The True Skydiving Heights (Plus the Worlds Highest Skydives)

A skydiving tandem pair are captured in mid-air against a backdrop of a clear blue sky scattered with white clouds. They are both dressed in dark attire with helmets for safety, and their bodies are positioned in a classic freefall stance with arms and legs extended. In the top right corner of the image, a small white airplane can be seen, likely the one they jumped from.
Tandem Jumps Are Normally Made Between 10,000 and 14,000 FT

When booking your first skydiving appointment, you need to choose your preferred dropzone, your preferred jumping time and whether you want to jump solo or tandem. Some skydiving companies also allow you to pick the jumping altitude. So what is the usual skydiving altitude for tandem and solo jumps?

Tandem skydives usually have an exit altitude between 10,000 and 14,000 ft (3,000 – 4,300 m) depending on the dropzone. For solo skydivers, it is common to jump from an exit altitude between 10,000 – 18,000 ft (3,000 – 5,500 m) depending on their level of experience. The highest recorded jump was made from 135,898 ft (41,422 m).

While the jumping heights for tandem skydivers are relatively fixed, solo skydivers can increase their exit altitude with increasing experience. It is not unusual that more experienced skydivers try to push their limits and jump from either extremely high (HALO jumps) or extremely low altitudes (BASE jumps).

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The Usual Exit Heights of Skydives Depending on the Type of Jump

For skydivers to experience longer freefall, they need to exit from a much higher altitude; which comes with a price. Higher exit altitudes would require special equipment such as oxygen support for jumps above 15,000 ft, and an aircraft to lift the skydivers to the desired height.

Unfortunately, not all skydiving centers are equipped with the necessary aircraft and equipment, so it would be best to contact them in advance. Here are the jump altitudes for tandem and solo skydiving as well as the freefall time and cost per jump:

Type of JumpJump AltitudeFreefall Time
(Belly-to-earth position)
Cost Per Jump
Tandem Skydive 10,000 – 14,000 ft
(3,000 – 4,300 m)
40-60 seconds$220 – $300
Solo Skydive 10,000 – 18,000 ft
(3,000 – 5,500 m)
50-90 seconds$25 – $40
HALO Jumpabove 30,000 ft
(9,150 m)
90-120 seconds$750 – $3,000
BASE Jumps200 – 500 ft
(60 – 150 m)
1-3 secondsStrongly depends on the location
An Overview of the Typical Exit Altitudes per Type of Jump

To understand the factors that determine the jumping heights for tandem and solo skydivers, let’s go through them one by one.

Factors That Determine The Maximum Altitude to Skydive

The exit altitude is considered one of the most important aspects of skydiving because it determines how long skydivers are in freefall, what equipment they need, which stunts they can perform, and at what height they open their parachute.

As many skydivers want to jump from higher altitudes, they need to check the maximum allowed altitude for their dropzones which can vary from one dropzone to another. It depends on their location, their equipment, and their level of expertise. On top, it also depends on the level of expertise of the skydiver and the jump performed.

How the Location of the Dropzone Determines the Maximum Skydiving Height

The location of the dropzones is one of the most important factors that determine the maximum exit height. Jumping heights for skydiving are measured in “above sea mean level” (ASML). This means that someone who jumps from 10,000 ft, jumps from 10,000 ft above sea level.

However, if the dropzone is located significantly above seal levels, it restricts the true jumping height of the skydive. For example, if someone jumps from 14,000 ft above sea levels but the dropzone is 1,000 ft above sea levels, the true jumping height is only 13,000 ft. This means that the skydiver will have less freefall, and must deploy the parachute at a “higher” altitude.

In addition, the weather conditions also determine the jumping altitude for dropzones. Some dropzones are located in zones with strong winds at high altitudes. This does not only make the jumps more unpredictable but also often results in lower exit altitudes. Besides wind speed, the wind direction, the current cloud altitude, and rain determine the jumping altitude of skydivers.

