United States Parachute Association > Experienced Skydivers > SIM > Section 3

Section 3: Classification of Skydivers

Section Summary

Important Reference Numbers

  • license requirements and privileges—3-1.E
  • license exam instructions—3-2.A
  • application checklist—3-2.C

Skydivers can qualify for and receive a variety of licenses and ratings according to their experience, skill, and knowledge level. USPA Licenses are essentially documents of proficiency and are divided into four classes from the lowest to highest levels: A, B, C, and D. Many skydivers also pursue ratings, which require qualifications in addition to those required for licenses. Three separate types of ratings can be obtained as an individual develops expertise in a specific area, such as student instruction, professional demonstration jumping, and competition judging. The FAA issues certificates for riggers, pilots, and aircraft mechanics, which may be of interest to skydivers. This section of the SIM describes the requirements and privileges of USPA licenses. For more details on the USPA instructional ratings, see the USPA Instructional Rating Manual. For the USPA PRO Exhibition rating, see SIM Section 7, "Exhibition Jumping." For information on competition judging, see the USPA Skydiver's Competition Manual. And for FAA ratings, refer to the FAA documents included in this manual.

Who needs this section?

  • jumpers seeking licenses
  • USPA officials certifying license applications and administering license exams

3-1 USPA Licenses

A. Background

  1. License requirements are intended to encourage the development of the knowledge and skills that should be acquired by each skydiver as experience is gained.
  2. USPA licenses, recognized in all FAI member countries, serve as official documentation that the stated experience and skills have been attained.
  3. Licenses are a valuable instructional tool in that they serve both as goals to be accomplished and as a guideline to acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to provide a reasonable level of safety and enjoyment.
  4. USPA license authority
    1. The United States Parachute Association is authorized by the National Aeronautic Association and the Federation Aeronautique Internationale to issue internationally recognized parachutist Certificates of Proficiency issued as A-D licenses.
    2. Licenses are issued based upon demonstration of skill, knowledge, and experience and are ranked according to the level of accomplishment.

B. General conditions for licenses

  1. USPA licenses are valid only while the holder is a current regular USPA member or a current temporary USPA member; there is no other renewal requirement.
  2. USPA ratings are only valid while the holder is a current regular USPA member.
  3. USPA licenses are valid in all FAI member countries and, while valid, entitle the holder to participate in open skydiving events organized in FAI member countries.
  4. USPA issues licenses only to USPA members who meet the conditions set forth for that license.
  5. License qualifications made during military training jumps and all the dive flows and ground training requirements outlined in the USPA ISP must be properly recorded on the USPA A license progression card or higher license application for that USPA license and verified by the appropriate USPA official.
  6. Total freefall time is defined to include both freefall and droguefall time.
  7. Static line and IAD jumps count towards jump numbers needed for licenses and ratings.
  8. USPA licenses may be refused, suspended, or revoked only when authorized by the USPA Board of Directors or in compliance with existing USPA Board directives.

C. Logging jumps for licenses and ratings

  1. Skydives offered as evidence of qualification must have been:
    1. made in accordance with the USPA requirements in effect at the time of the jump
    2. legibly recorded in chronological order in an appropriate log that contains the following information:
      1. jump number
      2. date
      3. location
      4. exit altitude
      5. freefall length (time)
      6. type of jump (formation skydiving, freeflying, canopy formation, style, etc.)
      7. landing distance from the target
      8. equipment used
      9. verifying signature to include a legible USPA membership number, skydiving license number, or pilot certificate number
  2. Jumps to meet the number of jumps requirements for USPA licenses and ratings must be signed by a witness of the jump who may be another licensed skydiver, pilot, Instructor, Examiner, S&TA, or board member.
  3. Jumps to meet skill requirements must be signed by a Coach, Instructor, Examiner, S&TA, or Board member. Special requirements and additional qualifying items needed for Examiner ratings such as FJCs, air evaluations, ground evaluations, and teaching requirements must be logged and signed by an Examiner.
  4. Use of digital devices for logging skydives
    1. Many skydivers use digital devices to log skydives, instead of traditional paper logbooks.
    2. Any jump logged in a digital device must contain the required information, including a signature verification from a licensed skydiver, the pilot, or a USPA National or FAI Judge who witnessed the skydive.
    3. Each Instructor, S&TA, or Examiner who verifies license requirements for a USPA license must review and verify the jumps logged in a digital device.
    4. For skydivers who are pursuing licenses and ratings, it is especially critical that the first 500 jumps are clearly logged and easily verifiable by the officials who must verify the jumps for licenses and ratings.

