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



  • three jumps


  • 4,000 feet

This is the last category that distinguishes between students of different disciplines. Once you have demonstrated the ability to regain stability and control within five seconds after initiating a disorienting maneuver, a USPA Instructor in your discipline may clear you to jump without instructor supervision in freefall. At that point, any USPA Instructor may perform gripped exits with you, as well.

From Category E on, a USPA Instructor makes sure you are properly trained and supervised on each jump.

In Category E, you practice unpoised (door) exits and aerobatics to increase your confidence, awareness, and control in freefall. You should by now be jumping from the highest altitude available at your drop zone.

Under canopy, you’ll practice for softer landings by looking for the “sweet spot” in the flare—the flaring stroke that provides the best lift for that canopy with that jumper’s weight. The goal is to flare your canopy to fly as flat as possible until you begin to touch down. The USPA Instructor will also remind you of your responsibility (and every jumper’s responsibility) to observe and steer clear of other canopies.

By the end of Category D, you should have been able to land within 165 feet of the target with minimal assistance. In Category E, you should be able to do it on your own.

Part of the emergency procedure review includes a detailed discussion on preventing premature openings in freefall and more detailed procedures for two open canopies.

A rigger or instructor will introduce you to the open parachute system to identify its key components, along with the FAA’s rules for packing parachutes. Supervised packing begins in Category F.

You’ll discuss weight, balance, airspeed, jump run procedures, and aircraft emergency procedures, usually with a jump pilot. A jump pilot or USPA Instructor also shows you how to read a winds-aloft report. From that information, you’ll learn to calculate the best opening point over the ground.

In Categories E through H, you’re expected to select and prepare your equipment for jumping (with the supervising USPA Instructor’s advice), including obtaining all recommended pre-jump equipment checks. You’re also learning to spot, where to sit in the aircraft, and to allow enough distance between the jumpers exiting before you. You should know the surface winds and plan the appropriate landing pattern.

In order to be cleared to student self-supervision by a USPA Instructor, you must have obtained the following skills and knowledge:

  1. Demonstrated the ability to regain stability and control in freefall within five seconds after initiating a disorienting maneuver.
  2. Demonstrated sufficient canopy control skills to land safely in all expected conditions.
  3. Demonstrated the knowledge required to select and inspect gear before use.
  4. Shown knowledge of spotting required to make reasonable judgment about suggested exit points,
  5. Shown knowledge of both normal and emergency aircraft procedures for all aircraft types in common use for skydiving.


Category at a Glance

Advancement Criteria

Exit and Freefall
  • cumulative two successive disorienting maneuvers with stability and altitude awareness recovered within five seconds

    Note: Once this requirement is met and you have received the endorsement of a USPA Instructor in your training discipline, your training may be supervised by any USPA Instructor. You may then self-supervise in freefall, but remain under USPA Instructor supervision. A USPA instructional rating holder should accompany you in the aircraft to verify the correct spot, clearance from clouds and aircraft, exit separation, and your position in the line-up.

  • cumulative one barrel roll, one backloop, and one front loop
  • one self-supervised freefall
  • unassisted landing within 165 feet


  • complete open parachute system orientation
  • RSL orientation


Spotting and Aircraft
  • correct calculation of the opening point given simple wind conditions
  • active participation with spotting procedures on jump run


oral quiz

Book Stuff



Category E: Learning and Performance Objectives

  • door (unpoised) exit
  • recovering stability and awareness
  • freefall aerobatics
  • canopy stalls
  • the canopy’s “sweet spot”
  • two canopies deployed (review)
  • high-wind landings
  • reserve static line
  • open parachute orientation
  • parachute packing and supervision
  • wind limits for students
  • aircraft briefing
  • aircraft emergency procedures
  • selecting the opening point


A. Exit & Freefall

  1. Stable door (unpoised) exit—
    1. Position for the best launch.
    2. Present the front of your hips to the relative wind.
    3. Exit in a neutral position with your legs slightly extended (better stability).
    4. Maintain your arch as the relative wind changes from ahead to below after exit.
  2. Recovering from exit and freefall instability—
    1. Altitude, arch, legs, relax (review).
    2. If falling stable back-to-earth although arching, briefly retract one arm and look over that shoulder at the ground to return face-to-earth (half barrel roll).
  3. Barrel rolls, backloops, and front loops (instructor’s preferred technique)
    1. Try barrel rolls first, because they have a built-in recovery component from back-to-earth.
    2. Any two disorienting maneuvers with recovery and reorientation within five seconds qualify you for self-supervision in freefall (the same one may be used twice).
  4. Rolls, loops and other freeflying maneuvers result in faster and erratic fall rates; check altitude often.
  5. Visual altimeters, especially when chest-mounted, may be unreliable during inverted positions (see SIM Section 5-3.J.4).


