United States Parachute Association > Experienced Skydivers > SIM > Skydive School > CAT A

Category A

Category at a Glance   |   Academics   |   Dive Flows   |   Quiz   |   Reading— Mental Relaxation



  • one jump


  • two jumps


  • AFF: 4,500 feet
  • IAD and static line: 3,500 feet
  • Tandem: 5,500 feet

This first category of the ISP includes the first-jump course, presented according to your training discipline.

A USPA Coach may teach the solo general section, which contains topics and procedures common to all solo first jumpers in the AFF, IAD, or static-line programs. A USPA Instructor in that student’s training discipline is required to teach any sections unique to the student’s training method.

Depending on school policy, tandem skydivers may train for only the minimum information required to make a tandem jump safely, or they may train to meet the Category A advancement criteria. Only a USPA Tandem Instructor may conduct skydiving training in the tandem method, but a USPA Coach may assist.

All ISP categories include recommended minimum deployment altitudes and the number of skydives it takes on the average to complete that category of training (column on right). They vary within a category, according to your training discipline.

Following each category introduction is a category overview called “Category at a Glance.” It lists the advancement criteria you should meet before progressing to the next category of training. The school should provide you a USPA A-License Card and begin checking off training sessions and advancement criteria early in the training program.

At the end of each category, the supervising USPA Instructor conducts an oral quiz based on topics from the training outline and the recommended readings (“book stuff”) listed with the “Category at a Glance.”

Recommended plans (dive flows) for freefall and under canopy follow each outline. Notes for the supervising USPA Instructor are also found there.

Naturally, Category A includes the longest training outline, because there is a lot you must learn prior to making a first skydive. To improve retention, the school introduces only what you might need to know to make a first jump safely. Other important information can be presented as it becomes relevant and as you make a firmer commitment to learning more about the sport.


Category at a Glance

Advancement Criteria

Exit and Freefall

AFF and Tandem Students

  • reasonable arch and stability within ten seconds prior to planned deployment altitude
  • reasonable altitude awareness
  • initiate deployment procedures within 1,000 feet of the assigned altitude

IAD and Static-Line Students

  • establish an arch and reasonable control after exit
  • plan and execute canopy descent and landing pattern with assistance
  • assisted flare for a safe landing within 60 degrees of correct landing direction
  • land within 330 feet of the planned landing area, spot permitting

*Note: For reasons of safety, AFF, IAD, or static-line students who do not complete the flaring and landing advancement criteria on the first jump should be recommended for tandem or other comprehensive canopy training. If all other Category A advancement criteria have been met, the student may satisfy Category A canopy skills in another discipline and then advance to Category B in the preferred discipline.


oral quiz

Book Stuff



I. Solo: General

Note: The needs of the operation will determine the order of presentation of the topics taught in the first-jump course. This section may be taught by a USPA Coach under the supervision of any USPA Instructor.

A. Solo Equipment Orientation

  1. Location of all operation handles
  2. Equipment responsibilities
    1. In Category A, the USPA Instructor takes responsibility for putting your equipment on, adjusting it correctly, and checking it as follows:
      1. before you put it on
      2. before boarding
      3. in the aircraft shortly before exit
    2. IAD and static-line students check their deployment devices before climbing out of the aircraft.
    3. With the instructor’s assistance, the student protects all operation handles while in and around the aircraft.
  3. The altimeter indicates altitude in thousands of feet from the ground.
    1. Handle with care
    2. Reads only approximate altitudes
    3. Sometimes fails
    4. Use of the altimeter in freefall:
      1. Skydivers freefall about 1,000 feet in the first ten seconds and 1,000 feet every 5.5 seconds thereafter.
      2. The altimeter needle moves backwards at approximately the same speed as the second hand of a clock.
      3. Freefall students should check the altitude—
        1. after every task
        2. whenever encountering difficulty in completing the current task
        3. whenever uncertain of the altitude
        4. continually every few seconds
      4. If you don’t know the altitude, open the parachute.
    5. Static-line and IAD students count to keep track of the seconds after exit.
    6. All students use the altimeter under canopy.
    7. Altitude awareness is the skydiver’s most important task until the parachute opens.
  4. Parachute opening occurs in three stages:
    1. Activation—Deployment of the parachute begins once the container is opened (activated) in one of three ways:
      1. pulling the ripcord
      2. throwing the pilot chute
      3. static line
    2. Deployment—The parachute comes out of the backpack.
    3. Inflation—The canopy fills with air.
  5. Within three seconds after activation, determine whether or not the canopy has deployed, inflated properly, and is controllable.
  6. The open parachute canopy
    1. To land safely, the parachute canopy must be regular in shape and controllable, and you must be able to reliably steer and flare the canopy for landing.
      1. rectangular (may be slightly tapered) canopy overhead with untangled lines
      2. lines connecting to four straps above the jumper’s harness, called risers
      3. slider: a rectangular piece of fabric at the top of the risers
        1. moves down the lines during inflation.
        2. slows and organizes the opening.
      4. steering handles, called “toggles” or “brakes,” one on the back of each rear riser.
    2. Following a visual inspection, a canopy control check is completed after releasing the brakes (explained in the canopy piloting skills section).