D. Verification of application

  1. Experience verification: The certifying official should verify that the number of jumps and total freefall time are correct and meet the listed requirements for the license sought.
  2. Skill verification: Jump numbers, scores, or date(s) of completion require the initials of a current USPA Instructor, S&TA, Examiner, or USPA Board member.
  3. Except for jumps to meet the number of jump requirements; all jumps needed to meet requirements for licenses or ratings must be signed by an Instructor, Examiner, S&TA, or board member. Special requirements and additional qualifying items needed for an Examiner ratings such as FJCs, air evaluations, ground evaluations, and teaching requirements must be logged and signed by the S&TA, Examiner, or board member.
  4. Signature Verification: Applications for all licenses must be signed by an appropriate official (as listed in this Section) before the application is forwarded to USPA Headquarters.
    1. USPA Instructors may verify A, B, and C licenses.
    2. S&TAs, Examiners, and USPA Board members may verify any license application.
  5. Every USPA B license must also include a completed and signed copy of the Canopy Piloting Proficiency Card.
  6. The completed Canopy Proficiency Card must be signed by a current USPA S&TA, Examiner, or USPA board member.
    1. The S&TA must ensure that a qualified course director conducts the training in this section.
    2. In some situations, the best candidate to teach this material may not hold any USPA ratings, but may have extensive knowledge about canopy control and landings.
    3. The signature of the S&TA on the proficiency card is to verify that the training has been satisfactorily completed by the candidate.
  7. You may not sign for your own license application or initial any of the verification blocks of your own license application.
  8. USPA will charge a separate license fee for each license number issued.

E. License privileges and requirements

  1. A License copy link
    Persons holding a USPA A license may jump without supervision, pack their own main parachute, engage in basic group jumps, perform water jumps, and must have—
    1. completed 25 freefall jumps
    2. completed all requirements listed on the USPA A License Proficiency Card
    3. completed five group freefall skydives involving at least two participants
    4. received the signature and official stamp on the USPA A License Proficiency Card or USPA A License Progression Card (ISP) which validates the A license for a 60-day time limit following the completion of the card
    5. The completed and signed USPA A License Proficiency Card or USPA A License Progression Card must be validated within 60-days of completion by sending the card to USPA Headquarters. Once validated, USPA will issue a license number that becomes a permanent record of the member.
    6. passed the USPA-developed written and oral USPA A-license exams conducted by a current USPA I, Examiner, S&TA, Judge or USPA Board member Note: USPA Headquarters will accept either completed card signed by a USPA Instructor without the official stamp.? The registration fee must be included.
  2. B License copy link
    Persons holding a USPA B license are able to exercise all privileges of an A-license holder, perform night jumps, with 100 jumps are eligible for the USPA Coach Rating, and must have—
    1. met all current requirements for or hold a USPA A license
    2. completed 50 jumps including:
      1. accumulated at least 30 minutes of controlled freefall time
      2. landed within 33 feet of target center on ten jumps
    3. successful completion of the planned formation(s) on ten formation skydives, or ten formation freefly skydives, at least five of which, in either discipline, must involve at least three participants
    4. documentation of live water landing training with full equipment in accordance with the procedures in the Skydiver's Information Manual
    5. complete all of the requirements listed on the USPA Canopy Piloting Proficiency Card
    6. passed the written USPA B license exam conducted by a current USPA I, Examiner, S&TA, Judge or USPA Board member.
  3. C License copy link
    Persons holding a USPA C license are able to exercise all privileges of a B-license holder, are eligible for the USPA Instructor rating (except USPA Tandem Instructor), participate in certain demonstration jumps, may ride as passenger on USPA Tandem Instructor training and rating renewal jumps, and must have—
    1. met all current requirements for or hold a USPA B license
    2. completed 200 jumps, including accumulating at least 60 minutes of controlled freefall time
    3. landed within seven feet of target center on 25 jumps
    4. Successful completion of fifty formation skydives, or fifty formation freefly skydives, at least ten of which, in either discipline, must involve at least four participants
    5. Passed the USPA written C license exam con­ducted by a current USPA I, Examiner, S&TA, Judge or USPA Board member.
  4. D License copy link
    Persons holding a USPA D license are able to exercise all privileges of a C-license holder, are eligible for all USPA ratings, and must have—
    1. met all current requirements for or hold a USPA C license
    2. completed 500 jumps including accumulating at least three hours of controlled freefall time
    3. completed at least two of the following skills requirements (a requirement may be repeated):
      1. night jump (following the SIM recommendations)
      2. landed within seven feet of the target center on 100 jumps.
      3. participated in a canopy formation of a 3 stack or larger, completing a full rotation.
      4. completed an intentional water jump.
      5. successful completion of one hundred formation skydives, at least twenty-five of which must involve at least eight participants.
    4. Passed the written USPA D license exam conducted by a current USPA Examiner, S&TA, Judge Examiner or USPA board member.

