Learn to skydive with AFFSchool.com

Learn to skydive with an AFF skydiving course. Skydiving courses in the UK, Spain and USA

An AFF student on an AFF skydiving course in freefall An AFF student on an AFF skydiving course under a parachute

Questions and answers about skydiving and our skydiving courses

Learning to skydive with an AFF skydiving course

General skydiving questions

How does the AFF skydiving course work?

The AFF skydiving is designed to teach you how to skydive quickly and safely using the very latest training techniques. AFF has been used to teach thousands of people to skydive with great success all over the world, in fact with AFF you can become a qualified skydiver in just a few days. There are 8 levels to the AFF course - each consisting of training on the ground, a single skydive and a set of maneuvers that you must complete before moving on to the next level. On all apart from level 8 one or more instructors will be in the air with you and filming you.

All the levels (apart from Level 8) are filmed so that on the ground our instructors can closely examine your skydive and provide constructive feedback on every aspect of it. At the end of the AFF course the video of your skydives is yours to keep. Some people may have to retake 1 or 2 of the levels to attain the skill levels required - although many pass the whole course first go! For your safety and enjoyment our instructors will only let you progress when you are ready.

You will receive expert training and guidance for each of the jumps from expert and friendly instructors. The whole course and teaching methods are designed to help you progress as quickly and as safely as possible. Additionally there is now the option to train freefall skills in a safe indoor environment at a vertical wind tunnel, this can further accelerate the development of skydiving skills and provide you with added confidence when you come to your first skydives.

You will be given extensive instruction about piloting your parachute, however, until our instructors believe you are ready to do it "entirely on your own" you will be talked down to the ground and given additional landing instruction using radios attached to your helmet. You will be deploying your parachute at around 5,000 ft throughout the AFF course (a little bit lower on level 8), giving you a parachute ride of several minutes for each skydive.

Your parachute pack, simply referred to in the sport as a "rig" is designed especially for students and has many safety features. Like all skydivers you will have a reserve parachute which has been specially packed by an expert. Additionally as an extra safety precaution you will have an Automatic Activation Device fitted - so that in the unlikely event you do not deploy your own parachute it will deploy automatically for you at a set altitude.

There is now the option to receive additional training at a vertical wind tunnel, this can further accelerate the development of skydiving skills and provide you with added confidence when you come to your first skydives. This is available as an option to all our students and we will discuss it with you.

When you start the skydiving course you will typically spend 1 day training on the ground with our instructors and make your first skydive the following day. This will mean staying at a Bed and Breakfast or hotel near the dropzone on the first night - or camping at the dropzone, all of which we can help arrange for you. The following morning, there will be training overview session that lasts about an hour - and then you will go on to make your first skydive at the earliest opportunity. If we think it's appropriate that you visit one of the wind tunnels for additional training this will extend the course by about 1 day.

The sleepover and rest in between your training and your first jump allows you to think a little bit more about what you have been taught, to visualise your first skydive and relax. The training required for each of the other AFF levels, because it is all fundamentally based on the training you received for your level 1 - is much less than the first level and so in theory it's possible to complete the other levels quite quickly.

The rate at which you progress through the remaining levels is mainly up to you and the best time to decide is once you've made your first skydive. Many people want to 'crack on' and complete all their remaining levels within a couple of days - although whether this is possible this depends on a number of factors including how well you are getting on, the availability of "slots" available on the aircraft and the weather. Some people wish to complete the course over a series of weekends. When you contact we can discuss your exact requirements with you.

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How long does the whole AFF skydiving course take?

This depends on a number of factors, including the effort you want to put in to completing the course, the natural speed at wish you progress and the weather. Most of our courses are offered over a "long weekend", that is starting on a Friday morning and finishing on a Sunday night, or Monday night. Some people wish to do the course over a series of weekends, other people want to train mid-week. If you would like additionally training in a vertical wind tunnel, this normally adds about a day. The key thing with any AFF skydiving course is that you must be able to complete it at your own pace and you don't know what this is until you have started the course. With AFFSchool.com you will be encouraged to progress at the rate we think is best for you, your safety and your fun.

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What if I have to repeat a level or get stuck?