How the Type of Aircraft Determines the Maximum Skydiving Height

Skydiving centers in the US use different types of aircraft or “jump planes” to accommodate their skydive passengers. When making a buying decision on the aircraft, possible exit altitude is only one factor that skydiving companies have to consider. Besides the cost of operation and durability of the aircraft, the available slots are important. The more passengers an aircraft can carry, the better it is for the profits of the skydiving company.

Here are the most common planes that are used by skydiving centers in the US.

  • Cessna Aircraft – Cessna 182 is the most common type of aircraft used by small skydiving centers. Unfortunately, it can only go as high as 10,000 ft and accommodate a total of 4 passengers (e.i. 2 tandem pairs per flight) plus the pilot. It is a relatively low operating cost aircraft and well-loved by skydiving operators.
  • Twin Turbine Aircraft – The most common twin turbine aircraft for skydiving is the de Havilland Twin Otter. It can lift jumpers to a height of 13,500 ft in just 13 to 15 minutes. It is so fast and can accommodate a big group of up to 22 jumpers. Twin Otters are also designed with high wings and large exit doors loved by skydivers for a stress-free and easy exit.
  • Skyvan – The sky van is the favorite of a large group of jumps since it has a 6 ft tall rear exit ramp and can lift to 23 skydivers. It can get you to an altitude of 12,000 ft in 13 minutes. It is widely used during competitions, and large formation jumps. However, it is a rare jump plane, and there are only a couple of dropzones in the US and Europe that own and fly the sky van.
  • Helicopters – It is occasionally used by skydive centers. It provides a VIP experience and a 360 degree of scenic view that you can enjoy before jumping out. It can climb between 8,000 and 10,000 ft (which is double the normal altitude of a helicopter ride) within 15-20 minutes and can fit up to 2 tandem pairs plus a videographer and pilot.
    Since helicopters fly steadily, there is no rush for you to jump, and you can even hang from the helicopter skids in any way you like and jump once you are ready. Although it is a bit more expensive and costs around $300 per tandem jump, you can be assured of a glamorous skydiving experience.
    Helicopters are also used to perform accuracy jumps above certain landscapes such as above waterfalls or mountains where it is important to exit at the exact right spot.

The type of aircraft does not only influence the jumping height but also the environmental harm of the skydive. If you want to learn about the environmental consequences of skydiving and how to reduce them, check out my post about how skydiving affects the environment. Afterwards, you will look differently at the environmental consequences of skydiving.

Type of Jump Performed by the Skydiver

During tandem jumps, the tandem student is harnessed to an experienced tandem instructor, and they jump between the height of 10,000 to 14,000 ft. This gives them a freefall time of around 40 to 60 seconds. The jump altitude varies depending on the skydiving centers; most centers in the US offer a tandem jump at an altitude of 14,000 ft so that tandem students get to experience longer freefall.

You can contact your dropzone to check what their exit altitude is for tandem jumps. Some skydiving companies even perform tandem jumps at 18,000 ft. However, this will be strongly based on availability and requires more preparation beforehand. It will also be more expensive than a skydive from 14,000 ft.

In contrast, solo skydivers can jump as low as 2,500 ft during “hop and pop jump”, wherein they experience minimal or zero freefall and immediately deploy their parachutes. It is done during level 8 of the Accelerated Freefall Course (AFF) or while enrolled in a canopy piloting course

With increasing experience, solo skydivers can already jump at the height of more than 15,000 ft; however, they will need to use an oxygen support system. They can even perform HALO jumps at more than 30,000 ft once they have a skydiving “B” license. 

If you want to learn more about the different skydiving licenses, how much they cost, and what you are allowed to do with each level, check out this article.

The US Air Force also performs HALO solo and tandem jumps during military exercises. In military operations, HALO jumps are used for delivering supplies and equipment. On a civilian HALO jump, the parachute opening usually happens around 2,500 and 4,000 ft. However, on the military side, their openings are much lower to enter the contested territory sneakily.

HALO Tandem Jumps Are Possible at Specialized Dropzones

Another type of jumping is base jumps. Base jumps are jumps from low altitudes that require special parachutes that open much faster. Base jumpers also usually deploy their parachutes seconds (or directly) after jumping.