F. Restricted USPA Licenses

  1. Under extreme circumstances, such as physical handicaps, a USPA Restricted license may be issued to applicants who are unable to meet all of the specific license requirements.
  2. A person may be qualified for a Restricted license if the applicant has (all of the following):
    1. submitted a petition to the Safety & Training Committee, containing:
      1. type of license requested
      2. specific license requirement(s) which cannot be met
      3. circumstances which prevent compliance with license requirements
      4. license application completed, except for the restricted activities
    2. met all requirements for the license desired except for those listed in the petition
  3. Each application will be considered individually on its own merit, totally without precedent.
  4. If the waiver is approved by the board of directors, the license will be issued with the word "restricted."

3-2 License Exam and Application Procedures

A. License exam instructions copy link

  1. A license:
    1. The examining USPA Instructor conducts a 40-question written USPA A-license exam and an oral quiz of at least 20 questions taken from the USPA Integrated Student Program syllabus, with emphasis on the following:
      1. cloud clearance and visibility requirements
      2. equipment operation and maintenance
        1. wing loading and its effects
        2. closing loop
        3. velcro and tuck flaps
        4. packing and authorization to pack
      3. canopy flight
        1. traffic patterns and collision avoidance
        2. braked turns and obstacle avoidance
        3. low turn avoidance and recovery
        4. downwind landing procedures
        5. obstacle landing emergency and recovery procedures
      4. aircraft procedures
        1. during jump run and exit to observe balance limits
        2. distance between groups to maintain separation
        3. aircraft emergency procedures
      5. group breakoff recommendations
      6. parachute emergency procedures
        1. deployment malfunctions
        2. cutaway decide-and-act altitude
        3. two-canopies-deployed scenarios
      7. accountability for FAR compliance
    2. The examining USPA Instructor conducts or arranges the review training required for the student to answer all questions correctly.
    3. The examining USPA Instructor conducts a skydive with the applicant to verify practical knowledge in the following areas:copy link
      1. choosing the spot and selecting and guiding the pilot to the correct exit and opening point in routine conditions
      2. pre-jump equipment checks for self and others
      3. planning an effective group break-off
      4. right 360, left 360, and a backloop (backloop to be completed within 60 degrees of the original heading)
      5. docking from 20 feet (evaluator flies into position)
      6. breakoff altitude recognition and tracking for a minimum of 100 feet
      7. signal before deployment and overall awareness during and after deployment
      8. planning and flying a logical landing pattern that promotes a smooth traffic flow and avoids other jumpers
      9. packing and preparing equipment for the next jump
      10. Review SIM Sections 2, 5, 6, 9, and Governance Manual section 1-6
    4. Once the student has successfully completed the A-license check dive and answered all questions correctly on the oral exam and passed the written exam with a score of at least 75%, the certifying USPA Instructor may sign the student's A License Proficiency Card or the USPA A License Progression Card and apply the official USPA A-license stamp as proof of license qualification.
    5. The card is then considered a valid USPA A license for a 60-day time period.
    6. The completed card must be submitted to USPA Headquarters for processing to be considered a valid license beyond the 60-day time period.
  2. For B, C, and D licenses, the examining USPA official:
    1. gives the applicant an answer sheet and the questions to the exam
      1. No ref­erences or other assistance are permitted during the exam.
      2. After the test, the examining official collects the materials and grades the exam.
      3. A score of 75% is required to pass.
    2. The score is recorded on the license application and in the applicant's logbook.
      1. The applicant not passing will be eligible to retake this exam after seven days.
      2. Applicants who have not passed the USPA online license testing program may retest using the same method immediately for a total of three attempts per day.
      3. To qualify for a higher license, the applicant must possess a USPA license, meet all qualifications for lower licenses, and have passed all lower-class license exams.

