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The Basics

Hummm.........Jumping out of a plane. You either love the idea or you don't. This is the sport for the thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies. If it peaks your interest you should give it a try. Most people that try it only end up taking one or two jumps. They view it more of a one-time carnival ride and never pursue parachuting as a regular sport.

It does take commitment to gain the skills and knowledge needed to get licensed. Though it's not difficult and there are plenty of women involved in this sport. You don't have to go through a long training course to sample skydiving. You will be able to experience your first jump on the first day.

Parachuting has been around for about 200 years. Of course early parachutes were not as safe as they are today. Much of the improvements in parachuting equipment are due to government's military use.

First Jump

Before you ever jump, you go through lots of training so you're fully prepared. There are a few first jump options. The more traditional first jump is a Static Cord or Static Line jump. With the static cord jump your parachute is automatically deployed once you leave the plane. There is only about 2 to 3 seconds of free fall. Static cord jumps are from a lower altitude of around 3000 feet. You will be required to do about 6 static line jumps before you actually do your first free fall. To get your Class A license you will need 20 free fall jumps.

The Accelerated Free Fall (AFF) jump is an accelerated course to qualify for a Class A license. AFF is broken down into 7 levels each requiring only one free fall jump. You will need to demonstrate your mastery of certain skills in order to move to the next level. 2 jumpmasters will accompany your first jump, which will be from about 10,000 feet.

The newer option is a Tandem jump. Here, you are harnessed to an instructor, stepping out of the plane together. You are responsible for going through the steps during your fall. A larger tandem parachute is used instead of the single person chute. You also have the assurance and safety of having an expert with you. These jumps are usually from a higher altitude. Because tandem jumps are so new it is still considered experimental by the Federal Aviation Administration. Also, United States Parachuting Association (USPA) does not regulate the training or safety of tandem jumps.

The cost for your first day should be around $100 for a static cord jump and $200+ for a tandem and AFF jump. It's important to make sure you choose a reputable skydiving school. Look for a school that is USPA affiliated, has USPA certified instructors and jumpmasters, and has liability insurance. The USPA at 703-836-3495 will have a list of schools. The school's equipment should be in great shape.

Safety should be their top priority. Students should have a main parachute and a reserve in case of emergencies. Some skydiving schools provide student rigs with an automatic activation device (AAD). This device senses altitude and speed, and in an emergency it will automatically deploy your reserve parachute.

The skydiving school will provide all your equipment including the rig and jump suit. It is best to get their recommendation on what to wear and bring.

Flying School

Now that you're hooked, you need to get thoroughly trained. It's not cheap, but it's worth it. Besides, there are more expensive sports. There are four levels of licensing, Class A to Class D.

Class A is the novice level. 20 free fall jumps are required, a written exam and thorough knowledge of your equipment. Class B is the intermediate level. A minimum of 50 free fall jumps are required and a written exam. Class C is the advanced level. It requires at least 300 jumps with over 20 minutes of free fall time and a written exam. To receive your Class D master level license, you must complete another 200 jumps. At this point you're spending more time in the sky than on the ground.

You don't need to become a master skydiver. With a Class A license you will be qualified to parachuting at sites around the world.

You're ready to buy equipment. The best advice is to talk with your instructor. There are many different types of parachutes. Beginner chutes are larger and more stable. The more advance designs provide a faster and more maneuverable chute or canopy. You can find used equipment, but it must be in great shape. Before you buy thoroughly research the right equipment for you.

I'm Never Coming Down

Once you've reached expert status you may want to look into more daring jumps like Relative Work or Formation Skydiving, Skysurfing or Skyboarding, and Base Jumping.

  • Formation Skydiving is when 2 or more jumpers create various formations during free fall.
  • "Skysurfing" or "Skyboarding" entails jumping with a board like a snowboard attached to your feet. It allows the jumper to perform aerial maneuvers and stunts. Skysurfing classes and videos are available, but hard to find. Check out Skydive Space Center or Skydog Skydiving Club.
  • Base Jumping is jumping off of fixed objects such as buildings and bridges. Base Jumping is best known for it's illegal jumps. It's fairly common to hear of a jumper being arrested for going off a building illegally. Keep in mind that negative press can be detrimental to the whole sport.


  • Don't just follow anthers lead, educate yourself on every aspect of skydiving, the correct procedures, equipment, etc.
  • Don't be afraid to ask questions.
  • Don't buy any equipment on a whim. Know exactly what you want and need.
  • Don't take any mind-altering drugs before hand. Your first jump should be enough to blow your mind.


  • As in most sports stay cool, calm and collected.
  • You'll go through lots of temperature changes during your jump. It's important to dress appropriately and be in good physical condition.


  • You will be given a back up or reserve parachute. FAA regulations require that the reserve parachute be packed within the last 120 days.
  • Automatic Activation Device (AAD) and a Reserve Static Line (RSL) are 2 additional safety devices that can be used. Find out if your school provides these.
  • Certain medicines and health conditions may be effected by skydiving and the altitude. Consult your doctor before you book your skydiving adventure.

If you're looking for more information, a great source is The Skydiver's Handbook, written by Dan Poynter and Mike Turoff. You can find it at Para Publishing.

Skydiver's Handbook

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