If on one of your AFF levels you do not achieve the objectives set out for you by the instructors they may deem it necessary to make you repeat the level. This is entirely in your interests and for your safety. The instructors will not allow you to progress to the next level if they do not think you are ready and safe to do so. That said, most people get through the whole of AFF without too much fuss - many people complete AFF without having to repeat a level but on the whole most people have to repeat a couple of their levels. Most people complete AFF in about 9 jumps. There are costs associated in repeating a level but with AFFSchool.com our instructors will not "charge" you for their time if you have to do so. A full breakdown of the costs is available on the Prices page.

Our instructors are extremely experienced in helping a wide range of students deal with different progression issues and be assured that in most cases, our students have been able to achieve their goals. We are experienced, have advanced training techniques and because all skydives are filmed we are able to analyse the jump properly and advise you on precisely what is required to move forward. In some circumstances we advise that a trip to the vertical wind tunnel is made which gives you an opportunity to refine in air body positions in a safe, indoor environment.

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Where can I do your AFF skydiving course?

Our main base is at a dropzone in an area called Cumbria in the North West of England. This fantastic area is also referred to as The Lake District because it has a number of beautiful lakes, which prove very popular with tourists over summer. It is an absolutely stunning part of the United Kingdom and is a fantastic place for a few days away. Not only is the scenery great from both the air and ground, but there are a number of other activities locally, great food and drink and lots of great places to stay for you and your family. The dropzone is very well equipped and has a great plane. All in all a great place to learn to skydive.

However, because we are not tied to the dropzone and our own "own bosses" our training can often be flexible. We often provide AFF courses at other dropzones around the UK, in the USA and Spain. When you make contact with us we will discuss your requirements, our availability and put a plan together especially for you.

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Do you recommend training in the UK?

Absolutely! The United Kingdom has the reputation of delivering some of the finest skydive training anywhere in the world, British dropzones and their aircraft are run to an excellent standard and if you intend to keep on jumping in the UK - then learning here helps you meet new people and establish friendships that will last a lifetime. We have two of the finest vertical wind tunnels anywhere in the world to assist training, a comprehensive skydiving association that when you join provides excellent benefits and if you have family you don't have to go 'a million miles away' from them to learn. In the rare event of an injury we have an extremely comprehensive medical service in the NHS that offers some of the best emergency medicine anywhere in the world - without the need for insurance etc.

With cheap airfare there has been a trend towards an increasing number of new students going to Spain to skydive and, occasionally we take students out there ourselves to train if that is what they want. The general belief is that by going to Spain you are guaranteed better weather and so are likely to progress faster. Well, whilst there is an element of truth in the weather being better - over the summer months, we're pretty confident that the rapidity at which you can progess on a skydiving course is probably about the same in the UK as it is in Spain. What's more our temperatures are often much nicer to train in there are many other benefits to training in the UK some of which have been listed above.

We think that training in the UK for many people is a really good option and by working in the UK we're able to deliver flexibility and benefits that you probably couldn't get anywhere else. However, if you are desperate to train abroad and have good reason to then we can facilitate this, so get in contact with us and we'll see what we can do.

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What if the weather is bad?

If when you come to do your AFF course the weather is bad, then it is true that this can halt your progress. Bad weather in skydiving generally means too windy, too wet or too cloudy. However British summers are generally much better than people give them credit for and it's a fabulous place to learn to skydive when the weather is nice. If for some reason the weather does hold up our AFF progress then we can arrange for the course to continue on other days. If there is a spell of bad weather then we will look at long term weather forecasts, the availability of cheap flights and discuss completing your AFF course in Spain or the USA - but only if absolutely necessary. UK weather is normally just fine!

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When I have finished AFF am I a "proper" skydiver?

Once you have completed the AFF course you will have all the basic skills required to skydive on your own. However you will probably want to attain a British Parachuting Association Cat 8 Certificate (also referred to as an "A" Licence) - this means you can jump on your own at skydiving centres around the world. To do this you must complete 10 solo jumps after your AFF course. These are called consolidation jumps.

The consolidation jumps provide an opportunity for you to relax, get used to your new freefall environment and refine / "consolidate" the new skills you have learned on your AFF course. Your instructors will talk to you about consolidation jumps at the end of your AFF course and arrange these for you if you would like

Once you have your Cat 8, then you can really start learning and having fun. There are a host of skills to refine and develop and a number of other skydiving "qualifications" that you can strive to obtain if you so wish. You will probably want to quickly learn to fly at very close range to other people so you can jump with your new found friends. We can help you develop all your skills if you so wish once you have your qualification.