B. Presenting a completed license application

  1. A license
    1. The completed A license Proficiency Card or USPA A-License Progression Card signed by the certifying USPA Instructor and bearing the official A-license stamp, is proof of a USPA A license for a 60-day period from the completion date.
    2. To receive an A license, the holder must submit a completed A-License card to USPA with the appropriate license registration fee:
      1. Fax both sides of the completed license application to USPA with a credit card authorization.
      2. Photocopy both sides of the completed license application and mail it with payment.
      3. Scan and email a copy of the card to membership@uspa.org
      4. A completed and signed A-License application need not be stamped to be registered with USPA (USPA keeps a copy of all USPA Instructor signatures on file); however, an A License Proficiency Card is not considered official until the card is submitted to USPA for verification and a license number is issued.
  2. B, C, and D license applicants may email, mail or fax their completed application with the appropriate fee to USPA Headquarters.
  3. Once any new license has been registered with USPA, the applicant will receive a new membership card with the license number, which is also published in Parachutist Magazine.

C. License application checklist

  1. The verifying official signing the license application should check that each of these items has been completed:
    1. applicant's personal information
    2. experience verification
      1. number of jumps
      2. freefall time, if applicable
    3. skill verification
  2. The official verifies (by initialing) either that:
    1. The jump number, date, or score for each requirement is correct and can be found in the applicant's logbook.
    2. If applicable, the applicant's appropriate license number is included with the application.
  3. Official verifying B, C, and D licenses should check that the written exam answer sheet is complete with a passing score.
  4. For the B License, include a copy of the completed Canopy Piloting Proficiency Card with the license application.
  5. Sign and print name, title, and date in the space provided on the application.

3-3 Ratings

A. USPA instructional ratings

USPA issues instructional ratings to each skydiver who qualifies by fulfilling all requirements for the rating being sought. These ratings attest that the holder has not only achieved skydiving skills but has also demonstrated the techniques needed to teach these skills to others.

  1. Ratings are issued at the following levels (from lowest to highest):
    1. Coach
    2. Instructor
    3. Examiner
  2. USPA Instructors may be qualified to conduct initial skydiving training in one or more disciplines:
    1. harness hold (USPA Accelerated Freefall or AFF)
    2. instructor-assisted deployment
    3. static line
    4. tandem

The USPA Coach may act as a supervised assistant to the USPA Instructor to teach specified portions of the first-jump course. Any USPA instructional rating holder may perform the duties of the USPA Coach or of any lower rating holder in his or her discipline.

USPA Examiners appoint qualified instructional rating holders as course evaluators in accordance with the requirements outlined in the USPA Instructional Rating Manual. All policies, procedures, new rating and renewal requirements, and the rating course outlines, support materials and examinations are found in the USPA Instructional Rating Manual.

B. Newly Rated Instructors

Instructors who have just completed a certification course should be paired with more seasoned staff as they begin to work with students in any new discipline. The Instructional Rating Manual includes recommendations for new rating holders in Section 1 of each of the rating course sections.

C. USPA PRO Professional Exhibition Rating

The Federal Aviation Administration and USPA cooperate on an alternative means for skydivers to demonstrate competence to perform skydiving shows before the public via a USPA PRO Exhibition rating. The program is described in?the Exhibition Jumping Section of the SIM. The FAA may ask jumpers who do not hold a USPA PRO rating to demonstrate competence prior to issuing a Certificate of Authorization to conduct a parachute exhibition jump.

D. USPA Judge Rating

To assist in the administration of skydiving competitions at various levels from local and regional to World Championships, USPA conducts the USPA Judges program. Judges are rated as Regional, National, and International.?Details on the USPA Judge rating program and the National Judge Training Course are detailed in the USPA Skydiver's Competition Manual.

E. FAA ratings

The Federal Aviation Administration administers the programs that certify parachute riggers, aircraft mechanics, and pilots. The rules for these drop zone staff members are found in the Federal Aviation Regulations, many pertinent parts of which are included in the SIM Section 9, FAA Documents.

Skydiving students study the role of the rigger and supervised packers in detail while preparing for the USPA A license using the Integrated Student Program in the SIM. In addition, they overview pilot rating requirements and the role of the FAA mechanic.