After seeing so many amazing photos and videos online, you might be wondering “how do I get a skydiving license”? As a skydiver, I am always so stoked to see people interested in joining the sport. Everyone of us skydivers have been in the position of being a beginner and obtaining our licence. And we all remember how exciting this time was! In this article, we are going to go over the process of completing your AFF course and getting your skydiving license. Soon you can start skydiving solo and being part of this amazing sport!

Please note that in this article we are going to speak about the process of getting your skydiving license in the United States. This association is called the United States Parachute Association (USPA). If you are from another country, by searching online, you will be able to find skydiving centres (dropzones), near to you. Also, you can search for the governing skydiving association in your country, or call a local dropzone and ask them. This way you will be able to research the steps and process of obtaining your skydiving license within your geographic.

Go make a tandem jump!

Alright, so it is not a mandatory requirement to make a tandem jump before starting your skydiving license journey. However, it is highly recommended. Also, depending on which dropzone that you want to obtain your certification, their dropzone rules may state that you need to make a tandem first.

The reason it is suggested you make a tandem first is because skydiving is unlike anything you have done before. Perhaps you may not respond to the adrenaline rush as you might anticipate. Jumping out of an airplane can be sensory overload to our bodies. And so making sure you can handle and enjoy the experience is a good reason tandems are recommended. During your tandem jump, you will not be responsible for anything other than enjoying yourself. The tandem instructor is responsible for completing the skydive safely, and you are able to take it all in!

It would be a good idea to observe the skydiving operations during your tandem experience. Check out what other skydivers are doing on the ground, watch parachutes landing, look at the gear people are wearing. Most importantly, ask questions! Skydivers love to skydive, duh! So if you are showing interest in getting your license, there will be endless people to chat up and ask questions to, while you are a the dropzone making your tandem.

Find a dropzone

Luckily, there are so many amazing and fun dropzones in the United States where you can start your skydiving career. Although you can likely take your license at the same DZ you make your tandem, it is always good to check out your options. You want to find a safe and fun dropzone to get certified. Don’t get me wrong, skydiving is quite safe, however there are some dropzones that have higher safety standards and general practises than others. Also, some dropzones focus more on tandem skydiving than in AFF Courses. You may progress faster and more efficiently at an alternative DZ. So how can you research the perfect dropzone for you? There are a few resources!

AFF Skydiving Course student and instructor during a great and fun skydive jump

Research online!

Dropzone.com  has a data base of the dropzones around the world, just go type in your location and find one close to you. As well, the USPA website has a dropzone locator, which is a way to find dropzones that uphold USPA safety standards. The more information you can give yourself, the better right? You will be jumping out of an airplane after all! Read reviews! If you are lucky, you might have friends already in the skydiving community. Ask for their advice and suggestions. If you are booked for a tandem jump, don’t be shy to ask recommendations from your tandem instructor, or other jumpers at the dropzone. Some things to consider when reading the reviews are:

  • Check and compare costs to nearby dropzones. Some dropzones offer complete AFF/license packages with some savings if you complete the whole process with them.
  • Try to find out the student gear they use. Sometimes reviews may state if they are using older gear. Perhaps another dropzone will have more current upgraded student gear.
  • Check out the operating hours. Maybe you want to be able to jump during the week, but it is a weekend only dropzone.

Remember, don’t be stingy on cost. If one dropzone is much cheaper than another, be sure to really read the reviews. If you feel like the more expensive one will be a better fit for you, I highly suggest you go with that location.

AFF deployment

USPA Online Ground School

There is a good chance you are feeling a bit overwhelmed with the prospect of jumping out of an airplane while also attempting to gather information on skydiving. Thankfully, the USPA has an amazing Online Ground School resource to help you learn more about skydiving. Which will begin to make you familiar with concepts you will need to understand, skydiving equipment and much more.

This is NOT a course that can be used to complete your skydiving license. However, it is a tool to make you more prepared for your first jump, from the comfort of your home!

