Skydiving is amazing. Even just once.
Being able to go up and fall through the sky every weekend, though? For as low as $30? It’s just incredible!
There’s something magical about having a skydiving license. It’s a passport to get you on to a plane full of fun people with a parachute on your back, and 10,000 or more feet to fall through.
Getting that skydiving license isn’t exactly cheap however, and it needs a bit of a commitment. That being said, it’s a whole ton of fun – like driving lessons, but in the sky!
I’ll walk you through the two routes to a skydiving license in this quick guide. Ready? Then let’s dive in.
What Having A Skydiving License Means
In the US, you need a total of 25 jumps to qualify for what’s called an A-License. Each type of skydiving license has a letter category. These are mostly based around how many jumps you have, among some other qualifications.
- A-License – around 25 jumps.
- B-License – around 50 jumps.
- C-License – around 200 jumps. Unlocks the real fun stuff (wingsuits etc)
- D-License – around 500 jumps Unlocks tandem/instructor training courses
Having any skydiving license qualifies you to jump at practically any airfield. Yes – this means you can go travelling and visit other drop zones! There are some limitations: this isn’t always possible in every country, and some drop zones have jump limits. These are normally because landing there is tricky. Like Dubai’s Palm Drop Zone requires a minimum of 800 logged skydives before you can jump there.
A skydiving license also frees you up from ‘refresher’ commitments. As a student, you need to stay current. This means that if it’s been more than a month since your last jump, you need to ‘refresh’ your training. This can be anything from a quick refresher briefing, to re-taking tests if it’s been more than a couple months. If you go longer than a year, then you’ll need to re-do (and pay for) the whole training course again!
Once you have your license, that all goes away. While you will still need to refresh if it’s been a long time, this tends to be more up to you (and the person in charge of the airfield) than needing to jump through training hoops.
In short, a skydiving license qualifies you to enjoy total freedom in the sport. You can go almost anywhere and step on a plane – even if it’s been a while. I’ve also heard that showing off your skydiving license also increases your appeal to the opposite sex by about 300%.
Getting A License to Skydive
That all sounds pretty great, right? So how do we get you there?
Well, as you can see above you need around 25 jumps to get that A-License. Surprisingly, you can’t just rock up to a plane and hope to jump out of it! You need to be trained.
There’s two training course options to start your path to a skydiving license: Static Line & Accelerated Free Fall. Both of these include ground-training and progressive levels which will slowly introduce you to the sport. With each jump you progress further towards being your own independent skydiver.
They both have a set number of jumps to do and boxes to tick. Once those are done, you’ll be left with a bunch of leftover “fun jumps” until you reach that magic 25 number. At which point you can qualify to be licensed.
Note: This is based on the US route. Other countries, like the UK, are slightly different – but everyone uses these two training courses to start. Let’s check them out.
The Popular Option: Accelerated Free Fall (AFF)
Developed in the 80’s and 90’s, this course is exactly what it suggests. An accelerated path to freefall!
From your very first jump you’re dropping from up to 10,000ft – completely solo. Well, almost solo. You’ll have two super experienced coaches falling with you to keep you stable and make sure everything goes smoothly!
After this you go through 7 progressive levels. The first few are all about you getting more independent in the sky, followed by a few levels of progression on maneuvers.
The main downside to this option is the cost. Those two instructors don’t come cheap! You’re looking at average costs of around $3,000 for a full course and enough jumps to make it to a license.
The other downside, some argue, is that you do rush into things! So much is thrown at you so quickly – including 7+ hours of ground training – that it’s hard to grasp at first. Especially handling your canopy. However, it’s super fun, super fast, and you’ve got plenty of time to perfect your understanding in your fun jumps later on.
The Cheaper Option: Static Line (RAPS)
Did that price tag on AFF scare you? Don’t worry, it does for most people! Thankfully, there’s a cheaper option.
Static Line training starts off with you attached to the plane. As in, there’s a rope (a ‘static line’) attached to your parachute pull-cord. As soon as you leave the plane, that parachute is getting pulled open and bam – you’re under canopy.
The main difference here is, of course, that you’re not exactly freefalling from the start. Instead, you build up to it – your first freefall is typically jump #6. From there, you build up altitude and finally progress onto learning maneuvers. Static line courses can be a total of 18 jumps, compared to AFF’s 7 (bearing in mind you need to hit a total of 25 jumps in both cases).
Since you don’t have instructors jumping down with you, static line costs much less. A full static line course and A-license jumps typically costs around $1,500. So a $1,500 saving compared to AFF!
While you do sacrifice that immediate big freefall, static line does introduce you to the sport much more slowly. This tends to mean more time on learning the basics, and a slower build up before you’re getting the full independent experience.
Which Is Better – Static Line or AFF?
Opinions between static line or AFF can vary quite strongly. Mostly, people seem to prefer whichever one they’ve done!
I actually covered this comparison between static line and AFF in a whole post here.
In short, I concluded that static line is better if you’re budget conscious, have plenty of time, and are fine to be a little patient with waiting to get to the big jumps.
If you have money, are shorter on time, or just want to get straight into the deep end of skydiving – then AFF is the route for you.
Both options are fantastic, and sometimes it’s simply a case of going with whichever your nearest airfield offers! In either case, 25 jumps from now you’ll be license qualified and in the same position. These courses are only the first steps on a much longer journey.
A Little Bit of Advice
Before I close this article out, I want to offer a final few words of advice for anyone who’s after a skydiving license:
- Wait until you’re ready. By ready, I mean that you can afford the whole thing, and have the time to do it. The last thing you want is your training expiring, or simply jumping when rusty, because you had to wait a long time between jumps.
- Be prepared for weather delays. Depending on your climate, you can’t always rely on the weather lining up for your jumps. This sometimes means hours, or even whole days, spent bumming around at the airfield waiting on the weather to jump. This is a super weather-dependent sport, so it might take a little bit more time to make those jumps.
- Get your packing certificate. Naturally you’ll be spending a lot of time at the drop zone while trying to make these 25 jumps. I fully recommend learning to pack while you’re there! Packing a parachute sounds intimidating, but it’s actually pretty easy. It’s not complicated – more of a simple step-by-step process. If you mess up a step, the chute’s not gonna fit in the bag properly – so don’t worry. It also means you can earn back some of that jump money by packing other peoples chutes.
- Don’t be scared to make friends! I say this a lot on here, but skydivers are some of the friendliest and most welcoming people on this planet. Skydivers are all crazy, but they’re crazy together. People may seem like they have their groups at the drop zone, but I can guarantee you’ll be welcomed in if you introduce yourself and show your keen to learn.
I hope this short article has helped you understand how skydiving licenses work, what they mean, and how you can get them.
If you’re preparing to sign up for your first jump, be sure to check out some of the other articles below! I’m trying to create a super helpful skydiving resource, so do ping me a message if there’s any other topics you’d love to see covered.
Thanks for reading, and happy jumping!