Skydiving in Hollywood vs. Real Life

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Skydiving in Hollywood vs. Real Life

The Hollywood lens of glitz and glam has been turned on nearly everything—skydiving included. We all know Hollywood has a way of taking things over the top and depictions of skydiving are no different. While it’s a great way to get people engaged and interested in this awesome sport, it serves to inspire some misplaced expectations. Maybe, it was the epic wingsuiting scene from the recently revamped Point Break that got your gears turning, got you to start googling, and lead you to us! We aren’t denying how cool it all looks; more so, we just want you to know what to actually expect. (p.s. that scene we just mentioned is hands-down one of the most dangerous stunts that has EVER been filmed). To set appropriate expectations, it is important to understand where Hollywood and reality diverge when it comes to skydiving. So, let’s get right down to it and take a look at Skydiving in Hollywood vs. Real Life.


In this scene, undercover FBI agent Johnny Utah has been pressured into skydiving by Bodhi and the rest of the gang of robber/surfers Roach, Grommet, and Nathaniel. There are a few things to note here: they haphazardly gear up while on the aircraft, Johnny Utah receives no training (yet is able to fly in a stable manner), and they are able to chat throughout freefall just as if they were sitting down to tea.

As you can see, the group ‘throws’ the gear on fairly nonchalantly just prior to exiting the aircraft. While it looks cool, that is not the way things are done, and here is an example of Hollywood license at hand. For starters, jumpers would have their gear on before they even were allowed to board the aircraft! You won’t catch your tandem instructor or any other jumper without a rig on their back while in the aircraft. There is no hustle just before exit to get geared up because it has already happened well before. While things may be tightened and adjusted while on the plane and before exit, you are harnessed while on the ground! Not to mention, plenty of gear checks have been done throughout. Skydiving isn’t a sport where you can afford to be lackadaisical.

This scene though is pretty neat because it depicts a specific type of jump you may see licensed skydivers planning and completing. The dive flow (or plan for the skydive) was to do a Speed Star. A Speed Star involves jumpers piling one right after the other out of the aircraft as quickly as possible. After exiting, they then attempt to come together to build around. While it is quite a bit of fun, skydiving is much more complicated than it looks, and a Speed Star is a tad unsafe to attempt on your first skydive. Your first-time completing a solo skydive requires quite a bit more training than the film indicates. You aren’t able to just throw on gear and go. While fun, skydiving is serious stuff, and it should be approached respectfully. If you are interested in learning to skydive, check out our AFF ground school.

Talking while in freefall isn’t as easy as they make it seem, and in reality, you aren’t able to communicate so clearly. Your tandem instructor may hear you squeal, but no one else will—certainly not someone hundreds of yards away from you! So how do we communicate in freefall? Well in skydiving, we use a variety of hand signals. In fact, Hollywood got this one right! The hand signal Bodhi gives Johnny Utah is a legitimate hand signal that indicates it is time to deploy your parachute! Though, we would like to mention that, in this “you you pull” scene, Bodhi tells Johnny Utah to pull at a measly 1000ft. This altitude makes most skydivers hearts drop! The majority of trained and licensed skydivers deploy a parachute around 3,500ft, and on your tandem, you will be under canopy quite a bit higher- try 6,000ft.

Now let’s talk about this scene where Johnny Utah jumps without a parachute. Unless you are, a professional willing to take unheard of risks like Luke Aikins or Antti Pendikainen, this is not something you should try.  Bodhi is falling around 120mph; at pull time, the snatch force of the deploying parachute would have been enough to dislodge Jonny Utah. To be honest, if you’re planning on making more than one skydive, make sure you do it with a parachute.


So, this skydive instruction scene in Fandango lasts a whole 45 seconds (give or take). Truman swiftly explains the exit and deployment sequence of a system called static line. Even those of us that skydive get a little lost in his explanation. So, we bet your face was as befuddled as ours while he did! On your skydive, you will receive quite a bit more training prior to your jump. You will sit through a brief group training session. Following this training, you will be paired up with an expert tandem instructor for a more detailed, one-on-one type training session. Your tandem instructor will walk you through a description of the skydive and will help you gear up. The tandem instructor you jump with is well qualified. In order to be issued a tandem rating, an individual must have over 500 skydives, a d license, and have been in the sport a minimum of three years. All of that takes a lot longer than 45 seconds.

Finally, Let’s Talk About the Movie Dropzone.

While U.S. Marshals Terry and Pete Nessip are taking computer expert Earl Leedy to a maximum-security prison, the Boeing 747 airliner they are on is hijacked. These masked terrorists blow a hole in the airliner and jump out of the opening. Hollywood made this one look just about as intense as it would be in reality, but they did fail to cover a few things.

First, the airliner would be traveling about 30, 000 feet AGL.  A skydive from that height would be seriously chilly. We don’t mean a brisk, refreshing chilly either. We mean FREEZING. The temperature drops to around 3 degrees for every 1,000 feet you go up in elevation. So, you are looking at a temperature of about -68.8 degrees Fahrenheit.  Additionally, a jump from 30,000ft provides nearly 2 minutes of freefall. Honestly, this is a little over the top! Such extreme high-altitude jumps require supplemental oxygen and are not really viable for a first time tandem skydive. Here at Skydive San Marcos, jumps are completed from 13,000 feet. We are pretty pleased with the altitude we are able to achieve because it is higher than the majority of drop zones around!

At Skydive San Marcos, we can help you get as close to a Hollywood production as possible with the purchase of one of our video packages for your tandem skydive! You may not be making a jump from a 747, but you will be enjoying a ride to altitude in a Blackhawk Grand Caravan and get to experience freefall for a little more than 60 seconds.