Learning How To Skydive: AFF Level 1
During my husband's first AFF training jump, he was falling faster than his instructor (as he was heavier) and his instructor could not keep up! He therefore was on his own, and had to redo the jump. You can read the full story of both jumps below, including details on what you will need to do, and what to expect during your first AFF Level 1 Training Jump.
Are you learning how to skydive, or interested in doing so? Previously, my husband performed tandem skydiving jumps, where he was attached to the instructor for the jump. However, he has now gone to the next step in learning how to skydive, starting with the first AFF (Accelerated FreeFall) Level 1 Training Jump.
According to the website of the United States Parachuting Association, the AFF includes two instructors, however, at this location, there was only one instructor that jumped with him. During this jump, he is required to jump out while the instructor holds onto him. The instructor should not let go of him, until he pulls the parachute. There are certain skills that he is required to learn.
The below information has been dictated firsthand by my husband, typed up by me, and edited for clarity.
Image: AFF Level 1 - Skydive (Credit: wales_gibbons on Flickr.com) Source
After completing my tandem jumps, I went back to the drop-zone to do my first AFF level 1 training jump. This was done with a different skydive instructor, named Duncan. Duncan has already done 16,000 jumps, and he's been parachuting for over 16 years.
When he met me before we went on the plane, I was wearing a medium-size jumpsuit, which he said was too tight. He told me to put on a bigger jumpsuit because otherwise I would fly too fast and he might not be able to keep up. I therefore put on a bigger jumpsuit, size large.
We reviewed the jump briefly on the ground. We then went through the routine checks: We checked the gear, checked the three handles on the parachute, checked the pilot parachute to make sure it was good, and checked the pin on the main parachute to make sure that it was face up and it was all the way in. (The pin looks like a half circle and should be face up, to the top, looking like a smile.)
We then checked the pin on the reserve chute and checked the FAA packer seal on the reserve chute. It turned out that the FAA packer seal was broken. Therefore, we had to take another rig, and go over the entire checklist again.
This time, everything checked out, and I put it on. I asked him if I should keep the chest strap a little loose, or a little tight. He told me that he likes to keep it tight so that when you open the chute, the chest strap doesn’t ride up against your chin. I made it tight, and he was right: when I opened the chute, it did not ride up against my chin.
Then, we checked the three points, the two leg straps, and the chest strap to make sure it was in the correct order: fabric, metal, fabric everywhere. It was good.
We hopped onto the plane. While on the plane, he asked me to give him a shout when we get to decision altitude, which is 2,500 ft. I motioned to him when we were at decision altitude.
Then he asked me to give him another shout when we get to the pull altitude of 5,500 feet, and I did that.
While still on the plane, he checked my parachute to make sure that everything was good again. We then got out and went to the door of the plane.
I stood at the door, looked to the right, and then looked at him. I asked him "ready?", he said "ready". I did the routine: up, down, and arch, and I jumped out of the plane.
Then I did the first procedure that I was supposed to do on that training jump, which is called a COA: Circle of Awareness. I checked my heading, and then looked left on my altimeter. At that point, I was probably at around 11,500 feet.
I then looked right to see my instructor. I was expecting to see my instructor holding on to me with one hand. I was looking to get either a thumbs up, or to get some kind of other hand signal indicating that I needed to do something else.
However, when I looked, the instructor was not there! He was gone, nowhere to be seen!
At that point, I started spinning a little bit, faster and faster. (I asked him about this after the jump, and he said that probably, my legs and feet weren't symmetrical, and that was causing me to spin). I checked my altimeter again, and we had plenty of altitude, we were at 10,500 or 10,000 feet.
If after five seconds, a student does not see the instructor, he is supposed to just pull his parachute, even if he is above 5,500 feet. However, I decided to hang in there a little bit, hoping that I would eventually see him. I again checked the heading, looked right, and I still didn't see him.
A few seconds later, I checked the heading again, and suddenly I saw him, a little bit in front of me. Instead of being on my right, he was about 100 feet away, above me. He was at a higher altitude than me, and he was giving me the index finger out, which is the pull signal. So I pulled, and by the time the chute was fully deployed, I was at about 8,500 ft.
The parachute deployed well. Over the radio, he gave me instructions to help me land the parachute. Everything worked out with the landing, but he did not pass me on that jump, because we didn’t get to do everything that we needed to do.
He sat down to review the jump, and he said that he couldn’t keep up, because I was flying too fast. Duncan was pretty upset at himself for losing me, and he wanted to do the jump again. He asked me whether I would be jumping again, but I told him I wasn't sure that I had enough money on me to pay for another jump. He offered to pay for half of the next jump, and I knew that I had 100 dollars on me, so I agreed, and we each paid about half.
This was an unprecedented move on the instructor's part. By paying half of my jump, he essentially did not get paid for instructing me. When I paid the cashier, she told me that this never happened before. He was pretty upset at himself for losing his grip of me, and therefore he graciously paid half of my next jump.
A Student Losing Both Instructors, AFF Level 1 Drama
This time, he had me put on an even bigger jumpsuit. I put on an extra large jumpsuit, and he put on some weights. I think he put on about 15 pounds of leaded weight belts around him, and we went up on the plane again.
We repeated the previous procedures again. We checked the rig, we got to the door, I moved up and down, arched, and this time he was able to hold on to me during the free-fall. I checked my circle of awareness, checked the heading, checked the altimeter, looked right, and I saw him. I don’t think he gave me a signal. He might have given me a thumbs up, I don’t recall. The main thing is that he was there, and he did not give me a signal to do anything differently, so I continued to the next point, which was doing my three practice touches.
The first practice touch went wrong. I missed the right spot and I didn't find the pull handle. So, I did it another 3 times, and the other 3 times i did it correctly. Each time, I found the pull handle on the parachute.
Then I did another circle of awareness, which went well. I checked the heading, checked the altimeter, checked the instructor, and there was still no signal from him.
At 6,000 feet I locked on to my altimeter. At 5,500 feet I waved twice, indicating that he could go and I would pull. I moved my hand to pull, but I again missed the pull handle. He didn’t wait for me to try to find it, he just pulled for me.
Landing went well, and he then passed me on my level 1 jump. At that point, I officially passed level one and got the green light to go on to level 2.
He was ready to fill out and sign my log book about these two jumps. However, I didn’t have my log book with me on that day, so he just filled out two pieces of paper, which I need to put into my log book.
"Walking back. AFF 2 here I come!"
I went back a few days later to do my level 2 jump. I did it with an instructor called Marco. He is probably the youngest instructor there, but he’s a very good skydiver.
He asked me how the previous jump went. I told him it was interesting, and I related the story about how the instructor lost me on the first AFF jump. This time, I put on an extra large jumpsuit. I reviewed the jump with him on the ground.
There is not much to say about my AFF level 2 jump. Overall, that jump went smoothly on the first try. There were no problems, and I passed on the first AFF level 2 jump.
Come Back Soon For Details On The Other Jumps!
This page is part of a skydiving series, detailing my husband's first-hand experiences learning how to skydive. Come back to read additional articles regarding his AFF Level 3 jumps, and more.