B. Freefall Position

  1. Skydivers first learn to fall belly first into the wind.
    1. Falling belly first results in a more reliable deployment of the parachute, worn on the back.
    2. The airflow when exiting the aircraft comes from ahead.
  2. Arching and extending the legs slightly results in better belly-first control; and relaxing the rest of the body results in smooth, on-heading fall.
    1. hips forward with back arched
    2. knees at shoulder width
    3. legs extended slightly, knees bent 45 degrees, toes pointed
    4. upper arms positioned 90 degrees or less from the torso and relaxed
    5. elbows bent 90-120 degrees, up, and relaxed
    6. head up
    7. practice until natural
  3. Consciously breathing will help you relax.
  4. Communications
    1. Using hand signals (some examples are shown in SIM Appendix A), the instructor may coach you for a better body position and to improve awareness.
    2. Your method-specific instructor will introduce you to the signals he or she may use.
    3. You should respond to all adjustments smoothly and slowly and maintain the new position.

C. Main Deployment


  1. Establish belly-to-wind (arched) body position.
  2. Maintain the arch and locate the deployment handle.
    1. If the deployment handle is mounted on the bottom of the container, look up while reaching for the handle.
    2. Ripcords mounted more forward may allow you to look at the ripcord before reaching.
    3. Regardless of location or technique, accentuate the arch while reaching for the activation handle.
  3. For equal deflection of air (balance), stretch your left hand overhead and across as the right hand reaches for the deployment handle.
  4. Activate (pull or throw) the handle vigorously, returning to the original position.
  5. Verbalize each action, e.g., “Arch! Reach! Pull!”
  6. Pull Priorities
    1. Pull—You must deploy the parachute
    2. Pull at the proper altitude—You should maintain altitude awareness and pull at the assigned altitude.
    3. Pull at the proper altitude while stable—The priority is to deploy the parachute at the assigned altitude. Deploying in a stable body position will help to reduce the chances of experiencing a parachute malfunction, but never sacrifice altitude for stability.
  7. After activation:
    1. Remain flat, stable, and shoulders-level through deployment, counting to three by thousands.
    2. After the count of three, visually check for pilot chute deployment.


  1. As you exit the plane, remain arched, stable, and shoulders-level through deployment, counting to five by thousands.
  2. Look over your shoulder for the pilot chute (if used) and main canopy deployment.

D. Canopy Piloting Skills

  1. Basic canopy aerodynamics
    1. A ram-air canopy is an inflatable wing that performs like the wing of an airplane.
      1. Once it is open and inflated, the canopy will start gliding forward and down through the air.
      2. The forward movement creates a flow of relative wind around the canopy.
    2. The airflow around the canopy creates lift.
  2. Steering the canopy
    1. With both toggles all the way up, the canopy should glide straight ahead at full speed.
    2. The canopy turns right when you pull the right toggle (steering control line handle) down and turns left when you pull the left toggle down.
    3. To prevent a collision with another jumper, always look first in the direction of the intended turn.
    4. The canopy will turn as long as one toggle is held down and stops turning when it is let up.
    5. Pulling one toggle down a small amount produces a slow turn with a relatively small amount of dive.
    6. Small toggle inputs can be used to make minor heading corrections at any point in the canopy flight.
    7. Pulling one toggle down farther will produce a faster turn and causes the canopy to dive, which can have serious consequences near the ground.
    8. Pulling both toggles down decreases the rate of descent and forward speed of the canopy.
  3. Post-deployment canopy check
    1. Check the canopy for proper inflation after the deployment.
      1. The canopy should be large and fully inflated.
      2. The canopy should have four well-defined edges forming a rectangular shape.
      3. The suspension lines should cascade down in four neat line groups to each riser, the slider should be down to the tops of the risers, and the canopy should be flying wing-level toward the horizon, without spinning or turning. (Stable)
    2. Grab the steering toggles and perform a control check to ensure the canopy will steer and flare.
      1. Release the brakes by pulling both toggles down smoothly to the belly and raise back up to full flight.
      2. Look to the right to ensure clear airspace and pull the right toggle smoothly down toward the belly to initiate a right-hand turn and continue the turn for at least 90 degrees before returning the toggle all the way up to resume straight and level flight.
      3. Look to the left to ensure clear airspace and pull the left toggle smoothly down toward the belly to initiate a left turn and continue the turn for at least 90-degrees before returning the toggle all the way up to resume straight and level flight..
      4. Pull both toggles down smoothly all the way to full arm extension to flare the parachute, then smoothly return the toggles back to the full up position for a full glide, straight and level flight.
      5. To be considered a good main canopy, it should turn and flare correctly and fly in a straight direction with the toggles in the full up position.
  4. Canopy speed and wind
    1. When facing into the wind or “holding,” the canopy will fly more slowly across the ground.
    2. When flying in the same direction as the wind, or “running,” the canopy will move more quickly across the ground.
    3. When facing perpendicular to the wind or “crabbing,” the canopy will move forward and also drift sideways across the ground.
    4. These effects become more pronounced in stronger winds.
  5. Landing patterns
    1. Each jumper is responsible for landing safely in a clear area.
    2. Prior to boarding the aircraft before each jump, you should plan your landing pattern using an aerial photograph, diagram, map, or model of the drop zone.
    3. Determine the current speed and direction of the wind.
    4. Locate the intended target and determine the wind line, which is an imaginary line going through the target indicating the direction of the wind.
      1. If the canopy is upwind of the target, the wind will tend to push the canopy toward the target.
      2. if the canopy is downwind of the target, the wind will tend to push the canopy away from the target.
    5. In no-wind conditions or light and variable winds, the instructor and student should choose a pre-determined landing direction and base the landing pattern on that plan.
    6. Choose a point on the ground downwind of the landing target and on the wind line where you will start your final approach at 300 feet.
    7. Choose the point where you will start your base leg at 600 feet.
    8. Choose the point where you will start your downwind leg at 1,000 feet.
    9. The location of each point and shape of the pattern will vary depending on the strength of the wind.
      1. In light winds, the pattern will resemble a square, with the downwind leg, base leg, and final approach being the same length.
      2. In light winds it is important to have plenty of clear space past the target in case you overshoot.
      3. As the winds become stronger, the final approach and base legs become shorter, and the downwind leg becomes longer.
      4. In strong winds, it is important to make the base leg and final approach turns over a clear area, in case you land short of the target.
    10. Determine the shape and location of the holding area; this is ideally where you should be when the canopy opens, and where you should remain for most of the canopy flight.

