How Does Height Affect a Parachute?
A person with a parachute deployed at a great height.

If you’re a skydiving enthusiast, there’s a solid chance that you’re already familiar with the way height affects a parachute. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re certain about your assumptions. Now, if that’s so, we’ve got something to talk about today! In the article that you’ll find below, we’ll answer the following question: how does height affect a parachute? 

That’s not all. We’ll also tackle some questions that pop up once type the main one into your search bar. Anyway, you’re bound to learn something new today. Therefore, grab your favorite beverage, sit back, relax, and read this piece on how height affects parachutes.

Height won’t have any effect on your parachute, except for the fact that the height of your jump will determine the timing of parachute deployment. Typically, you’ll have about 30-60 seconds of free fall, depending on the height from which you jump. 

If there’s something that bugs us the most, it’s the folks that only skim through the snippet. Therefore, you know what’s to be done!

Table of Contents

How does the size of a parachute affect it?

As we’ve mentioned in one of the opening paragraphs, we’ll tackle some other questions related to our main subject for today. That being said, let’s kick-start our talk by posing the following question: how does the size of a parachute affect it? 

Well, it’s all about elementary physics: the size of the parachute will have a crucial influence on its falling speed. To be more precise: the larger the parachute, the more air it will displace, and the slower it will fall. In other words, the larger the parachute, the greater the drag force (which, of course, is opposite to the force of gravity). It’s this drag force that’s providing the skydiver with the most resistance, slowing down the speed of its fall.

Now that we’ve got this out of the way, let’s consider if there’s something you’d call “the best parachute size”. Also, if you’re curious to know what skydiving sounds like, click right here.

What is the best size for a parachute?

Okay, so there’s no straightforward way of saying what’s the best parachute size since there’s no such thing as the best parachute size. It all depends on the individual skydiver, their size & preferences. You’ll need to consider your weight, and whether you’re looking for comfort, speed, or maneuverability. Once you’ve figured it all out, simply contact your local parachute loft. They’ll know what you need.

Also, once you’re talking to your instructor, ask about how you’ll stop your ears from popping or read this article.

Can a parachute be too big?

That’s right, a parachute can actually be too big for you. However, you’ll be happy to know that not a single instructor will let you jump with a parachute that’s simply too big. That’s because the whole thing represents a major safety issue. Here’s the simplest way of describing it: once a parachute is too big for an individual, that will mean that the surface area is simply too big in relation to the skydiver’s weight. That implies that the wing load is just too light, making your parachute very susceptible to winds and turbulence.

Let’s consider the last addition to our introductory section. Before that, you might want to check how one breathes while skydiving.

What are the factors that can affect a parachute?

Okay, so shall we speak a bit about the factors that affect a parachute before we tackle the main issue? If so, we’re able to differentiate between:

  • Force of gravity. It’s pretty darn obvious, ain’t it?
  • Air resistance. We’re talking about a so-called non-conservative force. It’s because the work this force does is entirely dependent on the downward motion of the falling object.
  • Terminal velocity. During the fall of a heavy object, the speed it reaches is labeled as terminal velocity. By opening a parachute, the skydiver modifies the terminal velocity, slowing it down until conditions for a safe landing are met.

So, yeah, a combination of these factors put together with the type of parachute you’re using and your personal traits will determine just about every little detail of your jump. Alright, we’ll end this a bit large of an introduction right here. Without further ado, let’s consider the main question this article has proposed: how does height affect a parachute?

A person at a great height, attached to a parachute.

How does height affect a parachute?

So, we’ve figured out how size affects a parachute, but what about height? Will certain altitudes have any effect on your parachute? Let’s find out together!

Okay, so the height of your jump will affect the timing of parachute deployment. Other than that, it won’t affect your parachute in any way. So, yeah, let’s talk about the height at which most parachutes are deployed.

First of all, let’s note that your average skydiving height, the height at which you exit the aircraft, ranges from 8000 or 10000 ft. to 13000 or 15000 ft. The altitude from which you’ll jump is determined by various factors:

  • the type of aircraft. 
  • the terrain’s starting field elevation. 
  • FAA flight restrictions. 

