Published: June 15, 2017
Wait Times: What To Know & Expect
What do people complain about when they show up for their first tandem skydive? Pretty much the same thing they complain about when they show up to any airport, ever: The wait. We'll be honest: How long the wait times are in skydiving is a Thing. It's an industry-wide challenge, in fact, and--in much the same way as it's a challenge for the aviation industry at large--there doesn't seem to be a change in sight.
It's not all doom-and-gloom, though, y'all: With a little planning, you'll be sitting pretty, even if you're sitting for a while. Here's what you have to know about skydiving wait times to emerge fresh and happy, no matter what.
There are lots of variables at play
Variables in the aviation world are pretty hard to predict. You've experienced these variables at play at big commercial airports, of course. The same factors influence the skydiving experience, but in different ways, because the procedures are necessarily different.
The first thing that you'll notice is that skydiving--like everything that happens in the sky--is at the mercy of the weather. Secondly, aircraft take-off times aren't scheduled. Planes begin to fly when slots are filled. After every few loads, the airplane needs to refuel. There's even a little bit of scheduling unpredictability in the air, as the skydiving aircraft may have to circle around if there happens to be other air traffic in the area.
It's a puzzle
Remember: The dropzone is putting together a very complicated puzzle with every load. Manifest is managing other tandem experiences, camera operators, solo freefall students and licensed jumpers in groups of varying sizes who have vastly differing goals in the air. To fit in everyone into a plane is like putting together a big puzzle on the fly, because--as opposed to the logistics of a scheduled passenger flight--there's no pre-determined schedule as to how many other jumpers to expect.
You're going to want to plan for (enjoyable!) downtime
While you should definitely plan on spending 3-4 hours at skydiving center, don't worry--it's not like you're going to be perched on a one-size-fits-nobody chair, waiting for a license renewal at the DMV. In fact, with a little foresight, you can make a super-enjoyable day of it, taking any wait times that may arise in stylish stride.
After all, there's plenty to while you wait. First off: Watching other jumpers--both tandem and sport--is a double-shot of goodness. It's entertaining, and it also helps you to build your knowledge of what to expect for your own jump. Bring a book or a magazine you've been meaning to dig into, and you'll accomplish something meaningful during your downtime. If you bring chairs, blankets, games and snacks, you can even make it a picnic.
You can also take advantage of your environment to expand your horizons. You can watch other skydivers pack their parachutes; you can talk to other skydivers; you can pick up one of our industry magazines (which is, by the way, a great insight to the sport.) Feeling social? Go live on Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram stories to share your journey!
What's the moral of the story? Expect to wait, and know that the skydiving center is doing everything they can to get you jumped in a timely manner. If you take ownership of the experience, your wait time can be the scrumptious icing on the cake.