    Note: The USPA Instructor may need to adjust the shape of the pattern or the checkpoint altitudes to account for various circumstances.

  6. Normal canopy flight procedures
    1. After checking for a good canopy, check your altitude then look directly below your feet and observe your position over the ground.
    2. Locate your holding area, target, and the “check points” where you will start each leg of your pattern, and establish a line to your preplanned 1,000-foot pattern entry point.
    3. Divide the line logically according to the remaining altitude (halfway down, halfway back); for example, if open at 4,000 feet—
      1. Divide the line in half and remain over the first half of the line until 2,000 feet.
      2. Fly over the remaining half of the line until reaching the pre-planned pattern entry point at 1,000 feet.
    4. Remain inside the holding area until 1,000 feet.
    5. As long as you are in the holding area and above 1,000 feet, you may practice turns and flares.
    6. Watch for other canopies, check your altitude, and check your position over the ground periodically, especially after each turn or practice flare.
    7. Begin your pattern at 1,000 feet, flying to each of the checkpoints you picked on the ground.
      1. You may need to begin your base leg turn at 600 feet even if you have not arrived at the planned checkpoint.
      2. If arriving too high at the planned 600-foot checkpoint, correct by looping out during the base leg on the way to the 300-foot point.
  7. Final approach and landing
    1. Once you have begun your final approach, your main priority is to keep the canopy flying straight toward a clear, open area.
      1. Small toggle inputs may be used to avoid obstacles on the ground.
      2. If the canopy begins to drift, use the appropriate input to stop the turn and keep the canopy flying straight toward a clear area.
      3. The best way to avoid obstacles is to always look towards a clear area and guide the canopy towards a clear landing spot, rather than focusing on an obstacle.
    2. If the canopy is flying straight, keeping the toggles all the way up in the full glide position will help the canopy produce more lift when you flare.
    3. It is easier to judge the flare height by looking mid-way towards the horizon rather than straight down below your feet.
    4. During the last part of the final approach, put your feet and knees together in a PLF position.
    5. Just before landing, convert the forward speed of the parachute to lift by flaring.
      1. When your feet are approximately twice your height above the ground, flare to half brakes.
      2. Flare the remainder of the way just before touching down.
      3. Your instructor may vary the exact flare technique based on the type of canopy you will be using or other factors.
    6. If you start the flare too high, stop flaring and hold the toggles where they are.
      1. Letting the toggles up abruptly causes a steep dive.
      2. Keep looking ahead and keep the canopy flying straight.
      3. Push the toggles the rest of the way down before touching down.

      Note: Beginners should jump large, docile canopies that allow for errors. These canopies should be resistant to stalling and should simply maintain a low airspeed and rate of descent if flared too high.

