Jump to content


Sign in to follow this  
  • entries
  • comments
  • views

The Physics of Skydiving



Imagine your standing on the edge of a plane ready to jump off. As you look out before you you get a little queasy and wondered if this really was a good idea. In order to stay safe you'll need a parachute but why do you need a parachute? First you start out with equal force between your normal and your gravitational force equal as you sit on the edge of the plane. Then the moment you move your foot in order to jump out of the plane the gravitational force pulls you back towards the ground. After a while the air resistance will reach the same force as the gravitational force is at. This causes you to stop accelerating downward but if it stops with a velocity of about 2000 meters per second you are still falling at a constant pace and you don't want to hit the ground with a velocity about 125 miles per hour. At this point you would pull the string to release your parachute this increases the air resistance and slows your speed down to a speed that you would live at if you hit the ground at it.


The parachute adds to the air resistance because of its surface area and material it is made of. For an ideal parachute you would want one with a large amount of surface area, so the wind can get caught up underneath it and increase friction, and you would want it made out of the lightest material possible, so it doesn't add a significant amount to the gravitational force pulling you downward. If you had a heavy fabric as a parachute you would then increase both the air resistance slowing you down and the gravitational force pulling you faster towards the ground.

If you were to make your own parachute more precise details would have to be considered like the shape and balance of the canopy so you could increase the amount of air molecules that get trapped under it and the friction it will cause. You also might want to consider a more round shape because it is far easier to balance a round shape than that of a triangle. Canopy vents would be another consideration so you can limit how the air molecules will escape the parachute and this would also effect your balance. keeping you in the air longer and at a slower velocity downward so you can be safe when you reach the ground.

1 Comment

Recommended Comments

Very interesting! I always wanted to go skydiving, but I would be scared that the parachute wouldn't work!

Share this comment

Link to comment
Add a comment...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Terms of Use

The pages of APlusPhysics.com, Physics in Action podcasts, and other online media at this site are made available as a service to physics students, instructors, and others. Their use is encouraged and is free of charge. Teachers who wish to use materials either in a classroom demonstration format or as part of an interactive activity/lesson are granted permission (and encouraged) to do so. Linking to information on this site is allowed and encouraged, but content from APlusPhysics may not be made available elsewhere on the Internet without the author's written permission.

Copyright Notice

APlusPhysics.com, Silly Beagle Productions and Physics In Action materials are copyright protected and the author restricts their use to online usage through a live internet connection. Any downloading of files to other storage devices (hard drives, web servers, school servers, CDs, etc.) with the exception of Physics In Action podcast episodes is prohibited. The use of images, text and animations in other projects (including non-profit endeavors) is also prohibited. Requests for permission to use such material on other projects may be submitted in writing to info@aplusphysics.com. Licensing of the content of APlusPhysics.com for other uses may be considered in the future.

  • Create New...