The License and Experience Determines How High and Low Skydivers Jump

The jump height also varies depending on what kind of skydiving license you are holding. For example, a skydiving “A” license holder can typically jump between 10,000 and 15,000 ft. Experienced skydivers, who want to perform a HALO jump at around 30,000 ft, need to have a skydiving “B” license. For the “B” license, skydivers need to complete a minimum of 50 jumps and accumulate at least 30 minutes of controlled freefall time.

If you have a “B” license and want to perform a HALO jump, it is recommended to contact your dropzone in advance to check if they offer that and have it scheduled. The civilian cost of a HALO jump is ranging from $750 to $3,000. It is expensive because not all skydiving centers have aircraft that can lift you to as high as 30,000 ft and have oxygen life support to help you breathe since the air concentration at that height is very thin.

Another risky jump that only skydivers with at least 500 jumps and a “D” license can perform is stadium jumps. Stadium jumps are jumps where skydivers land in, for example, a football stadium during the break or before the game starts. It requires advanced skills and high levels of accuracy.

If you are reading this article without having done a skydiving certificate, be sure to read my guide about how to get a skydiving license. The guide covers everything you need to know including different courses, requirements, types of training, duration and costs. It also reveals some practical tips to make the most of your skydiving certification course!

Skydives That Require Higher Than Normal Altitudes

While the usual exit altitude is between 10,000 and 15,000; some jumps require higher altitudes. So far, regulators have not put forward any maximum jumping altitude as long as the FAA safety standards are met. Besides HALO jumps, here are two examples of jumps that exceed the normal exit altitude of skydiving.

Large Formation Skydives Require Higher Exit Altitudes

Formation jump is a skydiving discipline wherein multiple skydivers attach themselves to the other skydivers using the “grippers” on their jumpsuit or grabbing the other skydivers’ legs or arms.

During large formation jumps, skydivers need to exit at around 18,000 ft or above to achieve more freefall time to execute their routines. A typical exit altitude of 10,000 and 15,000 will only give skydivers around 40-60 seconds of freefall.

However, if they go to 18,000 ft, they add an extra 15 seconds of freefall which might be exactly what they need to complete their formation. Remember that formation jumpers do not only need the time to complete the formation, but also time to break and track away from other skydivers before deploying their parachutes.

Formation jumps are usually well-planned and every skydiver has an assigned pre-set jump altitude, position in the formation, and predetermined altitude on when they should break from the formation. The training for formation jumps is composed of ground formation practice as well as jumping in smaller groups before performing the large formation jump.

Skydivers also undergo several training camps, sometimes in different parts of the world, since the main goal is to attempt to break the previous world record.

Explore Authentic Skydiving Altitudes (Including the Highest Skydives Worldwide)
Overview of the True Skydiving Altitudes (Featuring the Highest Skydives on Earth)

The Military Trains HALO and HAHO Skydives Frequently

High altitude jumps are used by the military during training exercises and operations. But, due to its popularity, it is already being performed by dare-devil civilian skydivers. In the military, its purpose is to airdrop military personnel, supplies, and equipment, while civilian skydivers just want to experience longer freefall time and test their canopy piloting skills.

There are two parachute techniques for high altitude jumps. Firstly, the military performs HALO (High Altitude Low Opening) jumps which we already discussed before. Secondly, HAHO (High Altitude High Opening) jumps describe skydives where skydivers jump from high altitude and also open their parachute at high altitude. Both HALO and HAHO jumps require wearing oxygen masks and high levels of experience.

Speaking of the military, are you interested in knowing how elite forces use skydiving in their operations and if it is similar to what it looks like in Hollywood movies? If yes, in my article “do special forces use wingsuit”, I demystify the common myths about military skydiving operations. The answer will surprise you!

Five Astonishing World Records For High Skydives

While most skydivers jump for fun, others do it to push their limits and break a previous set world record. Below are the highest parachute jumps made for different skydiving categories.