    7. You should be prepared to perform a parachute landing fall (see Illustration 4-A.3) every time you land.
    8. A stand-up landing should only be attempted if you touch down softly and are confident that you can comfortably remain on your feet.
  8. Perception of speed
    1. The canopy may seem to fly very slowly until you get lower on final approach.
    2. You may notice the speed for the first time at this point, which may trick you into flaring early.
    3. The canopy needs speed for an effective flare.
    4. Wait until the correct altitude to flare.
  9. Changing winds
    1. Landing into (against) the wind is desirable, but not absolutely necessary.
    2. Use available wind indicators to check the wind direction during your canopy flight.
      1. On days when the winds are light and variable, it may be best to maintain your original, planned pattern and landing direction even if the wind indicators change direction.
      2. If it is necessary to land in a different direction than planned, rotate your original pattern around the target so it lines up in the desired direction.
    3. Once you have begun your final approach, keeping the canopy flying straight toward a clear area is more important than landing directly into the wind.
    4. Landing downwind or crosswind in a clear area is far less risky than making an aggressive turn near the ground.
  10. Alternate landing areas
    1. Whether you land in the intended landing area or an alternate one, you should be prepared to make your own correct decisions and land safely without assistance.
    2. If you are not in your holding area or close to it when the canopy opens be prepared to pick an alternate landing area.
    3. Maintain altitude awareness while flying back towards your 1,000-foot point.
    4. At or above 2,000 feet you should decide whether or not you will be able to reach your 1,000-foot point.
    5. If it is obvious that the 1,000-foot point is unreachable:
      1. Look for your 600-foot and 300-foot points.
      2. If you are sure that you will be able to reach one of those points, fly toward it and remain over that point until you reach the correct altitude to begin that leg of your pattern.
      3. If it is obvious that you will not reach any point in your pattern by the correct altitude, then plan to land in a nearby open area, free of obstacles.
      4. Visually transfer the intended landing pattern to the new landing area.
      5. Fly the new landing pattern.
    6. Any time you must land in an alternate area off of the airport property:
      1. Look carefully for obstacles and avoid them by looking and steering the canopy towards a clear and open area.
      2. Perform a parachute landing fall (PLF).
      3. Wait for assistance or further instructions.
      4. Be polite to property owners.
  11. Priorities for all landings
    1. Land with the wing level and flying in a straight line.
    2. Land in a clear and open area, avoiding obstacles.
    3. Flare to at least the half-brake position.
    4. Always be prepared to make a PLF.

E. Basic Landing Training - PLF

  1. Parachutists absorb the shock of a hard landing with a Parachute Landing Fall (PLF).
    1. To prepare for a PLF, press your feet and knees together with your knees slightly bent.
    2. Flare the canopy completely with both hands together and close to the front of your body to help prevent wrist and hand injuries.
    3. Chin to the chest to help prevent neck injuries.
    4. Allow your feet to make contact with the ground first.
    5. Maintain the PLF position throughout the entire landing roll.
    6. As your feet touch the ground:
      1. Lean into the direction of the landing to roll down one side of the body.
      2. Lay over to the side of one calf.
      3. Continue to roll to the thigh on the same side.
      4. Continue rolling on to that hip (side of the butt).
      5. Roll diagonally across your back to the opposite shoulder.
      6. Allow your body to continue rolling and absorb the energy of the fall.
  2. The PLF position is also the proper way to prepare for a stand-up landing.
    1. The PLF position keeps your weight balanced in the harness and helps avoid the tendency to reach for the ground.
    2. If you touch down softly you can step out of the PLF position and remain on your feet.