B. Canopy

  1. Types of stalls
    1. An aerodynamic stall is a stable, steady-state stall, or sink, with decreased glide and increased rate of descent.
      1. associated with older designs and specialized accuracy canopies
      2. may not be achievable with newer, flatter-gliding canopies, which often fly flatter almost until a full stall
    2. A dynamic stall occurs at the end of a flare when the jumper begins to rock back under the canopy and the canopy begins to nose forward.
      1. associated with a sharp dive
      2. may signal a full stall
    3. A full stall occurs when the trailing edge (tail) is pulled below the leading edge (nose) and the canopy begins to fly backwards.
      1. collapses the canopy
      2. may result in unrecoverable line twist in smaller, more highly loaded wings stalled with the toggles (a back-riser stall may be more controllable)
      3. may be contrary to the manufacturer’s recommendations
      4. may result in entanglement with the jumper if released too abruptly
      5. may result in injury if done too low
  2. Raise the controls smoothly after any stall to avoid diving and partial collapse.
  3. Proper flare technique:
    1. Keep your feet and knees together to maintain heading during the landing flare (level harness).
    2. Flare with the hands in front to provide visual feedback for level control.
  4. Discovering the best landing flare (“sweet spot”) for the canopy being jumped (nine practice flares):

    Note: Complete all maneuvers above 1,000 feet.

    1. From full glide, flare to a mid-point in the toggle range.
      1. approximately the bottom of the rib cage
      2. at a medium rate of flare
    2. Feel the amount and duration of lift before the stall.
    3. Return gently to full flight for at least ten seconds.
    4. Repeat to the same depth.
      1. once at a faster rate
      2. once at a slower rate
    5. Compare the strength and duration of the lift before the stall.
    6. Flare at three different speeds to a point deeper in the toggle stroke, approximately at the hips.
    7. Flares at three different speeds to a higher point in the toggle stroke, approximately at the shoulders.
    8. Compare the flares to determine the stroke rate and depth that produces the maximum combined strength and duration of lift for that canopy.
  5. Best flare height above the ground
    1. Use the best flare procedure (discovered during the nine practice flares) upon landing, beginning one body height above ground.
    2. Flare to minimum descent (or flat) and hold that toggle position when the glide begins to flatten.
    3. Smoothly continue the toggle stroke to maintain the flat glide.
    4. If the canopy begins to stall and drops several feet, begin the flare that much lower on the next jump.
    5. If you don’t achieve the flattest glide before landing, begin to flare slightly higher on the next jump.
  6. Review of traffic avoidance procedures:
    1. Watch for other traffic, especially upon entering the landing pattern.
    2. The most dangerous point of the pattern occurs when two jumpers on opposite base-leg approaches turn to final approach.
    3. The lower canopy has the right of way, but one jumper should not maneuver to assert right of way over another.
    4. It takes two people to have a collision, but only one to avoid it.


C. Emergency Procedure Review

  1. Preventive measures for two open canopies
    1. Deploy the main parachute at the correct altitude to avoid AAD activation.
    2. Initiate malfunction procedures high enough to cut away safely and avoid AAD activation.
    3. Maintain and correctly operate hand-deployed pilot chutes, especially collapsibles.
    4. Protect your equipment before exit to prevent pins or handles being knocked loose.
    5. Some AADs, particularly those used for student jumping, will activate under a fully open parachute when controlled too aggressively at lower altitudes.
  2. Review detailed procedures for two canopies out as they pertain to experienced jumpers, found in SIM Section 5-1.
  3. Procedures for high-wind landings
    1. Before landing, disconnect the RSL as a precaution in case a cutaway becomes necessary to prevent being dragged.
    2. Choose a point to the side or well downwind of any obstacle that may generate turbulence.
    3. Land using a PLF and pull one toggle in as quickly as possible until the canopy collapses.
    4. After landing, cut away if necessary (with an SOS, cutting away may open the reserve container, but only the reserve pilot chute will likely deploy).


