive skydiving practice and be amazed by their routines. 

Watching other skydivers land can help you prepare for your landing as well. Another way is to check out my skydiving 101: everything you need to know about your tandem landing. In this post, I explain everything you need to know about the landing including what mistakes you should avoid as a tandem student to ensure a safe landing!

How Long Is the Plane Ride When Skydiving?

Once you are harnessed, you and your instructor will be sent down to the airplane. You will be instructed to sit and bucked up on the floor or if there are seats available. The airplane ride will normally take around 20 minutes for jump heights between 10,000 to 13,500 ft.

Upon reaching the desired altitude, the tandem instructor will do a final gear check. They will also instruct you to wear your goggles and let you know that your time to jump is approaching.

The skydiving pilot will communicate with the ATC and inform the group if the airplane’s door can already be opened. The tandem instructor will also determine the exit position, whether you will jump first or second (kneeling exit or sitting exit). Just don’t forget to breathe and to arch like a banana.

How Long Will the Freefall Last When Skydiving?

Freefall time will vary depending on several factors such as jump height, the combined weight of the tandem pair, and body position. It holds true that the higher the altitude the longer the freefall. 

The standard recommended jump altitude for solo and tandem skydiving is at least 10,000 ft, which will allow skydivers to experience at least 40-60 seconds of freefall. Anything below 10,000 ft will not be ideal since tandem jumpers will not have enough time to fully enjoy the skydiving experience.

Type of JumpJump AltitudeFreefall Time
Tandem Skydive (Belly-to-earth position)10,000 ft – 13,500 ft40-60 seconds
Solo Skydive (Belly-to-earth position)10,000 ft – 15,000 ft50-60 seconds
Solo Skydive (Vertical position)10,000 ft – 15,000 ft30-40 seconds
Formation Jump18,000 ft60-90 seconds
Overview of Skydiving Altitudes and Their Freefall Time

For a typical skydiver, 16,000 ft is normally the highest height to jump from without needing to wear oxygen support. If an experienced skydiver wants to have a longer freefall, they can perform a HALO jump (jumps above 30,000 ft) and must use a specialized breathing apparatus.

The highest recorded jump to date was performed by Google Senior Vice President Alan Eustace on October 4 2014. He jumped from a new altitude record of 135,898ft (41,422 m) at a speed of 808 mp/h (1,300km/h). Alan set the new world record for the longest freefall of 4 minutes and 27 seconds. This was also enough to beat the previous freefall record of 4 minutes and 20 seconds made by Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner at an exit altitude of 127,852ft (38,969.4 m).

How Long Is the Canopy Ride When Skydiving?

Once the desired deployment height is reached, the instructor will signal (normally a tap on the shoulder) the tandem jumper that it is time to open the parachute. The ideal position when deploying a parachute is a belly-to-earth position.

Type of JumpDeployment HeightCanopy Ride
Tandem Jump
(Highest recommended)
6,000 ft (1,829m)6 minutes
Tandem Jump
(Lowest recommended)
4,000 ft (1,220m)4 minutes
Skydive Solo Jump
(No maximum height)
10,000 ft (3,048m)10 minutes
Skydive Solo Jump
(Lowest recommended)
2,500 ft (762m)2.5 minutes
Time of Canopy Ride by Deployment Height

Tandem instructors normally deploy the parachute between a height of 5,000-6,000 ft. Once the parachute is deployed, the average descent time is 1,000 ft for every one minute. It is also common that tandem instructors deploy the parachute higher than solo skydivers because it gives tandem instructors plenty of time to resolve any possible malfunction.

Some people wonder why the descent times of solo skydivers and tandem skydivers are similar once their parachutes have been opened. Tandem parachutes are much bigger than solo parachutes which leads to the conclusion that tandem parachutes should descent slower than solo parachutes.

However, tandem parachutes also carry two people. The parachute, therefore, has to counteract the increased gravitational pull with its bigger size. In fact, manufacturers design parachutes to meet a certain descent and breaking speed depending on how much weight they should carry. In other words, they designed the parachutes in a way that the descent speed for tandem parachutes and solo parachutes are the same.