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What actually is a skydive?

A skydive is the name given to the act of leaving an aircraft at altitude and falling for a short while before opening a parachute and returning to earth. That falling or "freefall" as it's known is what defines a skydive. Skydiving is a popular sport enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of people around the world. A qualified skydiver can develop their skills to skydive with other people for fun, or competitively using a number of different flying techniques. Skydiving is not a stunt, it's a skilled sport that offers almost an almost unlimited progression path for those that want it, it's highly sociable sport with a wide range of different participants. Many people liken the experience of skydiving to that of flying without wings.

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What's the difference between a skydive and a parachute jump?

The terms skydive, parachute jump and just 'jump' are often used interchangeably with each other although there are some subtle differences between some of the terms. Skydives are by definition parachute jumps, that is because at the end of each skydive a parachute is used to land back on earth. However, where someone leaves an aircraft and immediately deploys their parachute without any freefall, it's debatable whether that is technically a skydive but it's definitely a parachute jump. In any case, there is no need to get strung up over terminology everyone at a dropzone (what skydivers call a skydiving centre) will understand what you mean if you use either term.

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Why do people skydive?

There are hundreds of reasons why people choose to skydive and whilst certain parts of the sport probably appeal universally to its participants, for example the basic feeling of freefall, but ultimately the reason why skydivers skydive tends to be quite personal. Skydivers see things that regular people just do not see - the view of the earth from 2 miles up and the sensation of what feels like flying. Skydiving is visually stunning. Flying in formation with friends you've formed an hour before, the plane disappearing above you, the thrill of the parachute ride, the smile that just stepping out of a plane puts across your face - all are reasons why people skydive. The "scene" is extremely friendly, it is an incredibly social sport and a great way to meet interesting people. For some the perception of risk is a buzz in itself. Many people sum it up by saying "its the best fun you can have with your clothes on". Ultimately there is something magical about skydiving. Skydiving is a sport with a number of different progression paths from the moment you are qualified, you can be assured that there will always be something to keep you interested in the sport and new skills to learn.

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Are skydivers risk-junkies?

People skydive for a number of different reasons but by and large most skydivers are just regular people. Skydivers come from a wide variety of different backgrounds and have a number of different 'day jobs'. Many skydivers are professional people with highly responsible vocations, many are parents and grandparents. Although there is a risk associatiated with any sport like skydiving that risk is often a lot less than the public believes it to be. Many skydivers make thousands of jumps without so much as a twisted ankle, because of training and equipment. Skydivers are people who by definition are comfortable actively manage risks through knowledge and careful equipment decisions. If skydivers were all inherently risk takers they wouldn't wear sophisticated parachute equipment and undergo extensive training. Skydiving is a beautiful exhilarating sport for people who want to experience something that most people do not, who feel comfortable managing risks and taking charge of their own destiny.

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What does freefall feel like?

Most skydivers liken the sensation of freefall to how they imagine flying or floating on a cushion of air. There is no sensation of "falling" as most people imagine and there is no "roller-coaster" sensation! It feels how you might imagine flying to feel. It is however quite noisy and naturally very windy as the air comes past you at great speed. Freefall is a really magical feeling that most people enjoy immensely and many people find highly addictive. Ever seen Superman flying across the sky in the movies? Well, freefall is probably the closest you are going to get. The average skydive from 14,000 feet gives you about 65 seconds of freefall!

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Is learning to skydive difficult?

Learning to skydive is extremely rewarding - many people will tell you it's one of the most rewarding experiences of their entire life. It's an amazing sport, with amazing people. However, learning can be very emotionally demanding, stressful and for many people even a little bit scary - but for most people it's not actually "that difficult" in a technical sense. There are a lot of things you will need to learn and learn well. You will need to be alert and switched on and have common sense, but you certainly don't need to be a rocket scientist! There are skydivers from every walk of life, from all sorts of different professions and with a wide range of academic ability. Learning to skydive isn't difficult - but it requires an element of "steel", alertness and common sense.

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Is skydiving scary?

