What To Know About Getting Your Skydiving License

Monday, January 25, 2021

If you’re reading this, then it’s likely you’re thinking about learning to skydive and getting your skydive license. If that’s the case, great! After all the world has been through since March of 2020, we can’t think of a better time to start a new hobby or take action on a goal you’ve been thinking about for a long time. In this article, we’re going to walk you through the steps of what it will take to get your skydiving license. 

 

Before we get into the details, know this: don’t be intimidated. There is a lot to know, but just like any big goal, it’s best done one step (jump) at a time with people who care about your success. The journey of becoming a licensed skydiver is rewarding because you’ll be going outside of your comfort zone (which is a good thing) and you’ll find yourself spending a lot of time with a new community of people who will be encouraging you throughout your journey.

A licensed skydiver smiles during a solo freefall skydive at Wisconsin Skydiving Center near Chicago

Becoming a Skydiver Step 1: Make a Tandem Skydive

The first step to becoming a licensed skydiver begins with a tandem skydive. Many people with no intention of learning to jump make a tandem, so you may be wondering what the point is, but a tandem skydive serves as a perfect transition to jumping on your own. Firstly, the tandem skydiving experience used for training is slightly different than a tandem for someone who has no intention of learning. More information will be shared with you during a tandem training jump which will help build your skills for the Accelerated Free Fall (AFF) course. Emphasis will be placed on: 

  • The mental approach needed to exit the plane
  • Body position and stability in free fall
  • Altitude awareness 
  • Flying a correct landing patternA tandem skydiving pair wearing masks during free fall at Wisconsin Skydiving Center near Chicago

Becoming a Skydiver Step 2: Enroll in AFF

What is AFF? 

AFF is an acronym for a teaching method known as Accelerated Free Fall. AFF is the most modern teaching method and is often preferred over older teaching methods like the static line method. (Click here to read about the difference between Static Line and AFF).

 

AFF allows students to exit the aircraft and experience free fall (static line involves just a few seconds of free fall) for approximately 45 seconds. While the student (you) will be wearing your own parachute, you will be jumping with two AFF instructors who will be assisting you in free fall and giving you feedback using hand signals. Once the student deploys the parachute, the ground team will help you fly your parachute to landing by giving verbal instructions via wireless radio.

 

AFF Ground School

Before you can take flight, your journey to becoming a skydiver starts in the classroom where you’ll learn the fundamentals. The ground school is often referred to as “The First Jump Course” and involves six hours of classroom training where the following topics will be taught:

 

  • Aircraft Procedures – boarding and exiting the plane
  • Equipment – understanding the components and their use
  • Free Fall – stable body position and altitude awareness
  • Emergency Positions – what to do in case of emergency
  • Flying the Parachute – the introduction of the landing pattern and flaring the parachute

 

After the ground school is completed, you’ll come back the next day to make your first jump known as AFF Level One 1 or as it’s known at some jump schools, Category A. 

Once you’ve successfully completed your first jump, your journey to becoming a licensed skydiver has begun!

An AFF student demonstrates the perfect arch during an AFF jump to get her skydive license
An AFF student demonstrates the perfect arch during an AFF jump.

Getting Your First Skydive License

In the US, there are four different kinds of licenses that can be earned based on skill development. They are the A license, B license, C license, and D. By enrolling in AFF, your goal is to attain your A license. 

 

How To Attain Your Skydiving A License

The minimum requirements to attain your skydiving A-license are as follows:

  • Complete a minimum of 25 jumps
  • Complete all requirements on the USPA A License Proficiency Card (this will be issued to you after your first jump)
  • Learn to pack a parachute
  • Pass the USPA written and oral exams

 

All of the needed skills will be taught through the entirety of the AFF program.

How Much Does It Cost To Get Your Skydive License?

The costs of becoming a licensed skydiver via the AFF program vary at every dropzone. At Wisconsin Skydiving Center, our program will walk you through from jump 1 to 25 and have you prepared to get your A license. The pricing for the entire program is as follows:

Accelerated Freefall (AFF) Pricing

 

