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How to... Learn to Skydive!

How-toJames Hipkiss

First Woman to Skydive Everest. Skydiving can often be perceived as an elusive sport to get into. Where is a good and reputable place to learn? Which student course should I chose? How much will it cost? Am I going to die? etc. etc. Well, I'm here to shed some light on this, fill in the gaps and hopefully inspire you to go and throw yourself out of a perfectly good aeroplane!

I often get asked Why do you throw yourself out of a perfectly good aeroplane? and my immediate and unfaltering response is I try and ONLY throw myself out of perfectly good aeroplanes!. So this is a good starting point. CHOOSING A DROPZONE (DZ) I would recommend looking on the Skydiving Association List at the bottom of this article, relevant to your current or location or which country you want to learn in. Most good and reputable DZs will be affiliated with these associations and listed on their websites. Some associations also rate each DZ and write a review, to give you a good insight of what to expect, what aircraft they have, what sort of operation they run.

Once you have narrowed down your preferred DZs, the next step would be to give them a call or ideally go along in person ask lots of questions! Most DZs have videos and brochures of what is involved in their courses, so look at these too. They will be glad to see you or talk to you, and you will be much more confident and comfortable if you put the time into thoroughly researching the options available to you and consequently you will have a much better time! Here is a list of recommended questions to ask in person or over the phone: 1. Is the DZ open weekdays or weekends only, year round or seasonal? 2. Which First Jump Courses do they offer? AFF or Static Line? 3. How much does it cost? 4. What is the usual course completion time? 5. Will you have just one instructor throughout the course or multiple instructors? 6. Will each level (jump) be filmed? 7. If you fail a level, how much will it cost to retake it? 8. What is the weather like at the time of year you want to visit? 9. What aircraft do they use? 10. How busy are they? How many jumps per day can you make approximately? WHICH TYPE OF TRAINING IS RIGHT FOR YOU? There are three different types of training: Tandem, Static Line Accelerated Freefall. Tandem: Tandem jumps are a great introduction to the sport. They allow you to do a skydive with an experienced tandem master and experience freefall before committing to a First-Jump course.

By relying on the tandem master's skills, you will be able to experience the thrill of skydiving without the pressure of having to pull your own parachute and land it! A tandem jump requires 15 to 45 minutes of ground preparation. The student and tandem master each wear a harness, however only the tandem master wears the parachutes. Your harness attaches to the front of the tandem master's harness and the two of you freefall together for 30-45 seconds or more, open together, and land together under one BIG parachute. The weight limit is normally 100kgs. Static Line (SL): Essentially you are attached to the aeroplane with a static line. When you exit the aircraft at approx. 3000 feet, the parachute opens as line stretch is reached on the static-line. You are then guided down by radio for a safe landing by a certified instructor. Accelerated Freefall (AFF): This is by far the more common way of learning to skydive. This is where you exit the aircraft from approx. 12,000 feet with two AFF Instructors each holding an arm and leg on exit. You will be in freefall for approx. 45 60 secs (depending on your exit height) and deploy your parachute at approx. 4000 feet. Again, you will be guided down by radio for a safe landing. The AFF programme allows faster body flight skills development and is alot of FUN! AFF VERSUS SL Both AFF SL courses are well established and have their own pluses and minuses. The average number of jumps it takes to complete the Static Line course is 30 50 parachute descents. Most people who learn to skydive using this method spread their learning time over a longer period, because of the number of jumps that are required to pass the course.

However, despite taking longer in time, this does spread the financial costs too. The AFF course requires a minimum of 8 skydives to graduate, and is a much more intensive training method. Students jump with instructors holding onto them in freefall, starting off with 2 instructors on levels 1, 2 and 3, then one instructor for subsequent levels. Once these AFF skydives are completed, the student then goes on to make 10 solo consolidation jumps. These skydives are designed for you to consolidate the knowledge and skills learnt throughout the AFF course. This system is designed to be undertaken over a continuous space of time, and the training can be started and completed in as little as 3 days. Financially, this does mean that there is a larger initial outlay straight away. Once you have decided on the hows, whens and wheres, you are well on your way to getting your knees in the breeze! Another big factor that needs to be taken into consideration is the weather.

