Skydiving Terminal Velocity

When we step out of the airplane and into the wide-open skies, our skydiving freefall speed is one factor of the thrill we experience. Gravity is pulling us towards the Earth’s surface at an acceleration of 9.8 m/s2 (32.2 ft/s2).

Is this ringing any high school physics bells yet? Well, at a certain point during the fall, you will stop accelerating and your fall towards the earth will maintain a constant velocity. This occurs when the air resistance (drag) is equal to the force of gravity, and this velocity is what’s known as terminal velocity.

What Determines Terminal Velocity?

Your skydive terminal velocity depends on several factors, including:

2. Your surface area exposed to the air
3. Acceleration due to gravity

The Equation

v =√(2mg/ρCA)

Where:

m = mass
g = acceleration due to gravity
ρ= air density. This number actually varies with altitude
C = coefficient of drag. This is an aerodynamics number used to model all of the complex dependencies of shape, inclination, and flow conditions on drag.
A = projected area of the skydiver. This is the amount of surface area positioned directly into the wind.

On average, skydivers reach a terminal velocity of about 54 m/s (or 177 ft/s)! That’s pretty fast! Skydivers often say that jump-anxiety just melts away once you hit terminal.