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Get Started on the Adventure of a Lifetime!

For sheer excitement and high-speed fun, no sport comes close to skydiving. Fortunately, this life-changing adrenaline sport is not as extreme or intimidating as it may seem. Just about anyone 18 years of age or older can take to the skies after some comprehensive safety instruction. Each year, approximately 500,000 people in the U.S. spread their wings and try skydiving for the first time. These first-time jump students and experienced skydivers make about 3.2 million jumps annually!


You make your first skydive at a drop zone—which is a independently run business offering skydiving training. USPA provides curriculum to certified instructors for several methods of training for your first skydive and beyond! 

Skydiving is an amazing experience. Each individual drop zone sets their individual policies and procedures for their business and requirements for students, but in general, the school you select will provide you with the necessary equipment and skydiving knowledge necessary for the method of instruction you select. Give them a call to discuss any physical and dress requirements for the location.

Find a Drop Zone near you!

Your instructors will train you according to the type of jump you will be making, so there's no need to study ahead. However, if you plan to go solo on your first jump or anytime soon, check out...

Skydive School—USPA's Online Ground School

Designed as a supplementary resource for first-time jumpers, the USPA Online Ground School will help you learn about skydiving while you relax in the comfort of your favorite chair! This is not a course that can be used as complete training for any of your skydives. But, by reviewing this information at your own pace and becoming familiar with the equipment and concepts you will need to understand before making your first jump, your ground school at the drop zone will go much smoother for you.


This ground school was made possible by the talents and efforts of
Jen Sharp, executive producer & author
Tony James, animator
John “Wink” Winkler and his crew at Down To Earth Rigging, malfunction footage

Which Drop Zone Is Best?

Much like cars, everyone believes that their home DZ is best! In reality, there is no rating system for drop zones, and "best" is subjective. Every drop zone has its own characteristics, and what fits you may not fit your best friend and vice versa.

Shop around! Call the drop zone you're interested in, stop by and watch how things operate. Ask questions.

Which Dropzone is Safest?

No organization rates the relative safety of skydiving schools, but USPA Group Member skydiving centers have pledged to follow USPA Basic Safety Requirements, including providing USPA-developed first-jump courses, using current USPA-rated instructors and providing USPA-required skydiving equipment.

Safety is something that concerns every skydiver and is one of the most important topics in our community. Don't leave your questions unanswered. View our FAQs, talk to the drop zone where you're considering making your first jump, and understand more about skydiving safety.

Find the drop zone closest to you in USPA's Drop Zone Locator!

Many regions are served by more than one skydiving center and a prospective student should shop around. Ask questions (personal observation is even better) about the types of training offered, the type of equipment used, staff qualifications, etc. to find the DZ best suited for you.

How does the first jump work?

Several methods for making your first jump are available, depending on what your drop zone offers. The school you choose can answer more specific questions. Browse each method and then compare!

Accelerated Freefall
Commonly abbreviated "AFF."

This training discipline is where certified instructors accompany the student in freefall holding onto the student's harness at first while the student demonstrates certain skills. It can be compared to learning to ride a bike with training wheels.

Since the student is wearing his own parachute, he must be trained to handle emergency procedures as well as landing procedures. AFF training usually consists of a several hour ground course, and the first jump can often be accomplished the same day. The USPA Online Ground School, while not a course that can be used as complete training, provides valuable information for first-time jumpers and is a great refresher for all students. It includes videos and information about skydiving equipment, canopy flight and landing, emergency procedures and exit and freefall.

How Does It Work?
Student exits the aircraft with two USPA AFF Instructors and freefall together for 30 to 50 seconds, depending on jump altitude, typically 10,000 to 13,000 feet. Instructors maintain grip on the student's harness to provide in-air instruction and assist with stability if necessary.

The student opens his own parachute by 4,000 feet and pilots it to the landing area.

AFF first-jump training and the jump requires more resources and support from the staff than the other methods and is priced accordingly.

Many schools offer video of the freefall and landing.

Tandem Freefall
Most drop zones use tandem jumps to introduce students into the solo training programs. The instructor is the pilot in command of the shared parachute so the training time is considerably less than the methods where the student is wearing his own parachute.

Generally 20 minutes.

How Does It Work?
Both the student and the instructor are attached to the same parachute system.

They freefall together for 30 to 50 seconds, depending on jump altitude, typically 10,000 to 13,000 feet and descend together under a single large parachute with dual controls.

This is the updated assumption of risk waiver video to be shown before anyone makes a tandem skydive.

Less than AFF and about the same as static line/IAD.

Most schools offer optional video of the freefall and landing for additional cost.

Static Line / IAD
IAD stands for "Instructor-Assisted Deployment" and is a method of training where the instructor initiates deployment of the student's parachute when the student jumps from the plane.

Static line is a line of cable or webbing, one end of which is fastened to the parachute, the other to some part of the aircraft, used to activate and deploy or partially deploy the parachute as the student falls away from the aircraft. The instructor does not jump with the student in either of these methods.

IAD and static-line training and the first jump can often be accomplished the same day. The USPA Online Ground School, while not a course that can be used as complete training, provides valuable information for first-time jumpers and is a great refresher for all students. Although the freefall portion is specific to the AFF training method, it also includes videos and sections on skydiving equipment, canopy flight and landing, emergency procedures relevant to all training methods.

This video is typical of what a drop zone may be able to provide. This sample static line video of Jamie Scarbro was filmed by Nick Swindle at Skydive Walterboro, South Carolina.

How Does It Work?
Assisted during climbout by the USPA IAD or Static-Line Instructor, the student exits the aircraft solo with the parachute deploying immediately.

Exit and opening occur at 3,500 feet, then the student pilots the parachute to the landing area.

Less than AFF and about the same as tandem.

Some schools offer video of the exit and landing.

Compare Methods

  Accelerated Freefall (AFF) Instructor-Assisted Deployment (IAD) or Static-Line Tandem Freefall

Quickest method to independent skydiving.

Least expensive entry into the sport.

Quickest way to experience skydiving.


Several hours of ground school.

Several hours of ground school.

Generally less than 30 minutes.


• Jump with 2 instructors who hold onto student in freefall.

• Freefall for 4,000-10,000 feet (30-60 seconds).

• Student is expected to deploy their own parachute.

• First freefall on around the 6th jump.

• Jump with 1 instructor. The instructor and student share the same parachute system.

• Freefall for 4,000-10,000 feet (30-60 seconds).

• Student may be allowed to deploy the pair's parachute but is not required to.

Parachute (Canopy)

Student is alone under canopy.

Student is alone under canopy.

• Student and instructor descend together under a single large parachute.

• Student may be allowed to control canopy but is not required to.


Most schools offer AFF training.

Some schools offer IAD and/or static-line training, especially schools with smaller airplanes.

Most schools offer tandem training.





Get a FREE Starter Mag!

The Parachutist Starter Magazine is a 48-page full-color publication aimed to help you as a first-time skydiver in further pursuing the sport. The magazine’s purpose is to inspire you to return to the drop zone, earn your A licenses and remain in the skydiving community. The Starter Magazine is a valuable source of information for you while you explore the sport! 


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