You'll want to ask prospective training centers a few key questions before your first visit:
- 1. What types of training are offered
2. What kind of equipment is used
3. What is the certification of the instructors.
According to the United States Parachuting Association, there is no one organization that rates the schools' safety, but the USPA has its own requirements, and you can find out more on their website.
There are a few different methods of skydiving:
- Tandem freefall: Most people jumping for the first time choose this method. In the tandem method, the student and instructor are attached to the same parachute. They freefall together for 30 to 50 seconds, depending on the altitude, and descend together under a single parachute with dual controls.
- Accelerated freefall: This method includes training in climb-out and exit of the aircraft, freefall, canopy flight, landing and emergency procedures. The student exits the aircraft with two instructors, and they freefall together for 30 to 50 seconds, depending on altitude. The instructors maintain a grip on the student's harness to provide in-air instruction, and then the student opens the parachute and pilots it to the landing area.
- Static line/instant opening: Instruction is similar to that of accelerated freefall. The student jumps from the aircraft by himself, with the parachute deploying immediately. He then pilots the parachute to the landing area.
Depending on the type you'll be doing, the amount of time you spend at the school will vary. For a tandem jump, training and the jump itself takes about half a day. For the other types, expect to be at the site from morning until dark.
Skydiving can cost anywhere from about $100 to a few hundred dollars, depending on the type of dive you'll be doing, the equipment and the number of instructors. At the facility, you'll watch a training and safety video, and then your instructors will take over.
Dress according to the weather and wear comfortable sneakers or walking shoes. The facility should provide a helmet, goggles and a jumpsuit. If you decide to skydive more than once (or decide to make it a hobby), you may want to invest in some of your own equipment.
You may be able to purchase your equipment at the skydive school, or you can ask the instructor to refer you to a specialty shop to purchase what you'll need.
Other things to keep in mind
- You should be physically fit and weigh no more than 250 pounds.
- Because skydiving is dependent on wind and cloud conditions, call ahead to make sure conditions are right for jumping. If you've already completed your training, you can jump any time.
- While you may be anxious, enjoy it! It's safe as long as you are with professionals and have had the training you need.