The more you skydive the less scary it becomes and in fact after a few jumps what started off as fear, will probably become nervous apprehension and then nervous excitement! There is no doubt that some people find learning to skydive stressful. In fact most people, especially on their first few jumps find that they are scared to some extent and this is completely and absolutely normal. However, most students find that their fears quickly subside after a few jumps and that instead of being scary - it becomes exciting, addictive and appealing on many different levels. With skydiving the old saying 'there is nothing to fear but fear itself' has some merit. The fact is people wouldn't continue to skydive and take it up as their main pastime and hobby if it was that scary.

It's perfectly normal to feel apprehensive about skydiving even if you are considering learning. You will almost certainly have not been exposed to anything like it in your life and like anything completely new, the idea will of course feel strange. It's normal to be scared or to have apprehension of something so completely alien to you, but don't worry, you will probably get used to skydiving very quickly! Many people become so used to skydiving that leaving the plane feels completely normal to them. If you feel nervous, practically everyone you speak to in skydiving will know what you're going through and sympathise with you.

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Who can skydive?

Anyone between the ages of 16 and 65 can learn to skydive in the UK, so long as you are fit, healthy and alert. Note that if you are under 18 years old you will need to get parental consent. There are approximately 5,000 active skydivers in the UK from a wide range of social backgrounds, there is a hugely rich social scene associated with the sport, which presents its participants with many opportunities to make friends and travel. If you have any medical conditions you must declare them to us and discuss them with our instructors.

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From what altitude do you jump from?

All our AFF jumps are made from a minimum of 12,000 feet above ground level or higher and normally 14,000 feet. If the dropzone plane normally dispatches its qualified skydivers at 14,000 feet - then you will jump from 14,000 feet! There's no point in getting out lower and whilst you are learning this maximised your freefall time! Once you are qualified as a skydiver you can choose to exit the aircraft at whatever altitude above 2,500 feet. Most skydivers generally jump from the highest altitude they can, but you can exit the aircraft from as low as 2,500 feet so long as you deploy your parachute within a few seconds of leaving the plane.

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At what height do you deploy your parachute?

On nearly all the AFF jumps you will deploy your parachute at about 5,000 feet. This gives you about 40 seconds of freefall. This deployment altitude is higher than most qualified skydivers would normally deploy and gives plenty of time for your instructors to assist you if for any reason you hesitate or in the extremely unlikely event you have some form of difficulty. When you are a qualified skydiver you can choose to deploy your parachute at any altitude above about 2,500 feet - although most skydivers deploy at between 3,000 and 3,500 feet.

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How fast do you fall?

The average skydiver falls at somewhere between 110 and 130 miles per hour in the "standard" face to earth position. This is the position you are taught on AFF and the position that people use for formation skydiving.

It takes very roughly 10 seconds to fall the first 1,000 feet and then about 5 seconds for every subsequent 1,000 feet - so if an experienced skydiver falls for about 10,000 feet before deploying their parachute they will have had roughly 60 seconds of freefall. Different people fall at slightly different rates because different sizes and shapes of people create more or less air-resistance. As you fall through the air you create air-resistance and have air passing around your body at high speeds. This is referred to in the sport as the "relative wind". Essentially you feel a great deal of wind as you fall through the air at high speed. A less air-resistant - more aero dynamic shape (such as small person with a pot belly) will generally fall faster than someone with a similar mass - but who is tall with long arms and legs. As you become a more experienced skydiver you will learn how to alter your fall rate by making changes to your body position. By altering your body position you effect your air resistance and subsequently the rate at which you fall. It is a common MYTH that all objects fall at the same rate, this rule only applies in an absolute vacuum, where there is no resistance - here on earth we have air!

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Once I am a qualified skydiver - what can I progress to?

There is always something new to learn in skydiving. Amongst many other things your AFF course will teach you to fall "face to earth" in a stable position and perform turns (rotating your body), but you can refine these skills to enable to to fly very close to other skydivers, around them, towards them, over them and under them - with phenomenal control and precision! There are hundreds of freefall disciplines to develop and wide range of canopy skills to learn and refine.

Many skydivers with thousands of skydives will say there's still lots of new "stuff" for them to learn and this, in part is why skydiving is such an addictive amazing sport. The best in the sport often choose to compete in their chosen discipline against other at any of the hundreds of events around the world each year. Once you have become a fully fledged licensed skydiver and have gone on to buy your own equipment you can skydive in the UK for around £18 a jump.

