WHEN IT COMES to skydiving, most current big-budget action movies get it all wrong. You know the scene: The hero jumps out of an airplane and starts hurtling toward the ground, struggling to reach the ripcord and deploy the parachute before it’s too late. The most glaring misrepresentation here? The threat of imminent danger.
These days, jumping out of an airplane with a parachute strapped to your back is hardly the death-defying feat it once was. The seemingly limited amount of gear required—a parachute, helmet and, if you’re smart, goggles—has advanced to the point that blithely exiting a plane and living to tell about it is almost foolproof.
While people do get injured skydiving, the jump is generally less fraught than the drive to the airport. All skydivers now carry reserve chutes in case something goes amiss with the first one (it rarely does). Even if you find yourself paralyzed with fear in midair, you’re likely not going to plunge to your death. A small gizmo called an automatic activation device, or AAD, will blast the canopy open for you when you reach a predetermined altitude.