First Jump Course – ground school

Before stepping into a skydiving harness, there is some paperwork and bookwork to do first! After arriving at the DZ, you will have some registration and liability waivers to fill out. Next up you will attend your First Jump Course. Which is a ground school that normally takes between 4-6 hours to complete. In this class, you will learn:

  • The information to complete your first skydives
  • Learn about the equipment you will use to jump solo
  • How the equipment works
  • Skills and information to keep you safe throughout your skydiving career
  • Various ways to fly your body in freefall
  • How to fly your canopy, flight skills and landing patterns
  • What to do when things do not go as expected
  • Emergency procedures
  • Basic Safety Requirements (BSRs)

After taking this training, you will now be prepared to make your first instructor-assisted solo skydive. Hopefully, with weather permitting and dropzone availability, you will be able to make your first jump the same day as your ground schooling!

Getting solo certified

There is a precise progression path set out by the USPA, which levels are completed, for skydivers to get their skydiving solo license. In this article we will not be going into specific details about what each level progression entails. Personally, I am not a skydiving instructor, and so this article is a general overview of how to get your license. However, if you are looking for a detailed list of exactly what is expected for students in each level,  please find that here on the UPSA website.

AFF jump

Accelerated Freefall (AFF)

The most modern methodology used to certify solo skydivers is the Accelerated Freefall (AFF) course. This USPA integrated student program advances hopeful skydivers through eight categories (A – H) of proficiency to obtain their Solo skydiving license. Which will qualify you to take your A-license, but hold on for now, we will talk about that soon!

Students will jump with two USPA rated instructors for the first three levels of AFF, and afterwards complete the levels with one instructor. What does instructor assisted jumps mean? The instructors will hold you by grips on your jump suit and maintain positive and safe control of you. During free fall, they will be giving you corrective hand signals, for proper body positioning. As well they will assist with parachute deployment if necessary. Afterwards, the remaining levels are able to be completed safely with only one instructor to assist you.

In each AFF level, students are expected to successfully and safely complete a series of skills and knowledge sets. Prior to making the jump for each category, your instructor will take the appropriate amount of time needed on the group to prepare and train you for the upcoming jump, (freefall and canopy objectives). Similarly, after each jump your instructor will video debrief the jump that you just made. Discussing successes, and possible areas that need improvement. Unfortunately, not everyone passes the training and requirements for each category on the first attempt. Remember, if you are required to retake a category, this is for your own benefit and safety! Once you successfully perform the objectives in one category, you will move onto the next.

What next?

Congratulations on completing AFF and obtaining your solo skydiving license! Now you can  make some skydives solo and as mentioned previously, you will now be able to work towards your A license. Which is where the real fun begins! Now that you have completed your instructor assisted jumps, you are certified to jump by yourself! Pretty crazy, eh?

In order to obtain your A license, you need at least 25 jumps. And so, you will be spending the remaining jumps after your AFF, to practising the skills you have learned. Although you are able to skydive solo, it is still a good idea to use the mentorship of your instructors at the dropzone. Ask for advice on things to practise on each solo jump, with exit, freefall and canopy skills. There will be further progression you will need to obtain your A license, which you can learn about through your instructors. And of course through the USPA Skydiver’s Information Manual (SIM).

Once you have successfully completed the requirements for you A license, you can now jump with your new skydiving friends! Although, the process may seem overwhelming or a bit daunting at first, don’t worry. It is an absolutely amazing experience to become a licensed skydiver, and to join this amazing sport. Without a doubt, it will CHANGE YOUR LIFE!

Solo skydiver waving off before opening her parachute

Keep coming back

Do you still have some questions regarding AFF and how to become a licensed solo skydiver? Let me know! Although, I am not a skydive training instructor, I can give you more resources and put you in touch with instructors who can answer your questions more thoroughly.

Are you an instructor and you see something missing from this article? Let me know and we will do our best to update the article with your suggestion!

If you like the article, please let me know, send me an email or a message on Instagram. I want to know about your experience and thoughts!

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