D. Equipment

  1. Attend the Category E Open Parachute Orientation (inset) to prepare for packing lessons.
  2. Typical characteristics of elliptical canopies compared to rectangular canopies of the same size and material:
    1. flatter glide for same airspeed
    2. faster turns
    3. greater loss of altitude in a turn
    4. may continue to dive after stopping control input following a turn
    5. slower, less predictable opening (some models)
    6. shorter toggle stroke for flare (some models)
    7. quicker, more abrupt stall (some models)
  3. The stall speed of any wing increases with higher wing loading.
    1. more suspended weight
    2. sudden maneuvers, such as flaring hard after a dive
    3. Use and limitations of the reserve static line, or RSL (SIM 5-3).


E. Rules & Recommendations

  1. Winds
    1. Students are limited to 14 mph (ten mph for round reserves).
    2. A USPA Safety & Training Advisor may file a waiver for students to jump in higher winds (see Section 2-2 on waivers to the BSRs, for the procedure).
    3. Licensed jumpers must exercise judgment.
  2. The FAA publishes rules for the periodic inspection and repacking of the main and reserve parachute system, found in FAR 105.43.a and b (SIM 9-1).


F. Spotting & Aircraft

  1. Attend the Aircraft Briefing (inset).
  2. Spotting (pilot or instructor)
    1. how to read a winds-aloft report
    2. true v. magnetic heading
    3. jump-run procedures
    4. spotting corrections
      1. manual (hand signals, shoulder taps)
      2. electronic (spotting buttons and lights)
      3. verbal
  3. The effect of winds during canopy descent
    1. A canopy descends at approximately 1,000 feet per minute.
    2. Divide the opening altitude by 1,000 feet to determine time of descent, e.g., 3,000 feet = three minutes of descent.
    3. Estimate in miles per minute the amount of drift during descent, as in Table 4-E.1:
  4. Calculate the drift under canopy from 3,000 feet, based on the average of the known winds and a canopy descent rate of 1,000 feet per minute, to choose the correct opening point—example (Table 4-E.2):
    1. canopy descent time from 3,000 feet (at 1,000 feet per minute): three minutes
    2. total (uncontrolled) drift at 1/4 mile per minute: 3/4 mile
    3. ideal opening point: 3/4 mile due west
  5. Observe and ask jumpers on a previous load about the wind conditions and spot.
  6. Jumper procedures during jump run
    1. The pilot determines when the door may be opened and may prefer to operate the door.
    2. Look below to—
      1. check for clouds
      2. check for aircraft
      3. verify the jump run is correct
    3. When the pilot gives the OK to jump, verify that the aircraft is the desired distance from the drop zone and begin exit procedures.
  7. Be sure to establish communications for spotting corrections with the pilot prior to flight.
Aircraft Briefing

The following briefing for Category E students covers the interaction between the jumpers, the aircraft, and the pilots:

  1. Sufficient airspeed is necessary for flight; without it, the aircraft wing stalls.
  2. Weight
    1. Aircraft weight limits are specified in the aircraft owner’s manual and other documentation and, by law, may not be exceeded.
    2. Weight includes:
      1. fuel
      2. occupants
      3. skydiving equipment
      4. other (jump seats, oxygen systems, etc.)
    3. The weight must be calculated for each load.
  3. Weight distribution (center of gravity)
    1. The load in an aircraft must be distributed within center of gravity limits to fly.
    2. Limits are published in the owner’s manual and other documentation.
    3. The pilot must calculate and monitor weight distribution for each flight.
    4. Jumpers moving around the aircraft can place the load out of limits.
      1. In aircraft with a door in the rear, some jumpers must remain forward as groups congregate near the door.
      2. Large groups planning to exit together should inform the pilot.
  4. Seat belts—
    1. prevent injuries in an emergency
    2. maintain the load within the center-of-gravity limits
  5. Jumpers outside the aircraft—
    1. can block air flow to the control surfaces
    2. add drag that makes it harder to maintain the necessary airspeed
    3. When floaters (outside the aircraft) are out, jumpers must exit quickly to reduce the effect of drag.
  6. Apply the concept of weight, balance, and drag to aircraft at the DZ.
  7. Aircraft emergency procedures
  8. Discussion on the sections of FAR 91 provided in this manual (Section 9-1); only the sections pertinent to skydiving are included there.
Open Parachute orientation

A rigger or instructor introduces you to the parachute system when it is unpacked. You will learn the common points of parachute wear and maintenance requirements during Category G. Assembly and maintenance of the three-ring release is covered in Category H.