F. Landing Hazards (at training harness)

  1. Landing hazards include water, trees, buildings, power lines, and any similar hazards.
  2. These hazards can usually be avoided by:
    1. Properly preparing for the canopy flight by observing the winds and planning an appropriate landing pattern before boarding the aircraft.
    2. Choosing the correct exit and opening points and spotting the aircraft correctly before exiting.
    3. Following the procedures described above under “Alternate landing areas.”
  1. Refer to the USPA BSRs for equipment requirements on jumps near water, but many drop zones have waivers on file.
  2. Procedure for an unintentional water landing:
    1. If possible, land close to shore or to a boat, buoy, or other floating object.
    2. Inflate the flotation device (if available).
    3. Loosen the chest strap (keep your hands in the steering toggles to maintain control if possible; however, this may require taking your hands out of the steering toggles first).
    4. Enter the water with lungs full of air.
    5. Releasing the main canopy and attempting to fall away into the water is not recommended.
      1. Altitude above water can be difficult to judge.
      2. Falling from a significant height into water can result in fatal injuries
      3. The water may be shallow or there may be unseen objects below the surface.
    6. Prepare for a PLF.
    7. Flare the parachute to half brakes at ten feet above the water (may be difficult to judge) and enter the water feet-first in a PLF position.
    8. If the canopy lands on top of you:
      1. dive down and swim out from under the canopy, or
      2. pull the canopy off of your head, remaining clear of the lines.
    9. Take a deep, full breath of air at every opportunity.
    10. Release or slide off the leg straps and swim carefully away to avoid entangling in the suspension lines.
    11. Even if you are in shallow water or are a strong swimmer, leave the parachute system behind.
  1. Most tree landings are survivable, but accidents may also occur during the recovery.
  2. Continue steering to avoid trees but avoid sharp turns near the ground.
  3. Procedures for landing in a tree:
    1. Flare to half brakes.
    2. Keep your legs tight together in a PLF position, but not crossed.
    3. Protect your face with both hands and forearms, with both elbows tightly together and close to your stomach.
    4. Try for the middle of the tree, then hold on to the trunk or main branch to avoid falling.
    5. Prepare for a hard landing on the ground if falling through the tree.
    6. Stay in the tree and wait for help; do not attempt to climb down.
  1. A jumper could land into the side of a building or on top of it.
  2. Make slight steering corrections to avoid the building or object, but stop any turns in time to prepare to land.
  3. Procedures for landing in or on a building:
    1. When landing on top of a building, prepare for a hard landing utilizing a Parachute Landing Fall (PLF) position.
    2. Flare at ten feet above the building.
    3. Strike the object feet first.
    4. After landing on top of a building in windy conditions, pull the cutaway handle to prevent being dragged off the building.
    5. When striking the side of a building, try to strike it in a PLF position feet first, then the side of your body with a glancing blow, if possible.
      1. Make slight steering corrections or turn your body to the side in your harness.
      2. Flare to half brakes.
      3. Protect your face and vital organs while keeping a proper PLF position in anticipation of a secondary impact.
Power lines
  1. Power lines typically appear along roads, between buildings, and along straight-line paths through wooded areas.
  2. They may be invisible, except for their poles.
  3. Power lines can be extremely dangerous: if there is no other alternative, landing in trees, in water, or on a small obstacle may be preferable to landing in power lines.
  4. Sharp turns close to the ground can be equally dangerous, so it is important to identify power lines and steer clear of them while enough altitude remains to do so safely.
  5. Procedure for landing in a power line:
    1. Drop any ripcords.
    2. Pull both toggles to the halfway position, prepare for a hard landing, and turn your head to one side. (With a round reserve canopy, place your hands between the front and rear risers on each side.)
    3. Touch no more than one wire at a time.
    4. If suspended in the wires: the parachute can conduct electricity, so the power needs to be off before making contact with anyone or anything on the ground.
Any obstacle landing
  1. Remain still and keep your helmet on.
  2. Prepare to drop the rest of the way to the ground at any moment.
  3. Wait for competent, knowledgeable help (drop zone staff) for help in getting down.
Landing off field
  1. Steer for a clear area
  2. Transfer the planned landing pattern to the new, clear area.
  3. Look for and avoid obstacles.
  4. Perform a PLF.
  5. Wait for assistance or further instructions.
  6. Be polite to property owners.
recovering the canopy in higher winds
  1. Land using a PLF.
  2. Get up quickly and attempt to run toward the canopy until it collapses.
  3. Pull in one toggle and steering line to assist in collapsing the canopy (especially if being dragged).
  4. Cut away the canopy as a last resort or if injured, but wait for assistance before walking anywhere.
round canopy (reserve use only)
  1. Round canopies have vents in the rear to enable forward speed (less than ten mph).
  2. Steer the canopy using the back risers or, if rigged on two risers only, the steering lines.
  3. Steer across or with the direction of the wind toward a clear area.
  4. Steer into the wind at 200-300 feet before landing and continue steering to avoid obstacles.
  5. Prepare to land using the PLF.

G. Equipment Problems

(at training harness)

  1. For a parachute to be safe to land it must be:
    1. “There,” meaning deployment has occurred and something is overhead.
    2. “Square,” meaning that the parachute is inflated, rectangular (or slightly tapered), and regular in shape.
    3. “Steerable,” meaning that you can turn left and right and flare.
    4. In the event of a toggle malfunction, the rear risers may be used for steering and flaring the canopy.
      1. Landing by flaring with rear risers should be practiced at sufficient altitude before attempting an actual landing with rear risers.
      2. Flaring with rear risers will require more strength than flaring with just the toggles.
  2. If the parachute fails any of the above tests, you must initiate reserve parachute procedures.
  3. Decide if the parachute is controllable and ready to land by 2,500 feet; otherwise, execute the planned emergency procedures.
  4. Routine problems in order of correction:
    1. To find a missing deployment handle, first find its location on the system (two additional tries).
      1. For bottom of container location, feel across the bottom of the back pack to the corner; then down the side to the corner, then go to reserve.
      2. For ripcord handle mounting on the harness, locate that part of the harness or harness intersection; if that fails after two tries, go to reserve.
    2. For a stuck main deployment handle, try again twice with both hands, if possible, then deploy the reserve.
    3. To clear a pilot chute hesitation (burble), twist at the waist and look over your shoulder to change the airflow.
    4. To untwist the lines, spread the risers and kick, but release the brakes only after clearing the twist.
    5. To bring down a stuck slider, depress the toggles to the flare position and pump them.
    6. To open the end cells, depress the toggles to the flare position and hold them.
    7. If the canopy has opened normally but turns on its own, be sure both brakes are released.
    8. Broken lines, rips, other canopy damage, or pilot chute entangled in the lines: Determine by 2,500 feet whether the canopy is steerable and flares without problems.

H. Equipment Emergency Procedures

total malfunction

Note: Some schools teach partial malfunction procedures as an alternative to the following procedures for when the parachute has been activated but has failed to deploy.

