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What to expect on your first solo skydive

Your first non-tandem jump can be intimidating. You’ve been working up to that first jump on your own, without anyone attached to you, and now you’re finally there… you’ve been cleared for solo status. You’re responsible for yourself. You’ll actually have to know things. You’ll actually have to remember your training that includes the critical safety knowledge that could save your life, if needed.

So what’s all involved with that first jump, exactly? This post will tell you exactly that. If you’re wondering what your first jump will be like with your own parachute, read on.

Solo Skydiving Ground Training Certificate

Before you can schedule your AFP Level 1 jump, you have to have completed and passed the First Jump Course (AKA ground training) with solo skydiving instructor sign-off.

Pre-jump brief and gear-up for your first skydive!

The day has arrived! You’re pumped/nervous/terrified/stoked/<insert a lot of other emotions here>! Before you get on the plane, however, there’s essentially a “Pre-Jump Checklist” of items to review for each AFP level.

  • First, your instructor might ask you some questions to make sure you’re prepared and remember what you learned in your First Jump Course. Your instructor might also review safety information or answer any questions you might have at that point.
  • Next, your instructor will review your canopy flight plan with you. You’ll determine the wind direction right now (identifying windsocks and flags on airport property), and then review your flight plan, including your holding area (where you hang out under canopy before you begin to land) and landing pattern.
  • Finally, you’ll learn your in-air dive flow… the maneuvers you will be required to perform in freefall as a solo skydiver.

Following your pre-jump brief, you will gear up using a parachute, helmet, altimeter, jumpsuit, and goggles from the dropzone. Your instructor will also provide a radio to talk you through your landing pattern, if needed. After a gear check, you’ll start heading to the plane!

In the plane

On the ride up, your instructor might review some points of reference – windsocks, flags, areas of your landing pattern, holding area, etc. They also might talk to you about altitude, review any flight safety procedures, or answer any questions you might have at that point. Prior to your jump, your instructor will give you one final gear check when you’re preparing for your jump. FINALLY, you and your instructor will get ready exit the plane from approximately 13,000 ft. – it’s almost time to fly! 

Learning to Freefall as a solo skydiver

With the instructor holding on, the student (you) should complete the following objectives:

  • Proper exit count
  • Circle of Awareness (COA) – look at horizon, altimeter, and your instructor
  • Practice Pilot Chute Throws (3)
  • Circle of Awareness (COA)
  • Monitor your altitude the rest of the jump
  • Wave off and pull your pilot chute at 5,500 ft.

Canopy flight and landing

That :60 seconds-ish of freefall will probably feel like the shortest minute you’ve ever experienced, so you’ll be waving off and deploying your canopy before you know it. When your canopy deploys, you will first make sure your parachute is square, stable, and steerable. You’ll then locate and fly to your holding area (hang out zone) to prepare for your landing pattern! When you reach the proper altitude, you will begin your landing pattern (downwind, base, final approach) and your instructor will use the radio (if needed) to guide you down.

Post-jump debrief

Once you’re back in the hangar from your first skydive, your instructor will review your jump with you. Together you’ll review the video of your jump, and go through each maneuver step by step and talk about everything including what you did well, as well as challenges you might have faced on your jump. Then, they will either 1) clear you for AFP Level 2 if you performed all maneuvers correctly and landed safely or 2) discuss potentially repeating Level 1 if necessary.

A couple extra things to know:

Because you are learning new skills in each level, not everyone passes every level the first time, so it is perfectly okay and common to repeat certain levels. After you acquire that set of skills and accomplish your goals on each jump, you will pass to the next AFP level. AFP level 1 begins with your instructor holding on to you on exit and in freefall, and in later levels you’ll be doing flips, barrel rolls and more!

We’ll feature another post soon which will take a deeper dive into what it takes to get your A license, as well as a look at the details of AFP Level 2. If you have questions though, don’t hesitate to ask.

Get started on your solo skydiving training with Skydive Santa Barbara!

Call us today to start on your path to solo skydiving! In the meantime, if you haven’t made your first tandem jump, we suggest this quick read on what you need to know before your first tandem skydive. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to see if photos from your skydive are featured sometime soon.

Blue Skies,

– The Skydive Santa Barbara Team


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