Is Tandem Skydiving Safer Than Solo Skydiving?

A skydiving tandem pair - the skydiver in a red helmet and yellow and black suit and his student in a blue helmet and white suit are in freefall above a landscape of mixed green and brown, under a clear blue sky.
Just Enjoy The Tandem Ride

For many people, skydiving is an unforgettable and once in a lifetime experience. Before performing the skydive, people are often not sure whether to do a skydiving solo or a tandem jump. As a result, they ask the question: which one is safer – skydiving solo or tandem? 

Tandem skydiving is 2.5 times safer than solo skydiving. That being said, skydiving solo is also extremely safe with only one fatality in every 220,301 jumps. In other words, you are more likely to be hit by a meteorite than to die from a skydive. 

Many people think that solo skydiving is safer because the parachute carries less weight and people are not attached to each other. However, the opposite holds true for a few surprising reasons. 

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Why Tandem Skydiving Is Safer Than Solo Skydiving 

Statistically speaking, tandem skydiving is much safer than solo skydiving because there is only one student fatality in every 500,000 jumps compared to one fatality in every 220,000 skydiving solo jumps. In other words, the likelihood to die on a tandem skydive is 0.00020% and 0.00045% on a skydive solo jump. 

The main reason why tandem skydiving is so much safer is because you jump with an experienced instructor. Tandem instructors are less likely to make any mistakes because they are experienced skydivers and they undergo special safety training in order to get their tandem license. 

The only reason why we still have skydiving accidents is because of human error. 

The United States Parachute Association (USPA), which organizes the safety training and examines tandem instructors, they also requires tandem instructors to have completed at least 500 skydives before they are even allowed to start their tandem license course.

In reality, most of the tandem instructors have performed thousands of jumps before they start their license. Over time, they will become even more experienced as they continue to add more jumps including tandem jumps to their jump count.

I remember that my tandem instructor had a track record of more than 4,000 jumps – so I felt very safe during my first skydive. 

Secondly, tandem instructors undergo special safety training before they can become a licensed tandem instructor. In this training, they are confronted with a number of challenges such as low or high pulls.

Are you interested to know what it takes to become a tandem instructor? Read my article about the true requirements for skydiving tandem instructors where I list all relevant steps and secret tips to excel at the job.

Some courses even simulate a skydive in which the student panics and moves around with his arms and legs. The tandem instructor needs to counterbalance these movements and maintain the right position before deploying the parachute. They only get the license if they are able to do so, so you can be ensured that the tandem instructor will be able to offset any of your mistakes.

Tandem instructors also have a good sense of the mood of the student and will calm you down if they feel like you are nervous before the jump.

Even if you panic during the jump, the tandem instructor will be able to bring you down safely.

If you consider these two factors it is not surprising anymore that tandem skydives are much safer than solo ones. The majority of solo skydivers are much less experienced than tandem instructors. As a result, they are more prone to human errors and are likely to react slower to any turbulence during the jump.

If we look at the major causes of skydiving accidents you will understand that human error is the only reason why we still have skydiving fatalities

Why Human Errors Are The Reason Of Skydiving Fatalities 

I compiled a list of the most common causes of skydiving accidents below. As you will see, they all happen due to human error or could be prevented by a quicker reaction of the skydiver. 

Parachute Malfunctions On A Skydive

Even though it might not sound as to be caused by human error, parachute malfunctions are usually caused by incorrect and sloppy parachute packaging (and not equipment reasons).

Skydiving companies are audited on a regular basis so you can be ensured that the parachute will be packed properly. In addition, even if the first parachute was to fail, you and the tandem instructor are still equipped with a reserve parachute. The reserve parachute has to be repacked by a certified parachute rigger every 180 days so the likelihood of wrong packaging is 0%.

In contrast to tandem skydiving, solo skydivers often pack their main parachute themselves and they might get sloppy after a number of jumps. 

Wrong Body Position When Deploying The Parachute

Having a wrong body position upon deploying can result in line entanglements which prevent the parachute from opening. Again, this is more likely to happen to a single skydiver with less experience than to a tandem instructor who is able to bring the student in the right position even if the student panics.

In most of the cases where the skydiver opened the parachute in a wrong position, he did not do so intentionally but opened the parachute by accident.

Unintentional opens happen for beginners but not for tandem instructors. 