Waiting on the weather is very frustrating and can be very demotivating, especially when you are a student, as you're fairly restricted by what weather conditions you can jump in. So my advice is, try and go to a DZ with good weather and stay there for a few days so you can do your training course and some consolidation jumps in a consistent flow, rather than a jump here and there over a period of weeks or months. Spain, Italy France are all popular skydiving destinations close to the UK. If you fancy venturing a little further a field, the US has some great DZs and same goes for Australia New Zealand. Skydiving is a serious business and most DZs today are well run commercial operations, with professional and knowledge staff. They can help with questions about learning to skydive and how to progress in the sport. Some DZs have other on-site facilities such as equipment shops, wind tunnels, bars, restaurants, accommodation, swimming pools etc... MANAGING YOUR FEAR FEAR = False Experiences Appearing Real.

Throwing yourself out of an aircraft is a major assault on your senses and you will almost certainly feel sensory overload to begin with. It is easy to let your imagination run wild so always try to remain calm, focused and rational at all times. I always find it helpful to visualise each part of the skydive, step-by-step, starting with gearing up, walking to the plane, sitting in the plane, exiting, freefall, flying your canopy, landing and walking back into the hangar. The first time you experience freefall, it is a feeling like no other. The sense of achievement when you land from your first jump is phenomenal! Just dont forget to breathe in freefall! AM I GOING TO DIE?!! All skydivers wear two parachutes when making a jump A main parachute and a reserve parachute. If you are a tandem passenger, the instructor will carry out the reserve drills and pull their reserve parachute if required. If you are a SL or AFF student, then as part of your training, you are taught how to deal with this situation and what action to take. All student parachute equipment has a device to open the reserve parachute automatically if required. Statistically, skydiving is a relatively safe sport if you maintain your equipment properly, use your common sense and jump within your competency level.

You are more likely to run into trouble driving your car to or from the DZ! PROGRESSION IN THE SPORT On completion of your course, you can then apply for your A licence. This shows your level of proficiency. You will now be able to go and jump on your own or with a small group of other jumpers, which is called a fun jump or a sport jump! Remember though, even with your A license, you are still considered high risk and very much a newbie to the sport and when you go to other DZs, you will have to do some jumps with an instructor so they can assess your ability and competency level. My advice is to enjoy the steep learning curve and enjoy the excitement of becoming a skydiver but don't get carried away too soon be aware of your competency level and work within that to start with. Start small, build your confidence and progress gradually and safely. A good saying to bear in mind is Its better to be on the ground wishing you were up in the sky, than in the sky wishing you were on the ground!! The parachute certificate program is issued in a tiered system. A, B, C, and D certificate. D being that carried by the most experienced skydiver.

You don't always have to jump out of a plane to practise skydiving. These days you can go to wind tunnels, which simulate freefall. Wind tunnels are invaluable for improving your skills techniques with the added advantage of no plane rides and no parachute to pack! BUYING EQUIPMENT You can hire equipment at most DZs but once you are a certified skydiver, with a taste for it, you will probably want to own your own equipment and pack your own parachute. Depending on your budget, I would always recommend buying the best that you can afford. Don't skimp on your gear, as its saving your life every time you jump! There is lots of good second-hand gear available, but get it checked over by a certified rigger before parting with your cash! Gear maintenance is really important. Reserve parachutes have to be inspected and repacked every six months.

This is recorded in a logbook, which you will need to show if you jump at a new DZ. Good Luck, Blue Skies Safe Landings! Holly Budge has worked in the adrenaline sports industry for over ten years as an experienced skydiver and freefall camera woman, with more than 2,500 jumps. Skydiving has taken her all over the world and in 2008, she became the first woman to skydive Mount Everest.

To read more on her adventures, visit http://www.hollybudgeadventures.com Or follow Holly on... http://www.facebook.com/hollybudgeadventures https://twitter.com/hollybudge International Skydiving Associations: Australia http://www.apf.asn.au/ Asia - http://www.skydiveasia.org/ Brazil - Confederao Brasileira de Paraquedismo British - British Parachute Association Canada - Canadian Sport Parachuting Association Chile - Federacin Chilena de Paracaidismo France - Fdration Franaise de Parachutisme Germany - Deutscher Fallschirmsport Verband e.V. Italy - Italian National Parachute Association New Zealand - http://www.nzpf.org/ Portugal - Federaao Portuguesa de Paraquedismo South Africa - Parachute Association of South Africa Sweden - Svenska Fallskrmssport Frbundet Swiss - Fdration Suisse de Parachutisme United States - United States Parachute Association.