Also, skydiving from above 15000 ft. will demand the use of oxygen. Needless to say, that will add to the overall cost of the skydive. Not only that, but it will also enhance the risk quotient since it’ll open up the possibility of becoming hypoxic, a phenomenon in which there isn’t enough oxygen at the tissue level in order to maintain adequate homeostasis.

Anyway, let’s steer clear of bad vibes. You’re probably wondering how long you will experience free fall in relation to the altitude from which you’ll drop off. If you’re to fall from an altitude of 10000 ft., you can count on about 40 seconds of free fall. If you’re to fall from an altitude of 13000 ft, you can expect between 55 and 60 seconds of free fall.

Lastly, here’s some trivia: most skydiving operators use the same aircraft model – the Cessna 182 Skyline. It’s something you’d call the backbone of this fantastic activity since it has proven itself as a reliable workhorse. Not to mention that it’s pretty inexpensive to maintain it.

Let’s consider some other parachute-related info!

What is the lowest recorded height someone opened a parachute?

Okay, so you’ll want to know that the lowest recorded height at which someone opened a parachute (and survived the jump) is 95 feet, but keep in mind that the individual didn’t fall at terminal velocity (which is 182 feet per second). For someone that fell at the mentioned speed, 800 feet is the record. However, these numbers are way below the recommended values and downright suicidal, if you ask us (or just about anyone).

Speaking of heights, here’s whether you can skydive if you’re afraid of them.

What are the 4 types of parachutes?

Okay, so here we’ll consider the four main types of parachutes. So, shall we begin? Anyway, we can differentiate between:

  • Round-type parachutes. You’ll immediately recognize these if you’ve watched some WWII movies recently. Here’s the thing: round-type parachutes rely on the drag to slow a descent instead of having any lift. They’re manufactured from dome-shaped canopies. Also, you’ll find folks addressing them as jellyfish chutes (they’re rarely used among modern skydivers).
  • Cruciform parachutes. There are crafted to provide you with a steadier descent by decreasing oscillation. Here’s how you’ll recognize them: they’re square-shaped and mostly used by the military. Outside the military maneuvers, there ain’t many folks who use them.
  • Rogallo-wing parachutes. They’re meant to enhance forward speed, but decrease landing speed. Now, you’ll want to know that there has been a lot of experimentation with this type of parachute in the world of sport parachuting, but they’re still rarely used within the community.
  • Annular parachutes. These are ring-shaped parachutes. They pull the apex close to the load and have a lower drag factor than your average round-type parachutes.

Guess we’ve covered all of them. Hey, wait a second.

Wait, what about ram-air parachutes?

Oh, that’s right. We’ve somehow forgotten to mention probably the most popular type of parachute out there. Yes, most modern parachutes fit into this category, especially if we’re talking about competitive skydiving. Here’s why that’s so: the self-inflating airfoils, also known as parafoils, provide the jumper with much larger control over the speed and direction of the fall. Also, they solve a serious issue many older parachutes dealt with: the stress of deployment (they spread it). Also, the two layers of material enable air to come in from the vents in the front and form cells.

And that’s not all! Ram-air parachutes also use sail sliders that enable the skydiver to modify the canopy while falling, maintaining greater control over airspeed, descent speed, and the direction of the fall. Not to mention that vents and brake lines also add up to this.

You’re able to find many different sub-types of ram-air parachutes since they’re made by a large number of different manufacturers on a global scale. For instance, their main differences lie in the usage of different materials. Also, we need to mention the different design solutions such as stabilizers.

Lastly, are you wondering whether you can take your phone skydiving? If so, follow this link.

Final thoughts

Alright, folks, that’s about all there we’ve had in store for today. This was our take on how height should affect a parachute. If you’ve enjoyed this one, you might want to take a look at some of our other texts related to the topic of skydiving. Until next time!

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