  1. Packing is a function of identifying and organizing the parachute.
  2. Identify:
    1. pilot chute, bridle, and collapsing system
    2. deployment bag or other device
    3. pilot chute attachment
    4. top skin and discuss the different characteristics of F-111 (0-3 cfm) and zero-P fabric
    5. packing tabs
    6. bottom skin
    7. leading edge (nose)
    8. trailing edge (tail)
    9. center of tail (warning label or tab)
    10. stabilizers
    11. manufacturer’s label or logo (to identify end cell)
    12. slider stops
    13. loaded and unloaded ribs
    14. crossports
    15. A, B, C, D, and brake lines
    16. line cascades, including brake lines
    17. slider and slider grommets
    18. connector links and link protectors
    19. risers and brake system
  3. Review and discuss (preferably with an FAA rigger) FAR Part 105.43.a and b (Section 9-1 of this manual).
    1. who may pack a main parachute
    2. how often it needs to be packed
    3. rigger supervision of non-rated packers


CAT E dive flows


play video Dive Plan #1: Barrel Roll and Recovery

  • Assist with spot.
  • Solo-ungripped exit.
  • Altitude, arch, legs, relax.
  • Barrel roll.
  • Altitude, arch, legs, relax.
  • Barrel roll (or other disorienting maneuver).
  • Altitude, arch, legs, relax.
  • Continue aerobatics until 6,000 feet.
  • Altitude, arch, legs, relax between each maneuver.
  • Wave-off at 4,500 feet.
  • Pull by 4,000 feet.

play video Dive Plan #2: Frontloops and Backloops

  • Assist with spot.
  • Optional exit.
  • Altitude, arch, legs, relax.
  • Perform required aerobatics to standards until 6,000 feet.
  • Altitude check between each maneuver.
  • Wave-off at 4,500 feet.
  • Pull by 4,000 feet.


  • Open Parachute Orientation


  • Aircraft Briefing
  • play video Check altitude, position, and traffic.
  • Flare to chest at a medium speed and hold.
  • Recover to full flight for ten seconds.
  • Check altitude, position, and traffic.
  • Flare to chest at a quicker speed and hold.
  • Recover to full flight for ten seconds.
  • Check altitude, position, and traffic.
  • Flare to chest at a slower speed and hold.
  • Recover to full flight for ten seconds.
  • Check altitude, position, and traffic.
  • Flare to hips at a medium speed and hold.
  • Recover to full flight for ten seconds.
  • Check altitude, position, and traffic.
  • Flare to hips at a quicker speed and hold.
  • Recover to full flight for ten seconds.
  • Check altitude, position, and traffic.
  • Flare to hips at a slower speed and hold.
  • Recover to full flight for ten seconds.
  • Check altitude, position, and traffic.
  • Flare to shoulders at a medium speed and hold.
  • Recover to full flight for ten seconds.
  • Check altitude, position, and traffic.
  • Flare to shoulders at a quicker speed and hold.
  • Recover to full flight for ten seconds.
  • Check altitude, position, and traffic.
  • Flare to shoulders at a slower speed and hold.
  • Recover to full flight for ten seconds.
  • Evaluate the most effective flare according to the strongest sustainable lift (“sweet spot”).
  • Initiate the best flare at head height above the ground.
  • Continue to flare to maintain a flat glide until landing.
  • Evaluate the flare height according to the landing results.
Instructor Notes

Each student should complete the equipment, spotting, and aircraft procedures training before advancing to Category F. When possible, an FAA rigger should conduct the Open Parachute Orientation and review of the FARs on packing. When possible, a jump pilot should conduct the Aircraft Briefing and overview of the pertinent sections of FAR 91.


Categories F—H: Group Skydiving Skills

Skydiving is a sport for individualists who like to do things together. In the first portion of the USPA Integrated Student Program, Categories A-E, you focused on the skills required to survive independent freefall: stability control, deployment at the correct altitude, landing in a clear area, and how to use the equipment.

Categories F-H prepare you for more advanced freefall control. More importantly, you get ready for skydiving in groups—in freefall and under canopy.

The remaining three categories, F-H, prepare you for more advanced freefall control. More importantly, you get ready for skydiving in groups—in freefall and under canopy.

Your education continues in canopy flight, equipment, and aircraft skills essential for safety. Soon, you’ll graduate and become independent of supervision. Detailed review also continues on the emergency procedures introduced in the first-jump course.

With the direct assistance of other qualified staff members, such as the USPA Coach, the USPA Instructor continues to supervise your training and monitor your progress during all remaining student jumps until you obtain your USPA A license.

The freefall portions of Categories F through H address group flying techniques and skills. Under the supervision of a USPA Instructor, a USPA Coach may train you for the freefall skills in these last three categories and accompany you in freefall.

After completing all training and jumps at the end of Category H, you may sign up for a USPA A-license check dive with a USPA Instructor.