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How dangerous is skydiving?

Although skydiving is a high risk sport when compared to say, snooker or football - and like any fast adventure sport it is of course possible to twist an ankle, hurt yourself in some other way or yes - you could in theory even die, it's not anywhere near as risky as many people would believe. You can sustain exactly the same injuries in an accident walking across the street, driving to work, horse riding - in fact doing just about anything! Lots of other adventure sports are just as or even more dangerous than skydiving and modern parachute systems and teaching methods are extremely reliable. Recent research shows there is on average only 1 fatality per 100,000 skydives or thereabouts. That's only ONE in ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND SKYDIVES. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world skydive because they the enjoyment they get from it far exceeds the risks associated with the sport.

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What if your parachute doesn't open?

First and foremost, modern sport parachutes are extremely reliable and its extremely rare that a parachute "doesn't open". Long gone are the days are high-malfuction rates, modern parachutes are incredibly well designed and tested. However, in the rare event of a malfunction all skydivers have a secondary reserve parachute that they can deploy and fly to the ground in exactly the same way as their main parachute. It is mandatory in most countries that all skydivers wear a reserve parachute. In addition to the reserve parachute most skydivers have an Automatic Activation Device installed on their equipment. This automatically deploys the reserve parachute in the event the skydiver is still in freefall at low altitude, i.e. doesn't deploy their own parachute. Modern skydiving equipment is very advanced.

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Is steering and landing the parachute difficult?

Modern parachutes are highly maneuverable, you can steer and fly them in whatever direction you like. With a bit of practice you will be able to land your parachute with a great deal of accuracy. This allows you to choose a good, flat place to land which is clear of obstacles. At landing time itself you can momentary slow the descent of the parachute using a manoeuvre called a flare to give you an easy, soft stand-up landing. You will be taught how to steer and land your parachute on your AFF course.

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How much does skydiving as a hobby cost?

Once you are a qualified skydiver - that is you have completed your AFF course and done your compulsory 10 consolidation jumps to get your Cat 8 certificate ("A licence") you can skydive at a number of dropzones in the UK for around £18 a jump if you have your own parachute equipment. If you do not have your own equipment you can rent everything you need for around £10 a jump. Most new skydivers buy used equipment from other more experienced skydiver who's needs within the sport have changed with a gain in their experience.

A quality complete used "rig" (this is the term generally a parachute pack - a harness, container, main and reserve parachutes) suitable for a new skydiver can be bought for about £1500 - additionally you will need an altimeter and helmet, both these could be bought used for less than £100. It's certainly not a cheap hobby, but it's certainly not expensive either. Once you have all the right gear you can make a skydive for just £18! You will need to maintain membership of the British Parachute Association ("BPA") each year for £152 per annum or the current prevailing membership price. Unless otherwise stated all our AFF course prices include first year membership of the BPA.

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In what weather conditions can you skydive?

Generally speaking the weather conditions have to be pretty good - especially when you are a student skydiver going through your AFF course. This means only little cloud - because it's important you can see the ground beneath you so that you know where you are in the sky - and light winds so that your parachute can be manoeuvred easily. Qualified, more experienced skydivers can jump in marginally windy conditions. You can technically skydive in light rain - but it is unpleasant to do so and also when it's raining it tends to be cloudy! British summers are normally better than people give them credit for and it's a great place to learn to skydive.

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Can you breathe in freefall?

You can breathe perfectly normally in freefall. It is a myth that the high wind conditions of freefall make it difficult to breathe. To breathe you simply open your mouth and inhale! A few seconds later - exhale! Sound familiar? You breathe exactly as you do on the ground.

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Can you hear people talk in freefall?

No, this is a movie myth. You cannot hear other people talk in freefall because the sound of air rushing past you is too loud. Communication in freefall is made by hand and face gestures.

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Who is AFFSchool.com?

AFFSchool.com is a web site to help put you in contact with some of the UK's leading AFF Instructors. We can discuss your needs with you, find out where in the world you are and put you in contact with someone who we think will suit you perfectly. Many people who contact AFFSchool.com go on to learn with instructors at a dropzone in North West, England but we can arrange courses all over the world.

Want to speak to us? Have any questions? Click here or call us on 0845 094 5201.