Why is there a weight limit for skydiving?

If you go skydiving, you’ll weighed and/or asked what your weight is. While this might seem bizarre, there’s a really good safety reason behind it!

All skydiving harness-and-container systems and all skydiving reserve canopies have to be certified by the Federal Aviation Authority before they can be sold and put into use. This is done through the TSO (Technical Standard Order) system. A TSO is a minimum performance standard that an “article” has to hold up to. The “article” in our case is a harness and container or the reserve parachute—there are also TSOs for planes and other aeronautic devices.

Through testing, the FAA decides on minimum safety standards that equipment needs to meet. To obtain a TSO certificate for a new type of rig or parachute, a skydiving manufacturer has to put their new design through a rigorous testing process. This includes testing to failure, where they stress the system until it breaks to ensure it will hold up to standard use; drop tests where they drop it out of a plane on a dummy to ensure it will function properly in the real world; and many other tests.

As part of these tests, they have to define a maximum weight the equipment can be used with. This maximum allowable weight is set below the weight at which the equipment would fail to give a large safety margin and ensure that a catastrophic failure never happens.

It would be awesome if skydiving gear could be certified to hold any amount of weight, but just like the structural limitations of planes limit how much weight they can safely hold in flight, our skydiving gear has structural limitations.

So what is the maximum weight for skydiving? For tandem jumps, it’s 240. For solo (student jumps), it’s 230.

If you weigh more than the maximum but want to skydive, you have several options open to you. Some people who want to lose weight anyway use skydiving as a reward and goal to work toward. We’ve hosted a number of these people at Skydive Taft, and it’s always fun to hear their story of how skydiving inspired them to improve their life! For people for whom losing weight is not a healthy option, sometimes another solution can be found without compromising safety. For example, some skydivers who weigh too much to be able to jump with standard gear learn to jump solo using modified tandem gear, which is TSO’d to a higher weight.

To find out more or schedule a skydive, give us a call at 1-661-765-5867!

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