According to the TSA, you can bring a parachute on a plane in either your carry-on or checked luggage.
You don’t even need to be a professional skydiver or prove that you know how to operate a parachute to bring it on board.
If you have a U.S. Parachute Association card, you can show it to the TSA agents, but it won’t make any difference. Anyone, even a minor, can bring a parachute onto a commercial flight.
TSA agents are trained to check a parachute rig without pulling on its handles or tampering with it in any way.
If TSA agents want to examine the parachute, they will take you to a different room and ask you to open the rig personally.
This is why the TSA asks skydivers to be at least half an hour early at the security checkpoint.
Unpacking and packing a parachute takes 20-30 minutes if you know how to do it. TSA agents will not repack the parachute for you.
One of the TSA requirements is that the parachute should be packed separately from other baggage.
I want to mention that every parachute rig has an Automatic Activation Device (AAD).
An AAD is a small device with a microprocessor that calculates the altitude and activates the backup parachute in an emergency.
Most AADs contain a small explosive device. The TSA accepts the AAD onto an airplane despite containing a tiny amount of explosives.
Your parachute’s AAD should be disabled before boarding the plane, even though modern AADs detect when the parachute rig is inside an airplane.
Some AADs could activate if the airplane suddenly depressurizes and loses altitude. Remember to reactivate the AAD before your next jump.
How many parachutes can you bring on a plane?
You should know that each skydiving rig must contain two parachutes—the main one and a reserve— just in case the primary one fails to open. When you board a plane with a parachute, you actually have two.
TSA guidelines say, “Parachutes should always be packed separately from other baggage,” meaning that the maximum number of bags you can bring equals the number of parachutes.
For example, American Airlines accepts up to ten pieces of luggage for a domestic flight, so you can bring up to ten parachutes.
However, if you don’t want to encounter any problems when flying with different airlines, it’s better to stick with just two parachutes.
Can you wear a parachute on a commercial flight?
It seems that you can wear a parachute on a commercial flight, although I haven’t met or heard of someone who did it.
I assume that it would be highly uncomfortable since the parachute rig will be on your back.
Wearing a parachute rig on an airplane does not grant you special privileges.
You will still need to obey the “Fasten Seat Belt” sign, and please try not to get into a verbal dispute with the flight attendant over how the seatbelt will prohibit you from diving out of the airplane if you find yourself in danger.
Can you jump out of a passenger plane in case of danger?
Let’s imagine it—the plane’s engines stop working, and you have a parachute at your disposal.
In all the chaos, you somehow manage to put the parachute rig on and make your way to one of the airplane doors. Now all you have to do is open the door and gently float towards the earth, right?
Actually, no, because every commercial flight door is mechanically locked. The lock controls are in the cabin. and in an emergency, the last thing on the pilot’s mind is the door lock.
Even if the door was unlocked, you wouldn’t be able to open it, unless you are Hulk.
The door is sealed shut by the difference in pressure inside and outside the cabin. The higher the plane is, the more force is required.
You need about 22,000 pounds of force at higher altitudes to overcome the difference in pressure and open the door. No human has that kind of force.
Even at lower altitudes, you cannot do it. Hollywood movies created the myth that opening a commercial flight door is a piece of cake, but this is not true.
The next time you hear that a passenger got crazy and tried to open the door mid-flight, you will know that the rest of the passengers were not in danger.
The only way you could jump out of a passenger plane and use your parachute is if the airplane cracked like an egg and somehow released you at an altitude below 15,000 feet. If the plane was any higher, you would lose consciousness because of a lack of oxygen.
So now you are in the air, with the parachute opened, and you’re searching for a place to land.
Actually, there is none, because the chances of landing on water are much higher than those of landing on land.
Say hello to the sharks!
Your odds of diving from a passenger plane with a parachute are only slightly better than those of hitting the Powerball jackpot.
But hope is not lost.
There is a commercial airplane from which you can dive with a parachute. The Boeing 727 has a rear door that can be opened mid-flight and could potentially be used by skydivers.
The rear door was used by D.B. Cooper in 1971 when he parachuted himself and escaped with money from the famous hijacking.
Keep in mind that there aren’t any 727s flying in the U.S. right now, and only a few are still flying worldwide.
Most 727s operate in third-world countries and are being used as cargo planes.
Do passenger planes have parachutes for pilots?
No, passenger planes don’t have parachutes for pilots.
It is possible, though, for a pilot to bring his own parachute rig, as pilots can fly with a trolley (also known as a pilot bag), which they use to carry their personal items.
But even if a pilot has a parachute at hand, it’s not like the plane windows can be opened during flight.
Even if, by some miracle, the pilot managed to get out through the cockpit windows, you’ll never guess what would happen next.
The pilot would likely hit the plane’s wings or get sucked in by one of the engines. The only way for a pilot to escape from a passenger plane is if the aircraft has ejection seats. As a passenger, you would not want him or her to use this feature.
Imagine if the plane piloted by Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger had ejection seats. Instead of saying “We’re gonna be in the Hudson,” he would have said, “You’re going to be in the Hudson… I’ll just eject.”
It’s not a situation you’d want to find yourself in.
Why don’t commercial airplanes have giant parachutes attached to them?
There are small airplanes, mostly single engines, that have a ballistic parachute system installed.
In case of an engine failure, the pilot pulls a lever, and a small pyrotechnic charge deploys the parachute. This works well for a small aircraft, but it wouldn’t work for a larger one.
Believe it or not, a commercial aircraft is fragile, as it was designed to absorb repetitive takeoffs and landings and is optimized for long-distance flying.
The plane’s structural integrity must be heavily reinforced before even dreaming of installing a ballistic parachute system. Not to mention that the ballistic parachutes would add extra poundage to the plane.
A G-11 Cargo Parachute Assembly weights 250 lbs. and can carry up to 5000 lbs. Because a typical passenger plane weighs around 180,000 lbs., we would need 36 G-11 parachutes to bring the aircraft down safely.
This number would actually be even bigger because some parachutes might not deploy.
With 42 G-11 parachutes installed on the fuselage, the airplane should land safely even if a couple of them were to malfunction, but the ballistic parachute system would still weigh more than 12,000 lbs.
I believe that once installed on a commercial flight, a ticket price would rise between 50 and 75% due to the increase in fuel consumption, and I’m not taking into account any other costs.
A giant parachute system is just not feasible for a passenger airplane.
To summarize, you can bring a parachute onto a commercial flight, but diving with one from a passenger plane is impossible.
If you have aviophobia (fear of flying), taking a parachute with you might provide some mental comfort, but it would not help you if the plane went down.