About Chicago's Skydiving Instructors
Skydiving Instructors come from all walks of life, and also may specialize in specific methods of instruction. In the early days of sport parachuting, nearly everyone learned using Static Line Progression. As the sport developed, additional methods of instruction were developed, including IAD, AFF and Tandem.
Static Line Progression is a method of instruction where, after an extensive ground school (6-10 hours of ground training), the student boards the aircraft supervised by a Static Line Instructor. The aircraft climbs to an altitude between 1800 and 4000 feet above the ground (3000 feet is pretty standard) for the exit. The student's parachute is attached to the airplane with a device called a static line. The student climbs out of the airplane and jumps off as he/she was taught during the ground school. The parachute opens automaticallybecause as the student falls away from the airplane, the static line extracts his/her main parachute. There is no significant freefall involved in the early levels of static line jumps. The instructor must meet minimum requirements (200 jumps experience, hold a "C" license, and complete a supervised proficiency card) to become a static line instructor Static line instructors do not jump with their students, only observe their exits and openings from the aircraft.
IAD (Instructor Assisted Deployment) is another method of instruction that is closely tied to Static Line Progression. The instructor rating is the same as for the Static Line Progression (the USPA instructor rating is Static Line/ IAD). The student still attends an extensive ground school (6-10 hours of ground training). The difference between static line and IAD is that the student's parachute is not attached to the aircraft, but the instructor holds the student's pilot chute in hand until the main parachute is open and he/she cannot hang on to it any longer. IAD instructors do not jump with their students, only observe their exits and openings from the aircraft. Jump altitudes are similar to those used for static line progression.
AFF (Accellerated Free Fall) is a method of instruction where the instructor(s) jump with the student. AFF involves an extensive ground school just like the static line and IAD methods, but is a bit more involved because of the freefall aspect. AFF students enjoy a full freefall (up to one minute) from the very first jump. AFF instructors need much more experience and must pass a rigorous course to earn their AFF instructor rating. Candidates must hold a "C" license, hold a USPA Coach rating or an instructor rating from another discipline (and have at least 500 jumps if the coach rating has been held for less than 12 months), have a minimum of 6 hours of freefall time, and complete a supervised proficiency card. The AFF rating is widely held to be the hardest instructor rating to attain. AFF instructors must be able to manage their own body flight, and assess and correct that of the student. Some skydiving centers have chosen to develop their own training program (such as AFP or STP) which exceeds the USPA requirements for AFF training, but the instructors must still hold the AFF instructor rating.
Tandem progression has allowed so many people to safely experience the sport of skydiving with little investment of time and money. When jumping tandem, you will be attached to a qualified instructor, and you will freefall together and land under the same parachute. Tandem classes last between 5 minutes and 30 minutes, depending on how involved the skydiving center you have chosen allows tandem jumpers to participate in their skydive. Tandem instructors must have at least 500 jumps experience, 3 years in the sport, hold a "D" license, hold an instructional rating, hold a valid FAA class 3 medical certificate, and complete a supervised proficiency card. Tandem instructors are often friendly and outgoing, as they work directly with the public.
The USPA Coach rating has been mentioned a couple times in this article. The USPA coach rating is a stepping stone to a USPA instructional rating, and allows coach rating holders to jump with upper-level students and recent license holders. To be a USPA coach, the candidate must hold a USPA "B" license or higher, have a minimum of 100 jumps, and complete a supervised proficiency card.