  1. Return to the arch position.
  2. Ripcord systems: Discard the main ripcord if extracted.
  3. Look for and locate the reserve ripcord handle.
  4. Pull it all the way out to activate the reserve parachute.
  5. Arch and check over the right shoulder for reserve pilot chute deployment.
partial malfunction

Note: On single-operation systems, pulling the reserve ripcord releases the main canopy first before deploying the reserve. Partial malfunction procedures for a single-operation system (SOS) are the same as for a total malfunction.

  1. Check altitude.
  2. Return to the arch position.
  3. Ripcord systems only: Discard the main ripcord.
  4. Locate and grasp the cutaway handle.
  5. Locate the reserve ripcord handle.
  6. Pull the cutaway handle until no lower than 1,000 feet.
  7. Pull the reserve ripcord handle immediately after cutting away or by at least 1,000 feet, regardless of stability, to initiate reserve deployment.
  8. Arch and check over the right shoulder for reserve pilot chute deployment.
  9. Cut away above 1,000 feet.
    1. If a malfunction procedure has not resolved the problem by then, deploy the reserve (requires a cutaway with an SOS system).
    2. In the event of any malfunction and regardless of the planned procedure or equipment, the reserve ripcord must be pulled by no lower than 1,000 feet.
other unusual situations
  1. Premature container opening in freefall (hand deployment only):
    1. Attempt to locate and deploy the pilot chute first (no more than two attempts or two seconds, whichever comes first).
    2. If the pilot chute can’t be located after two tries or if deploying the pilot chute results in a partial malfunction, cut away and deploy the reserve.
  2. Both parachutes deployed:
    1. Biplane
      1. Do not cut away.
      2. Steer the front canopy gently using toggles or leave the brakes stowed and steer by pulling on the rear risers.
      3. Leave the brakes stowed on the back canopy.
      4. Make a parachute landing fall on landing.
    2. Side-by-side (two alternatives)
      1. side-by-side alternative one
        1. If the two canopies are not tangled, cut away and fly the reserve to a safe landing.
      2. side-by-side alternative two
        1. Steer the dominant (larger) canopy gently using toggles or leave the brakes stowed and steer by pulling on the rear risers.
        2. Leave the brakes stowed on the other canopy.
        3. Make a parachute landing fall on landing.
    3. Downplane: Cut away the main canopy.
  3. Canopy collision:
    1. Jumpers must avoid collisions with other jumpers under open parachutes.
    2. If a collision is imminent, in most cases both jumpers should steer to the right.
    3. If two jumpers collide and entangle, they must communicate their intentions before taking further action.
    4. If it is too low for a safe cutaway (below 1,000 feet) and the canopies are uncontrollable, both jumpers should deploy their reserves.

Note: Deploying the reserve on a single-operation system necessitates a cutaway.

premature deployment in aircraft
  1. The student should attempt to contain the open parachute and inform the instructor.
  2. If the parachute goes out the door, the student must follow immediately before being extracted.


II. Solo: Method-Specific

Note: This section must be taught by either a USPA Instructor or Instructor Examiner rated for the method-specific discipline in which the student is being trained.

A. Aircraft Procedures

  1. Approach, enter, and move about the aircraft, engine running or not, only when accompanied by your instructor.
  2. To avoid contact with the propeller, always approach fixed-wing aircraft from the rear.
  3. Be mindful of the size of the parachute equipment when climbing into and moving about the aircraft.
  4. The pilot and the jumper are jointly responsible that seat belts are worn during taxi, takeoff, and landing (see the FARs on seat belt use).
  5. Climbout and exit procedures prepare you to meet the relative wind in a stable, belly-first freefall body position.
    1. Into position or climbout: Move into position using practiced steps for efficient placement in the door (larger plane) or on the wing strut (Cessna, etc.).
    2. Set-up: The pre-launch position should place your belly (pelvis) into the relative wind as part of the launch from the plane.
  6. Count or “go” command
    1. AFF students: Verify that the instructors are ready.
      1. Call “Check in!” to the inside instructor, who responds, “OK!”
      2. Call “Check out!” to the outside instructor, who responds, “OK!”
      3. Take a breath to relax and then begin a verbal and physical cadence of three (“Up, down, arch!” or “Out, in, arch!” etc.) to help the instructors leave simultaneously with you.
    2. Static-line or IAD students: Climb into position and wait for the instructor’s command.
      1. Look for corrective signals from your instructor (examples in SIM Appendix A).
      2. On “Go!” take a breath to relax and look up.
      3. Release from the plane, count out loud by thousands to five-thousand, then check the parachute.
    3. You must exit soon after climbout to ensure that you open the parachute over the correct place on the ground.

B. Exit Presentation

  1. Upon release from the plane, move efficiently into the flying position to reduce unwanted momentum.
  2. Present the correct belly-to-wind position: hips to the wind, head back, legs extended, and hold.
  3. Head-high presentation to the relative wind helps you remain oriented; however, you might also exit sideways or head down in relation to the horizon while remaining stable, belly first, on the relative wind.

