Skydiving is one of today’s most exciting sports. Enjoyment, exhilaration and limitless challenge are available even to the absolute beginner. And at its highest level, skydiving is an intensely competitive sport which requires finely tuned skills, intimate knowledge of the air and perfect body control
There are three ways to make your first jump:
1 Static Line - A static line descent can be made after usually about 6 hours of ground training and involves the student jumper leaving the aircraft at 3500 feet. The main parachute is deployed using a device called a ‘static line’. This is a length of webbing attached to the aircraft at one end and the bag, in which the main parachute is kept, at the other, as the jumper falls away from the aircraft, the static line pulls the main parachute out and begins the deployment
The parachute or canopy used is a modern ‘square parachute’ made of technically advanced materials and specifically designed to allow the student jumper to steer the canopy to the landing area. A radio attached to the jumper’s helmet is often used to coach the student and assist in the landing of the parachute
This type of jump opens the way to becoming a skydiver; further training and more descents will allow the student to jump without the static line, deploying the parachute manually and achieving that all important ‘first free fall’ descent
2 Accelerated Free Fall - AFF is an intensive course, more expensive but allowing rapid progression in skydiving. Your first descent is from 12,000 feet accompanied by two highly specialised instructors who will guide you in freefall by way of hand signals and under canopy with radio communication. You’ll experience 40-45 seconds of freefall before you open your own ram-air canopy at 5,000 feet. This is the real sport!
Your first AFF jump is part of a week’s course of 8-10 jumps which will qualify you as a skydiver in your own right. If you know you want to take up skydiving, this is probably the quickest and most motivating method by which to do it - although of course it isn’t cheap
3 Tandem - Tandem parachuting offers a quick and easy introduction to free-fall using a dual harness system. You’re securely attached to an experienced tandem instructor takes charge of vital functions such as opening the parachute and landing safely. Your preparation for the jump takes only 15 minutes. Free from responsibility, you can relax and enjoy the skydive knowing there is a qualified instructor in charge
Weather permitting, you will exit the aircraft from around 10,000 feet, experiencing 30 seconds of freefall, which is quite a rush! At 5,000 feet, the instructor deploys a huge ram-air parachute designed for two. You can have your choice of a gentle or thrilling flight to the ground, where you should have a soft landing. Tandem parachuting allows many disabled people, subject to a satisfactory risk assessment, to experience the thrill of skydiving. Tandem jumpers who are bitten by the skydiving bug move on to either AFF or RAPS jumping
Students initially progress within the sport from beginner to complete parachutist via one of two methods, depending on how you make your first jump. Static Line Jumping takes you through a ‘Category’ system from 1 to 10 while AFF takes you through a number of levels. As you progress, you can also qualify for the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (the World Air Sports Federation) Certificates (‘licences’) A to D
Whichever method you choose for your first jump, there is an organised structure for you to learn about the sport and advance at a safe pace. You will be assessed by qualified instructors, who will progress you to the next stage when you’re ready. The two systems are identical, only your equipment differs
Your first freefall can be as early as your sixth jump and will usually be a five second delay. The time you spend in freefall will be gradually increased and you will start to learn body flying skills such as turns and forward movement. About 30 jumps and you can qualify as a fully fledged skydiver. From here, all the different avenues of the sport are open!
There are around 25 parachute clubs/centres approved by and affiliated to the British Parachute Association. These are spread throughout the UK and range from full-time professional centres to weekend clubs run on a voluntary basis. They offer a variety of standard courses for student and provide facilities for experienced parachutists. Most centres can offer video or stills of your skydive
All courses follow standard British Parachute Association procedures, and are conducted by BPA approved instructors. They can be undertaken at any time of the year, although parachuting can only take place when weather conditions are suitable.
Whatever way you decide to do your jump, enjoy it! To really taste the experience you have to try it for yourself. Sport parachuting is a highly skilled sport which offers many and varied challenges to participants whether jumping purely for pleasure or with a competitive edge. Either way the sky is the limit
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