Chris Needles explains the emphasis of the training programs.
"We have a training system that stresses doing things participants have to do to survive. They know more than anything else which handle to pull and when."
Even though there is a rigorous training course, and despite Needles' assurance that skydiving equipment seldom fails, it is hard to get past the terror of freefalling through the sky.
For those that can't shake that fear, there's indoor skydiving.
Skydiving Without the Sky
SkyVenture, in Orlando, Florida, has one of the country's only indoor flying chambers. It is a tunnel, 100 feet (30 meters) tall and 12 feet (3.6 meters) wide, equipped with five fans meant to simulate the experience of falling at speeds up to 120 miles per hour (200 kph).
According to Trevor Thompson, the executive vice president of SkyVenture, "The basic concept was to give people that don't have the courage or age (to jump out of a plane) the experience of freefalling in a safe and comfortable environment."
Because the wind resistance is the same as in freefall, Thompson says, "If you take out the fear factor, the sensation in the indoor chamber is very much the same."
Each year more and more people are gathering up their courage and taking the plunge from the skies. And while there are inherent risks, experienced skydivers say serious injuries and fatalities are few and far between.
National Geographic Today's Kristin Whiting, who had the jitters before her jump, couldn't wipe the smile off her face after she reached the ground.
"That was incredible! Coming down I was just amazed! I recommend everyone tries a little flying."
See Whiting try skydiving on National Geographic Today, airing in the United States on July 12 at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
SOURCES AND RELATED WEB SITES