C. Exit Problems

  1. Special considerations for AFF exits:
    1. In case of instability, (in order)—
      1. arch until the horizon comes flat into view
      2. read the altimeter
      3. establish communication with the instructors (examples of signals in SIM Appendix A)
    2. Continue as usual in the event of the loss of one instructor.
    3. If both instructors become unavailable at any time during the freefall, open the parachute immediately.
  2. Special considerations for static-line exits:
    1. Arch to regain lost stability on exit.
    2. If the static line fails to disconnect from the parachute system and you are being towed behind the aircraft, (in order)—
      1. Remain arched and use a pre-determined signal to communicate recognition of the problem.
      2. Wait for the instructor to cut the static line.
      3. After falling free, deploy the reserve.

D. Aircraft Emergencies

  1. In the event of an aircraft emergency:
    1. Sit still, with helmet on and seat belt fastened
    2. Wait for a command from your instructor
  2. In the event of a problem during flight, the instructor will help prepare you for one of four actions:
    1. All land with the aircraft.
    2. Exit and deploy the reserve parachute.
    3. Exit and deploy the main parachute (passive deployment for IAD and static-line).
    4. Perform a routine exit with or without instructor assistance.
  3. Rough landing procedures:
    1. Helmet and seat belt on
    2. Knees to chest
    3. Hands clasped behind head to reinforce neck
    4. Immediate but orderly exit from the aircraft on landing
    5. Jumpers exiting a wrecked aircraft should go immediately to the nearest exit, touch nothing on the aircraft, and walk at least 100 feet away from the plane.
  4. After an emergency exit and once under an open canopy:
    1. Look for the instructor’s parachute and follow it to a clear, open landing area.
    2. Select any clear area if an instructor can’t be found.


III. AFF Procedures

Note: This section must be taught by either a USPA AFF Instructor or Instructor Examiner.

A. Freefall Procedures

  1. After exit, take a breath and relax into the correct freefall position.
  2. Perform a “circle-of-awareness” check:
    1. Look at the ground about 45 degrees ahead and below.
    2. Read the altimeter.
    3. Look first to the reserve-side instructor and then to the main-side instructor for an acknowledgement or any communication (corrective signals, see SIM Appendix A).
  3. Perform three practice deployments.
    1. Practice slowly and deliberately.
    2. Verbalize each action, e.g., “Arch, reach, touch!”
    3. Pause to feel the deployment handle each time.
    4. Reinforce the correct body position before, during, and after each practice deployment.
  4. Perform a second circle-of-awareness check.
  5. Monitor altitude and body position for the remainder of the freefall.
    1. altitude (most important)
    2. arch (hips forward)
    3. legs (check leg position and probably extend them slightly)
    4. relax (breathe)
  6. Video camera flyer
    1. You must pay attention to the altitude, not the camera flyer.
    2. The benefit of video is recognized for all training jumps.
  7. At 5,500 feet, initiate deployment procedures:
    1. Signal deployment to instructors by waving both arms overhead.
    2. Deploy the parachute as practiced.
    3. The instructor may assist with activation and deployment.

B. After Deployment

  1. Look for traffic (other canopies).
  2. Follow “normal canopy flight procedure” practiced in first jump course.
  3. If unable to locate primary landing area, follow the instructors to a safe landing area or steer to the nearest clear area for landing.


IV. Tandem Procedures

Note: This section must be taught by either a USPA Tandem Instructor or Instructor Examiner. FAA-approved tandem parachutists in command may jump with passenger parachutists but are not USPA-rated skydiving instructors.

A. Tandem Training Strategies

  1. Not all schools train students to complete Category A on the first tandem jump, and not all students desire it.
  2. Much of the instruction on the Tandem first jump may take place during the jump itself.

B. Minimum Tandem Course

  1. Before boarding the aircraft, you should be briefed on how to do the following:
    1. check the four points of attachment to the instructor’s harness
    2. place both hands in the safety position
    3. establish an arch on exit
    4. maintain a stable freefall position
    5. read the altimeter
    6. operate the drogue release handle by 5,000 feet
    7. prepare for landing
  2. Refer to FAR 105.45.a.2.i in Section 9 of the SIM.

