If you fall from ten thousand feet – say, if somebody threw you out of an airship during a fistfight – you reach the ground in about a minute.
You reach terminal velocity in about fifteen seconds, and at that point you’ve fallen about 1500 feet.
From the moment you reach terminal velocity, it’s 6 seconds per 1000 feet – or 51 seconds for the remaining 8500 feet of your jump.
So – total time for free-falling from 10.000 feet, 66 seconds, or, little more than a minute.
Now, for the sort of thing that comes to pulpsters with this kind of research – turns out there’s a thing called Banzai Skydiving: basically you throw your parachute rig out of the plane and then dive after it.
And from what the web tells me, there’s a Japanese gentleman by the name of Yasuhiro Kubo, who holds the world record of this thing.
According to the sources, in the year 2000 Kubo jumped from about 10.000 feet diving for his parachute 50 seconds after he threw it out.
He caught, put on and opened his parachute at about 2500 feet from the ground.
And then there’s the case of British skydiver Paul Lewis, that in 2009 jumped from 10.000 feet and his parachutes (both the main and the emergency one) failed to open properly.
He landed on the roof of an hangar and survived with minimal injuries – but considered this as a signal it was time to stop skydiving.
And here I am, writing my action scene, and checking a few facts, and thinking, c’mon, this is too much, they’ll never buy it – they will tell me it’s unrealistic and impossible and all that…*
And then once again, reality pulls the carpet from beneath my feet.
And yes, I know, there’s this thing that, should I write that reality is always much more surprising than fiction, I get booed and you throw pop corns at me – trite and banal and whatnot.
But a short reminder once in a while is much needed.
After all, consider the following – we all live in a world in which there’s people jumping out of planes without parachutes.
And surviving to tell the tale.
Now go and talk about realism.
* Of course a large part in the probability that my readers will “buy it” rests on my writing – and that’s a sobering thought.
But knowing it can be done… ah, helps a lot!