Skydiving is a fantastic sport: you get to leap out of airplanes for pure fun, face your fears, soar high above the ground and enjoy the view that not so many people get to enjoy. Plus, it’s a great community to be a part of: a mix of fun-loving, adventurous, free-spirited, and inspiring people from all sorts of different backgrounds that are united by this unique sport.
Skydiving is really all that, and more. The community vibe is very strong, the spirit of adventure pushes you to live an interesting life, and there is so much to explore between all the different disciplines and destinations.
Like all of us at some point, you’re itching to get started, but you’re not quite sure where to go for your skydiving training! There are so many schools, different training methods, levels, instructors, prices, and so many factors to consider.
We’ll try to lay it out as simply as we can to help you adult make informed decisions.
First, pick a good skydiving school. While “cheap” and “near me” will always be a factor, keep in mind that there’s nothing more important than safety. Pick a professional skydiving school with a good reputation, that has been in business for a while and has good reviews online. Larger skydiving centers tend to have more instructors available, a better selection of rental gear, and a fleet of multiple airplanes that allow shorter waiting times. (How do you know which school is larger? Number of airplanes and reviews will be a good indicator.) If you have a deadline in mind for your skydiving training, pick a school that is open 7 days a week. Being a student, you will only be allowed to jump in picture perfect weather, so being flexible on weekdays will let you progress faster.
Second, pick a training method. The most advanced training program available now is called AFF (Accelerated Freefall, not to confuse with Adult Friend Finder.. But hey, it may work that way too), which is developed by United States Parachute Association (USPA). At Skydive Cross Keys, we use a streamlined version of the AFF program that we call AFP (Advanced Freefall Progression), that still accomplishes all requirements set forth by USPA, and also offers students an easier introduction into the sport. (We also offer the classic AFF upon request, and we will explain the difference at the end of this post).
Your first step will be a tandem skydive. A tandem is the easiest and smoothest introduction to skydiving, where an instructor wears the parachute, and the student’s harness is attached to the instructor’s harness. Think of it as a low stress learning environment: you can focus on learning while the instructor has got your back, quite literally too. You will have to complete 3 tandem skydives, and no, it's not the same jump repeated three times. Each tandem jump will have a separate training session and jump goals you will have to complete to train new skills.
Between your second and third tandem jumps, you will be taking a 6-hour classroom training. No napping at this one. This course will teach you everything you need to know to open, fly and land your own parachute safely. Important stuff, so pay attention.
After the three tandems and ground training, it will be time to put your own gear on! The drop zone will provide the rentals. An instructor will be by your side at all times, holding on to you in freefall for stability and training, and also because he's scared to jump alone. (That last part was a joke of course, skydiving instructors know no fear!) Each jump with the instructor will be thoroughly briefed, and debriefed upon landing. You will need to make 7-8 jumps (levels) with an instructor. Some students end up doing more, depending on individual progress. A quick note on progress: don’t let weeks go by between your jumps. The more often you jump, the more knowledge and muscle memory you retain, and the better your learning curve will be. USPA requires that training jumps are no more than 30 days apart, but it’s a good idea to jump as often as you can.
After you complete the 8 levels, you will officially graduate from the AFP program. That is an achievement worth celebrating, which is coincidentally our favorite thing to do! Bring on the ____________! (insert your favorite celebratory item).
Next, you will be cleared for solo jumps. Yay for having the sky all to yourself! But you're still a student, and you will need to practice some more, until you accumulate a total of 25 skydives (tandems count too). Some of your solo skydives will have to be accompanied by a coach to teach you some more skills that would qualify you for your first “A” license.
In between those jumps, you will need to take a 3-hour parachute packing class, that is taught by professional nylon compression specialists at our drop zone. (They’re called “packers” in reality, that was just a joke).
As you get close to the coveted number of 25 jumps, you will take a written test and make a check out dive with an instructor, who will evaluate your progress and sign you off for your “A” license! We will make sure to celebrate that properly as well, because you know, we’re always happy to celebrate!
What does it cost, and how long does it take?
There really isn't a "package cost", or a standard duration, because the program is customized to each student's individual progress. Like we said before, it all largely depends on how often you come out to jump. If you don't let more than a few days go by between your jumps, you will retain your knowledge better and will need less refresher training, which will help you avoid those extra costs. We recommend making at least a couple jumps a week. We've seen students complete AFP in 3-4 days, and get their license in two weeks, so it can definitely be done! For cost break down, head over to our AFP info page.
What does an “A” license get you?
You can now travel to different drop zones and skydive solo, or in small groups. From here on, you can work further on different skills and earn your subsequent licenses. There’s also “B”, “C” and “D”, all of which require higher jump numbers, freefall and canopy piloting skills, and get you more privileges for more advanced jumps. Meaning all the epic stuff you always wanted to do! This will be just the beginning of your skyward journey, and trust us, you will have a ton of amazing doors to open, places to discover and people to meet. Skydiving has changed each one of our lives, and we can’t wait to share our passion for it with you!
As for the difference between AFF and AFP:
In AFF, you start with the 6-hour ground class, and proceed to make your first skydive accompanied by two instructors. You pass 3-4 levels/jumps with two instructors, and then do about 4 more levels/jumps with one instructor.
In AFP, we start with 3 tandem jumps, after which you proceed to do 7-8 levels/jumps with one instructor. The content of both programs is essentially the same. Starting AFF jumps are a little more expensive, since you have two instructors, but the total number of jumps required in AFF is lower. We find that students often have to repeat certain levels in AFF due to fewer training sessions and having less time to practice the skills.
The choice is always yours, but in our experience, the AFP structure allows for a smoother progression, and ultimately better performance for our students, compared to AFF.
Ready to start your training and join this amazing sport? We will start by taking you on a tandem skydive, which you can schedule right here!
Still not sure where to start? Give us a call at (856) 629 7553 with any questions, or email firstname.lastname@example.org! We'll be absolutely thrilled to help you get your skydiving license, and welcome you to our sport. See you in the sky!