The 5 Major Causes Of Skydiving Accidents
The Major Causes Of Skydiving Accidents

Collisions With Other Skydivers Or Airplanes

Skydivers can either collide during the freefall or during the canopy ride. This error often happens during formation stunts or when one skydiver pulls the parachute too early.

When you perform a tandem jump, the frequency at which the skydivers jump out of the airplaine is decreased i.e. the time between the jumps is higher. As a result, the distance between the skydivers will also be higher and hence it is unlikely to collide during the freefall or the canopy ride.

Tandem instructors are experts in steering a canopy and in tracking (moving through the air). They also observe their environment rigorously which makes it less likely for them to collide with any other object or skydivers. 

Have you ever wondered how skydivers maneuver during freefall and safely navigate back to the ground? While it may look effortless, skydiving requires precise control and technique to achieve the desired outcomes. In this blog post, I delve into the different maneuvers skydivers use to control their movements and speed during freefall.

Landing Problems Are The Biggest Cause Of Injuries For Tandem Skydives

Although landing problems are not the number one reason for fatalities it is the number one reason for injuries such as broken legs or twisted hips. Landing problems either occur when the skydiver has too much speed, does not have the right body position or lands offsite the drop zone.

As the tandem instructors know how to steer the canopy, they always find their way to the drop zone which cancels out the risk for landing offsite. Solo skydivers, in contrast, might drift due to strong winds in the sky. Not only do they get lost when landing somewhere else, but they might also hit objects at the ground such as barbed wire or rocks. 

In order to minimize injuries during the landing procedures, tandem instructors are trained to land properly and maintain the right landing speed.

If you are performing a tandem jump soon, make sure that you check out my skydiving 101: everything you need to know about your tandem landing. It explains in detail what you as a tandem student can do to ensure a safe landing!

However, they do rely on the cooperation of the student. If the student does not lift his or her feet, he might twist his legs upon landing. 

No Pulls/Low Pulls Do Not Happen On Tandem Skydives

Not pulling the parachute will result in death independent of whether you perform a tandem jump or a solo skydive. Low pulls are also likely to result in death, however, there are two major reasons why it is less likely to happen to a tandem instructor.

Are you curious about how tandem skydiving feels different from solo skydiving? To learn more about the striking differences, check out my article about the 13 differences between tandem and solo skydiving.

Solo skydivers might enjoy the scenery and the freefall so much that they forget to pull the parachute or they pull it too late (although this problem mostly was resolved due to automatic deployment). While the world record for low parachute deployment is around 800ft – the absolute minimum altitude an experienced skydiver should open is at 1,200ft. 

If you want to know more about the minimum altitude to open the parachute and why athletes do not try to set world records for it, check out this post that I wrote.

The second reason for low pulls is problems during the freefall such as not having the right body position or line entanglements when deploying. As explained earlier, experienced skydivers are more reliable to stabilize their body position during the freefall and will react quicker to any problems than less experienced skydivers. 

Can You Do A Skydive Solo Before A Tandem Jump?

It is possible to jump alone even without any prior skydiving experience and without having performed a single tandem jump beforehand.

In order to do so, you can enroll in an Accelerated Free Fall (AFF) course or a Static Line course that teaches you the basics of skydiving. At the end of both courses, you will receive an internationally valid certification, that allows you to skydive solo without an instructor that jumps beside you. 

If you do not want to complete a skydiving course, it is much more difficult to perform a solo jump. Some skydiving companies give you the option to jump with two instructors at your side that will keep you in a stable position and help you in case of any problems. However, it will be much more expensive than a simple tandem jump and you will be required to do much more theory beforehand.

I would also not advise you to do that because you will not be able to enjoy the jump as much as a tandem jump. The nice part of a tandem jump is not only that they are safer but you can solely focus on the amazing feeling of freefalling and enjoying the scenery. 

That being said, most skydiving companies will also not give the option of a solo skydive without enrolling in one of their skydiving courses. Even in these courses you usually start off with a tandem jump.

It is also understandable because the skydiving companies want to maximize your safety and your experience, which is easier if you start with a tandem jump. In the end, you might pay a lot of money for the course, so you should be sure that you will enjoy it. 

Enjoy your freefall!

Guide cover with title: Tandem Skydiving Newbie's Guide
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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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