The Highest Solo Skydive

On 14 October 2014, Google Senior Vice President Alan Eustace broke the previous record set by Felix Baumgartner. Alan made a stratosphere jump and exited at the height of 135,898 ft (41,422 m) above Roswell, New Mexico. He reached the desired height with the help of a helium-filled balloon. He also wore a specialized pressure suit with an oxygen life support that is similar to spacesuits.

Alan descended back to Earth at a speed of 808 mp/h (1,300km/h) and achieved the longest recorded freefall time of 4 minutes and 27 seconds. The project took 3 years of preparation and could only be performed with the help of Taber MacCallum (founding member of Biosphere 2) and the Paragon Space Development Team. 

If you are interested in understanding whether it is possible to jump from space to Earth someday, you can check out my other article. You might be surprised by what you read!

The Highest Recorded Tandem Skydive

On 25 October 2019, American James Wigginton and Pole Arkadiusz ‘Maya’ Majewski (Pilot) broke and set the record for the highest tandem jump. The tandem duo made a stratospheric jump from 37,417 ft (11,405 m). They free-falled for two minutes and reached terminal velocity at a speed of 224 mph.

The jump was made in honor of James’ late wife, Punya Wigginton who had died from cancer. James and Arkadiusz aimed to raise awareness of Thyroid Cancer and to collect funds for the Punya Thyroid Cancer Research Foundation.

The Highest Parachute Jump Made Without the Use of an Oxygen Supply

Normally jumping above the height of 15,000 ft requires the use of oxygen life support due to the thin concentration of oxygen at that altitude. On 14 November 1995, Patrick De Guyardon, a French skydiver, jumped from 41,600 ft without oxygen life support and managed to arrive at this dropzone safely. He did so by breathing oxygen inside the plane and then holding his breath as he exited and went on a freefall. 

Patrick was accompanied by a second jumper, Olav Zipser, who took photographs and used an oxygen supply. To expedite the speed of the fall (and thereby reducing the time that Patrick needed to hold his breath), they linked up and went on a head-down position. Their combined weight and body position increased the terminal velocity, and they both came back safely on the ground.

If you would like to learn more about skydivers’ breathing, be sure to check out my article about how skydivers breathe and how it affects the overall experience. It clarifies all misconceptions and gives practical tips on the right breathing!

The Highest Skydive Made Without a Parachute

On 30 July 2016, Luke Aikins jumped out of an airplane from the height of 25,000 ft without a parachute or wingsuit and survived the fall. He did so by landing on the center of a 10,000 square-foot net made from Spectra (high-density polyethylene cord), which absorbed the force of his impact.

One of the biggest challenges of the jump was to track to the designated net and land in the center of it. As you can imagine, it required a high level of accuracy to find and land into the net.

At 200 meters above the net (or about one second before impact), Luke quickly rolled on his back and tucked his arms and chin. He trained this maneuver extensively before the stunt because it was the most difficult part of it. 200 meters above the ground is still high enough to land 10-20 meters off your designated target. So when he turned around, he had to be sure that he would hit the net.

Luckily, Luke succeeded and set the world record as the first person to jump out of an airplane without a parachute. The stunt was called “Heaven Sent,” and it took two years of careful planning. Luke is also one of the most experienced skydivers who had made 18,000 jumps before and even performed a movie stunt for Iron Man 3. He made the jump above Simi Valley, California, and freefall for about two minutes.

A Stunt That Will Not Be Easily Repeated

The Largest and Highest Formation Skydive

According to the FAI World Record, the largest and highest formation jump is a 400-way skydive by the “World Team”. It was performed in Udon Thani, Thailand in cooperation with the Thailand government. On 8 February 2006, the members jumped out of 5 C-130 Hercules aircraft at the height of 25,400 ft.

The group was able to successfully create a flower and to hold the formation for about 4.3 seconds. In order to make the formation more colorful, they wore white, red, and blue jumpsuits.

In conclusion, altitude matters a lot in skydiving. It is important to always have a plan before you even board an aircraft, so determine your exit altitude as well as the deployment altitude beforehand. Then you can have a fun and safe skydiving adventure.

Enjoy your freefall!

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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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The image illustrates the genuine heights of skydiving, accompanied by exceptional examples of the highest skydiving jumps across the globe.