Why aren’t there any parachutes on my plane?

Although commercial air travel has become much safer over the years, some attentive flyers may still notice that passenger airplanes don’t have parachutes. Nervous travelers may feel exposed and fixate on their perceived risk.

Car manufacturers install airbags and seatbelts in every vehicle, so why wouldn’t airlines provide these emergency safety devices for their passengers? Believe it or not, a lack of parachutes on commercial flights is safer than if rigs were available. Here’s why.

Are you and everyone else on board trained skydivers?

Imagine yourself being handed a backpack full of intricately interwoven fabrics and lines with a pamphlet on how to properly activate and pilot the device. Now imagine this happening in an airplane between cramped aisles, with no time to think and no choice but to try your luck at operating this alien technology.

Skydivers have licenses for a reason.

The United States Parachute Association, presided over by the Federal Aviation Administration, is the organization responsible for governing and regulating the skydiving community. Under USPA guidelines, skydivers study and participate in numerous skill-oriented jumps, constantly being graded and quizzed from the ground, to the plane, to the sky and back again. USPA Training Centers (like Silicon Valley Skydiving & Silicon Valley) provide students with the expertise and progression paths to strengthen the skills necessary to skydive safely and expertly throughout their jumping journey.

Types of skydiving licenses

Under USPA, skydivers work through a series of licenses with progressively looser restrictions and increasing permissions. First is the A-License, with 25 total jumps, during which we’ll train you and track your skills through USPA’s A License Progression Checklist which, among other requirements, includes, 2 low altitude jumps, a packing course, AFF solo certification, and a check dive. The USPA A-License allows you to jump solo at any dropzone worldwide.

Next is the B-License, requiring 50 total jumps, 30 minutes of free fall and further skillset training. With a B-license you’ll earn permission to jump on drop zones that are in close vicinity to bodies of water like rivers, lakes and even the ocean. For that you’ll be required to attend a specific parachute control course and fill your parachute skills progression form, as well as attend a ‘water landing’ training session.

C-License is 200 total jumps and completing other specified maneuvers, such as landing accuracy within minimal distance to target.

The D-License is the most advanced achievable skydiving license. Reserved for those on a path to pro status, D candidates must complete 500 total jumps and obtain all previous licenses, and can then work toward earning their tandem and pro ratings.

D-License holders can go on large demonstration jumps (“demos”) and other crazy awesome exhibition jumps, including flying with banners or flags into tiny difficult landing spots. Some even jump with smoke and other pyrotechnics!

Other ratings

Other solo skydive ratings you may earn include the Coach rating, which authorizes you to instruct and grade fellow solo jumpers. You can even earn some quick cash on a coached jump.

Tandem skydive rating

Once you’ve hit the D-License mark and learned a staggering amount of skills and techniques, you may find yourself wanting to spread the joy of skydiving as a tandem instructor. Having learned enough to begin teaching others, you’re ready to share the sport in the most rewarding way: introducing first-timers to flight.

Remember that scenario we had you imagine earlier? On the plane with the backpack? Bring it back.

This time, you’re safely harnessed to the front of a professional skydiving veteran who’s so good that they jump with first-timers every day, you’re fully briefed on your (minor) expected participation, and best of all you aren’t responsible for correctly executing a bunch of things you never learned how to do. Your instructor learned all of that ages ago. You can relax.

The only thing you need for a safe first skydive is a pro tandem instructor. And gear. But we have that covered. Come book your jump!

word art from this blog post about skydiving and parachutes in the shape of an airplane