It is also very common that people lose their sense of time during the canopy ride. As a result, it is very difficult to say afterward how long the canopy ride took. Time flows differently when you are in the air. Once under the canopy, you will feel that time goes faster since you are farther from the Earth’s surface compared to the time at the surface of the Earth.

If you want to know more about the lowest possible height to deploy a parachute (including the world’s records), check out this article.

How Long Is the Check-Out For Skydiving?

After the canopy ride, the tandem instructor will initiate the landing procedure. He will instruct you to lift your legs, start in front of you, and toes pointed towards the sky for sliding in a seated position. You should hold that position until the instructor tells you to put your legs down and stand up. 

The landing itself only takes about 2-3 minutes. You can also expect that your clothes and shoes might get dirty since there is a chance that you will land on the grass or a muddy area in the dropzone. 

After landing, your instructor will assist you in removing the harness. Once you are all set, you will need to stop by the check-out counter to sign the instructor’s logbook and get your skydiving certificate as proof that you skydived and performed your first jump. 

The entire process normally takes about 15-30 minutes, depending on the counter’s line. It is also a good time to decide whether you would like to schedule your next skydiving jump or have it as a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

You can hang out at the dropzone afterward since they have picnic areas that you can stay together with your family and friends. You can also watch other skydivers or make new friends within the skydiving community – it is up to you how long you will stay.

How Long Does It Take to Get My Skydiving Video?

After landing, your video is edited by a professional video editor and underlined with music to capture the entire experience (and because the windy background noise sucks). You can opt to stay and wait for the media to be edited on-site. Wait time is around 45 minutes, and it will be saved on a USB device or will be sent to you by mail afterward.

Suppose you are in a hurry and to save some time. You can get a raw copy of the footage and edit it yourself so you can leave the dropzone immediately. 

Another option is to receive the footage via dropbox. It will be done professionally, and you will receive the media via email within the day. It is fast, simple, and you can have the option to download the footage to any device.

Skydiving centers also provide a refund if, for any reason, you are not captured on the video. Even though it is done by a professional videographer, like any other equipment, cameras can encounter issues that might prevent capturing the special moment. 

Getting both a Handycam video from the tandem instructor and a third party video coverage is a good way to make sure that you will have a souvenir of your first skydiving experience. However, usually, it is not required and a hand cam video will be enough.

How Long Does It Take if You Are a Regular Skydiver?

For regular skydivers, normally, the entire skydiving is shorter. They no longer need to watch orientation videos, they do not need to complete a briefing with an instructor, and their canopy ride is shorter since their deployment height is much lower.

On average, one solo skydive will only take them 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Most experienced skydivers stay longer at the dropzone longer to chat with their friends from the skydiving community. At the same time, some perform more than one skydive a day. Other skydivers also pack their parachutes.

In conclusion, if you do not plan to stay at the dropzone for too long, then we recommend that you book an early morning jump on a weekday. Skydiving is a sport that will not take up too much of your time, but the 2-4 hours process is surely worth your time and effort and something to remember for the rest of your life. 

Are you still on the edge of whether you should start skydiving as a regular hobby? I wrote two distinct articles to aid in your decision-making process. The first piece outlines the benefits of adopting skydiving as a hobby, delving into the advantages of regular participation. Conversely, the second article explores the disadvantages of skydiving as a regular hobby. In this second article, I provide insights into the factors you should contemplate before immersing yourself in the realm of skydiving. By engaging with these articles, you’ll be equipped to make an informed choice about whether skydiving is a good fit for you.

Enjoy your freefall soon!

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Kai Schmidt

Hi, I'm Kai. The first time I jumped out of an airplane and experienced free fall was one of the most amazing moments of my life. For me, skydiving does not only stand for freedom and independence but being present in the moment and being respectful to others and oneself. Now I want to share what I’ve learned with you.

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This image shows insights into the typical duration of a full skydiving experience.