The adventure sport of skydiving, which involves jumping from an airplane and deploying a parachute on the way down, provides a rush of adrenaline and an unparalleled perspective of the earth’s surface. When individuals acquire a taste for skydiving, they often pursue a certification, allowing them to jump alone. Due to the potential risks, obtaining a skydiving license involves multiple steps.
The most common certification process involves accelerated freefall (AFF), an industry training standard nationwide. While some skydiving schools offer instructor-assisted deployment (IAD) training, this involves lower jumps and does not offer true freefall potential until around the sixth jump. This type of training is much less common than AFF.
Before embarking on a skydiving course, an individual might consider going on a tandem jump, which can be done with no previous training or experience. During a tandem jump, an individual will partner with an instructor who has undergone rigorous training that likely includes 500 jumps and multiple hours of freefall time. The pre-flight training generally consists of an orientation, some equipment briefing, and a description of what to expect during landing.
A tandem dive before beginning a course can ensure the person wants to pursue certification. That first experience is enough for some jumpers, and they will know this before investing their time and money in a full course. For other people, a tandem jump will only whet their appetite for more. Those individuals can then enroll in a certification course, which likely comprises four to six hours of classroom learning.
During academic training, students learn how to operate skydiving equipment and how to troubleshoot when problems arise. Then, they participate in assisted jumps supervised by an instructor certified through an agency such as the United States Parachute Association (USPA). During an accelerated freefall (AFF) dive course, students practice modern procedures, skills, and maneuvers to ensure their safety.
In addition to packing their parachute, students learn procedures for jumping from a plane at lower altitudes. This allows them to complete dives even when aircraft issues prevent planes from flying higher. Once students have completed their instructor-assisted freefalls, they are ready to jump alone. To receive an “A” license from the USPA, students need to have 25 total dives. Once the instructor clears a student for self-supervision, they will complete the remaining 25 skydives as solo dives.
During this stage of training, students continue practicing the basic flying skills they have learned, this time without the assistance of instructors. Students will plan and execute their dives, demonstrating confidence and competence with skills, equipment, and landing. Once they have completed at least 25 skydives, students must demonstrate various freefall skills and maneuvers on a final “check dive” and pass a final written exam.
An ”A” license with the USPA qualifies skydivers to skydive at any USPA affiliate dropzone around the world. Additionally, they can begin skydiving with friends and even practice building mid-air formations. To enroll in an AFF skydiving certification course, individuals must be at least 18 years old and weigh less than 225 pounds.