C. Category A via Tandem Jumping

  1. Category A freefall position, main deployment, canopy skills, training and advancement criteria are the same as for solo students.
  2. PLF landing training, solo equipment orientation, equipment malfunction training, and all method-specific training are to be completed during Category B.
  3. Since the minimum drogue release altitude for tandem jumps is 5,000 feet (BSRs), Tandem students should begin deployment procedures by at least 6,000 feet.
  4. Most of the Category A training can be conducted as the jump progresses.
  5. Special training notes:
    1. freefall position: On at least the first Tandem jump, your hands should remain in the safety position on the front of the harness at all times, unless otherwise directed by the tandem instructor.
    2. deployment: in terms of a solo rig.
    3. climbout and exit:
      1. The instructor will teach you the exit that best presents you face-first into to the relative wind.
      2. The instructor verifies that you are ready, and then begins a cadence of three (“Ready, set, go!” “Up, down arch!” etc.) to help you anticipate the exit.
    4. equipment:
      1. In Category A, the Tandem instructor takes responsibility for correctly putting on and adjusting your equipment and protecting the operation handles during pre-jump operations.
      2. Before moving into exit position at the jump door, you must verify the harness attachment in two places at the shoulders and two places near the hips.
    5. freefall procedures
      1. After exit, take a breath and relax into the correct freefall position.
      2. Look for signals from the instructor (SIM Appendix A) or listen for verbal corrections.
      3. If you exited with both hands in the safety position, the instructor may signal to move them into the freefall position.
      4. Once in freefall, perform according to the Category A dive flow for tandem students.
    6. Canopy flight procedures are the same as the canopy dive flow for solo students.
    7. landing
      1. You’ll prepare for routine landings with a technique specific to tandem jumping for that day’s conditions.
      2. A severe situation requires a parachute landing fall (PLF), which the instructor can teach on the ground or while under canopy in the event of a problem.
      3. Ordinarily, you’ll learn the PLF during transition training to solo freefall (first-jump course).
    8. The instructor may need to provide additional training to prepare you for landing a tandem parachute in higher winds.


Dive Flows


play video AFF

  • Exit in a relaxed arch
  • Instructors release arm grips
  • Circle of Awareness
  • Three practice deployments
  • Circle of Awareness
  • Altitude, arch, legs, relax
  • Begin wave off at 5,500 feet
  • Pull by 4,500 feet


  • Check deployment device prior to climb-out
  • Climb out
  • Exit on command with legs extended
  • Count aloud to five by thousands
  • Check canopy


  • Exit with arms in safety position
  • On instructor’s signal, relax into neutral arch
  • Check altitude
  • Three practice deployments
  • Altitude, arch, legs, relax
  • Begin wave off by 6,000 feet
  • Pull by 5,500 feet
  • play video (also used for tandem students training to meet Category A objectives)
  • Release brakes and fix routine opening problems
  • Look left, turn left
  • Look right, turn right
  • Flare
  • Check altitude, position, and traffic
  • Locate holding area, pattern "checkpoints," and target
  • Remain in holding area until 1,000 feet
  • Follow pre-assigned pattern over landing area
  • Flare to land and PLF (solo students)
Instructor Notes
  • Budget training time to cover only the most important topics.
  • To reduce student workload and training effort, employ staff support as much as possible, including assistance after landing.
  • The instructor is responsible for putting the student’s equipment on, adjusting it, and performing all equipment checks; students make sure checks are performed.
  • The instructor closely supervises the student when approaching, boarding, and being seated in the aircraft, including providing instruction on seat belt use during seating.
  • The instructor directs the student on the correct action in the event of any aircraft emergency (except in the event of the student’s parachute deploying out the door).


Mental Relaxation: The Key to Body Flight

In the early categories, like a magic mantra, you’ll hear over and over again from your instructors: “Altitude, arch, legs, relax.” Managing all four points at once is the key to controlled freefall.

After altitude awareness, relaxing is your key goal. It takes only a little push from the hips to get an effective arch, and you usually need to extend your legs only a little to get use of them in the wind. But you need to relax your other muscles a lot.

There are many other relaxation techniques you can borrow or develop, but choose one and practice it until you perfect it, even when you’re not skydiving.

So how can a brand-new skydiver relax in such an adrenaline-charged, exciting, and new environment?

Sports psychologists all recognize the value of staying loose and mentally relaxed for peak performance. Many describe ways to achieve a state of prepared relaxation. Each athlete learns to develop one technique and uses it to gain that state before and maintain it during every performance.

Almost all the techniques begin with slower, deeper, controlled breathing. Learn to breathe from deep in your lungs, using the muscles of your diaphragm. Practice breathing in slowly until your lungs are full and then emptying your lungs completely when you breathe out.

While you practice controlled breathing, you can use one of several suggested devices to relax your mind and your body:

  • Imagine yourself in a familiar, comfortable place, trying to visualize every sensual experience that you can associate with it: sight, sound, odor, taste, and touch. Picture the colors of the background and the details, try to smell the air as it would be, imagine you hear the sounds, and feel the air on your face. Imagine you just took a sip of your favorite drink.
  • Relax your body part by part, starting with your toes, then your ankles, calves, thighs, hips, abdomen, etc., spending five to ten seconds in each place while continuing your controlled breathing.
  • Count up to ten with each breath and then backward to zero.

There are many other relaxation techniques you can borrow or develop, but choose one and practice it until you perfect it, even when you’re not skydiving. That way, you can relax yourself quickly and effectively whenever the need arises—such as just before a skydive.

You should continue controlling your breathing as you’re getting ready to jump. Move slowly and deliberately in the aircraft as you approach the door and get into position, not only for safety but to help you maintain your relaxed, prepared state for the jump. Take another breath just before you actually launch from the aircraft and again to help you settle into freefall as soon as you let go. Make breathing part of every sequence, especially as you go through your “altitude, arch, legs, relax” sequence.

While skydiving is inherently a high-speed sport, you’ll notice that the best skydivers never do anything in a hurry.