Becoming a licensed skydiver involves more than jumping from a plane
Did you love your tandem skydive so much that you wanted to do it again? It’s common for people to want to experience the rush of free fall over and over. The super keen ones book in for another tandem and go again. Some on the same day!
But skydiving doesn’t have to stop at tandem jumps. In fact, many people decide to take the accelerated free-fall (AFF) course so they can go on to become a licensed skydiver. What this means is that you can jump solo at different drop zones around the world. It sounds awesome but there are a few things you should think about (and it has nothing to do with courage).
In this post, we talk about the 5 things you should consider before learning to skydive.
Let’s be honest, skydiving is an expensive activity. If you’ve done a tandem you know this already. The good news is once you’ve passed your AFF course, got your license and bought your own gear, jumps are much cheaper.
Licensed skydivers pay $35 – 45 per solo jump.
To get to that stage, you need to spend upwards of $10,000. But don’t think you need all that money from the get go. Rudi, a licensed skydiver, offers this advice:
“Approach it like a work in progress. Get the minimum licenses to allow fun jumps with friends, then let the jumps tick over as the budget allows,” he says. “The fulfilment and camaraderie makes the cost secondary to the experience.”
Here’s a breakdown of some of the initial costs involved:
A) The course
The skydiving course costs between $1,950 and $2,960 in Australia. This includes all instruction, gear, student membership fees and jumps through the 9-stage course.
B) Your license
You’re considered a student until you get an ‘A’ license. To get that, you must finish the course, sit a written exam and demonstrate an ability to land a parachute on target 10 times. Any extra solo jumps needed to do so are charged at standard jump prices ($45) plus parachute hire if you don’t have your own. Some drop zones offer complete packages.
You need a parachute system and an automated activation device (AAD) to jump out of an airplane. You also need a helmet, altimeter, goggles and a jumpsuit at the very least. The good thing is, most drop zones will have this stuff available for hire from $40 per jump.
When you’re ready to buy your own gear, plan to spend $3,500-$10,000 depending on whether you buy used or new equipment.
To be able to jump in Australia, you must be a member of the Australian Parachute Federation. Annual membership fees are approximately $220.
To go on to get additional licenses that will allow you to jump with other licensed skydivers (and possibly become a skydiving instructor someday), you’ll need more training. Training jumps cost between $100 – $160 each.
So, you’ve got the money together (at least to do your AFF) so now you need the time.
How much time you need will depend on a few things: the distance from your home to the drop zone, the weather and how you take to the lessons.
Most skydiving lessons are called ‘accelerated’ because it’s fast learning, in ideally, a short amount of time. Therefore, it’s recommended to set aside a week to get through your AFF course. If you want to get your A license right away, plan on a 2-week stay on or near your chosen drop zone. This is not a requirement, just a recommendation.
After that, it will depend on your skydiving goals. Like everything, practise makes perfect so taking the time to learn and hone your skills will make you a better skydiver.
3. Best training methods
Choosing a skydiving centre is a big decision. Let’s face it, you can take your pick of places that teach skydiving but their methods, safety record, costs and quality of staff may differ greatly. To simplify this post, let’s stick with the teaching methods.
The Accelerated Free Fall program is the most widely practised method of skydiving tuition in Australia. It consists of a full day’s classroom instruction, then 9 stages of solo skydives. The first 3 stages are completed with 2 instructors holding you as you leave the plane and in free fall. Then, 5 stages with 1 instructor and the last stage, you’re on your own. This ramped-up method can be completed in as few as 5 days.
The Tandem Assisted Free Fall course is the same as the AFF but the first 3 stages are done as a tandem with your instructor. The benefit of this is the need for only 1 instructor, so it’s great for smaller drop zones and the overall cost may be less for the student.
The Solo Free Fall method is when you exit the plane alone and your parachute is immediately opened, usually by a “static line” that is connected to the inside of the plane and the pin that holds your parachute in its container. This method contains 17 jumps. Your amount of time in free fall increases from zero up to 30 seconds as you work through the 9 stages.
It’s true that extreme sports can be good for your mental health but when you’re learning, you need to have a clear head.
If you’re going through rough times like relationship issues or major work dramas, it may not be the best time to take up skydiving.
“The best time to take up skydiving is when you can fully dedicate your head-space to the many challenges that you’ll face. Skydiving is a physically and mentally demanding sport so start when your health and wellbeing are in top form,” says Paul, a skydiving instructor with more than 11,000 jumps.
1. Your reason
Are you learning to fly to be uber cool? Okay, that’s a valid reason. Tick. But seriously, think about your reasons to skydive before you take the plunge. You may want to become a skydiver because your best friend is one or you want to get out of a job you hate. Or maybe, you just want to be part of a close-knit community.
Clancy had never considered doing her AFF course until working in a customer service role at a drop zone. Although she had done 14 tandems before her solo jumps, it wasn’t the skydiving that prompted her to do the course.
“I wanted to become part of the skydiving family,” says Clancy. “I wanted the social side more than a burning desire to jump.”
Clancy is now a wife and mum of two girls. She no longer skydives.
Like many sports, skydiving takes commitment and drive if you want to progress. Sure, you can get your license and do a couple jumps a month or a year but you won’t learn a great deal. If you’ve watched any impressive skydiving videos, please know that acquiring that skill level takes hundreds of jumps and commitment to achieve.
Learning to skydive is super cool and tons of fun but it takes more than just bravado. If you’re serious about training to be a skydiver, remember that it takes a lot of time, money, commitment and a clear head. Once you have that, choose the best drop zone to do your skydiving training and you’ll soon be on your way to becoming a skydiver.