Training Skydives Information Cost
Jump 1 TANDEM - your journey has already begun towards getting your skydiving license.
Jump 2 Ground School and SOLO exit - jump from 5000' by yourself. $225.00
Jump 3 Second solo skydive - parachute work. $120.00
Jump 4 Third solo skydive - parachute competency. $120.00
Jump 5 Ground School and AFF - first freefall jump with your own parachute. An amazing sense of accomplishment! $250.00
Jump 6 Awareness skydive - altitude, body - more control in freefall. $210.00
Jump 7 Your release dive - your instructors release you and you freefall on your own. $210.00
Jump 8 You have now graduated to only one instructor accompanying you in freefall. $170.00
Jump 9 You will learn how to do turns and move forward in freefall. $170.00
Jump 10 More maneuvers of forward motion and turns. $170.00
Jump 11 You will learn how to track - one step closer to being a bird man. $170.00
Jump 12 You will perform acrobatics in freefall. $170.00
Jump 13 Solo freefall -Now you know enough to freefall by yourself. $60.00
Jump 14 Advanced maneuvers in freefall. $95.00
Jump 15 You now get to combine upper and lower body to make spot turns. $95.00
Jump 16 Fast / slow freefall speed. $95.00
Jump 17 Formation flying - moving forward to dock on your coach. $95.00
Jump 18 Adjusting speed and forward motion to dock on your coach. $95.00
Jump 19 Even more of a challenge - speed adjusting, turns, and docking on your coach. $95.00
Jump 20 Lower exit altitude - 5,000' emergency simulation jump. $60.00
Jump 21 Lower exit altitude - 3,500' emergency simulation jump. $60.00
Jump 22 Dive out of the plane and down to dock on your coach. $95.00
Jump 23 More practice on swooping down to your coach. $95.00
Jump 24 Preparation for your first freefall test. $95.00
Jump 25 United States Parachute Association License Check Dive $170.00

Learn to Skydive FAQs

Does the first tandem jump count towards the 25 jump minimum requirement to earn an A license?

Yes. The first tandem jump does count towards the 25 jump minimum requirement!

What happens if I don’t perform the required tasks on an AFF jump?

Great question! Advancing through the AFF program is based on skills development which must be demonstrated during each jump. Before a skydiving student can progress, the student must demonstrate the required skills to the instructor. Failure to accomplish skill proficiency may require the skydiving student to repeat the level.

Is repeating a level, uncommon?

Repeating a level is not uncommon and is part of a skydiving student’s journey. Students who are asked to repeat a jump should not be despondent or let it shake their confidence. It’s all part of it!

Is studying, required to get your skydive license?

Yes. Before each jump, skydiving students must study and understand what the skill requirements are for the next jump. Additionally, skydiving students will need to pass the A license proficiency exam.

What materials will I need to study for my AFF jumps and the written exam?

You’ll need to study the information provided in the Skydiver’s Information Manual (known as the SIM). You can download the SIM from this page. Your instructors will direct you to the sections you’ll need to read. Don’t plan on reading the entire SIM before starting.

How quickly can someone progress through the AFF training program?

There is no definitive answer – it depends on several variables. The speed at which one can complete the AFF training program is dependent on the flexibility of one’s schedule, natural ability, and most importantly, the weather! Some students are able to complete the entire program in three to four weeks while others may take a year.

At a minimum, a skydiving student should plan to make at least one skydive every 30 days. Failure to jump once every 30 days will result in the need to complete the last successfully completed AFF level.

What is included during each AFF jump?

Training, skydiving equipment, lift tickets, and video debriefs after the skydive.

Are there any restrictions that may prevent someone from learning to skydive?

Yes. All participants must: 

  • Weigh no more than 200 pounds
  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Be in reasonable physical shape
How do you schedule your first jump?

Firstly, schedule your first tandem skydive here. Be sure to let your instructors know in advance of your intent to enroll in the AFF First Jump Course.

Where Should You Get Your Skydive License?

If you live in Madison, Milwaukee, Chicago, or anywhere in the Midwest and you Google ‘skydiving near me’, you will be spoiled for choice! Throughout the Midwest, you’ll find many dropzones offering AFF. Some dropzones are better than others, but it can be difficult to determine the best place for you. Our advice is not to make your selection based on the cheapest or closest dropzone. Selecting the right dropzone is similar to selecting the right college. While all colleges offer degrees, some programs are better than others. Additionally, the campus facilities, quality of the professors, and overall culture play a big role in one’s academic success. 

 

No matter where you decide to skydive, there is both a financial and time investment, so making the right choice is important. We recommend the following: 

  • Read up on each dropzone’s reviews on Google, Yelp, Tripadvisor, and Facebook. You’ll get a good sense of the dropzone’s professionalism.
  • Call the dropzone and speak with someone about their AFF program. You’ll get a good sense of professionalism.
  • Just like figuring out where to go to college, a campus visit is recommended. Visit the dropzones on your list. You’ll discover some dropzones are enormous while others are smaller and more intimate. Again, it depends on the experience you’re looking for!

    The best skydiving in the Midwest – A group shot of the staff at Wisconsin Skydiving Center near Milwaukee, WI
    The staff and their families at Wisconsin Skydiving Center.

Have Questions?

It’s likely you have lots of questions that haven’t been covered here and we’d be happy to answer them! Please feel free to call us directly at (920) 568-1700 or contact us by e-mail.

Related Resources

A lady smiles while in free fall during a tandem skydive at Wisconsin Skydiving Center near Milwaukee, WI

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