No matter how many skydives you make, you'll always feel a moment of great satisfaction as your parachute settles to the ground. But the skydive isn't over yet! You need to carefully gather up your gear and bring it safely back to the hangar. You should daisy chain the lines (ask!) and be sure not to snag anything. One easy way to keep track of your stuff is to put things like your goggles, gloves, and ripcord in your helmet and fasten that to your chest strap. Back in the packing area, set the rig down carefully and be sure not to drop or lose any of the paraphernalia such as the altimeter, radios, goggles, and ripcord. Keep in mind that all the equipment is very expensive and you are responsible for keeping it safe; a moment's carelessness with an altimeter, for example, could cost $150.
Once all of your gear is safely off, there is one last thing to do. Review your dive thoroughly, noting areas where you would like to get suggestions and advice and thinking about which techniques worked well, and why. Freefall only lasts a minute, the canopy ride about three. That isn't a lot of time to learn, so to be a good skydiver you have to develop your ability to learn on the ground before and after a jump. A few minutes of careful review with your jumpmaster (or yourself, when you are doing solo jumps) will save you many expensive mistakes in the future. Finally, log all of your jumps. Any jumps you plan to use towards a license requirement must be logged and signed by another jumper.
Around the Drop Zone
Although our sport has a two hundred year heritage of air show jumps and military parachuting, sport parachuting as we know it began in the late '50s when civilians began jumping strictly for fun and combined to form sport parachuting groups. Eventually skydivers began to design their own gear instead of modifying military surplus parachutes, and the combination of civilian organization and improvements in equipment has led to a steady growth that continues today.
The national organization that has overseen skydiving in the Unites States is called the United States Parachute Association, or USPA. USPA is a non-profit membership organization in which each member may vote for the board of directors. We will ask you to join USPA by the time you make your Level 4 ASP jump; the first year's dues are $39.50 (more for overseas memberships.)
Besides certifying instructors and administering the license system, USPA publishes a monthly magazine that is included with your membership. Membership also provides you with some liability insurance. But perhaps the most important reason for joining USPA is that the organization has been instrumental in keeping the government, at all levels, out of the sport. In fact, skydiving is one of the safest aviation sports and is also the least regulated. To keep it this way, it is important that we police ourselves. The USPA has established safety guidelines that all skydivers at this drop zone are expected to adhere to. The USPA's representative on the drop zone is the Safety and Training Advisor, or S&TA.; He or your instructor can answer questions about license requirements, skydiver ratings, and most other skydiving matters.
- The USPA categorizes skydivers into six experience levels:
- students - under direct supervision in a formal training program
- novices - graduated from a student program but not yet licensed
- A license - minimum of 20 freefalls
- B license - minimum of 50 freefalls
- C license - minimum of 100 freefalls
- D license - minimum of 200 freefalls
In addition to the freefall experience, each license level requires demonstration of skill appropriate to that level. A license is important to you as a proof of your ability level, especially if you intend to travel to other drop zones. Each level also has currency requirements. Staying current (jumping regularly) is one of the most important things you can do to enhance safety. For this reason if you are away from skydiving for several weeks you will have to do some reviewing and get back into the sport with a simple, safe, skydive. Until you are licensed, if more than 30 days passes without jumping you will be required to make a Level 4 ASP jump with one of the school's jumpmasters before jumping on your own again.
USPA also issues instructional ratings to qualified applicants. A person holding a jumpmaster rating has attended a training program and demonstrated the necessary skill and experience to safely guide novices through a student program. Instructors have more experience and have also attended further training courses. Either one will be able to answer most of your questions. You will meet plenty of people willing to offer suggestions to you. Bear in mind that someone with one or two hundred jumps will seem very experienced to you but is actually a relative newcomer to the sport. Rely on rated instructors for guidance until you have your A license! Occasionally you may hear experienced jumpers discussing techniques or procedures that differ from what you have learned; be aware that some things which may be safe for experienced jumpers could be inappropriate for novices. If you have any questions be sure and get an opinion from one of your instructors.
Skydive Arizona is a business incorporated for the purpose of providing skydiving facilities. While you are on student status, your jump price pays for all aircraft and site expenses as well as instruction and equipment. The operators of the drop zone, Larry and Liliane Hill, are proud that they have built the finest skydiving center in the world, operate the finest fleet of aircraft available, and have some of the best skydivers anywhere on their staff. To help keep this facility safe and pleasant and to control costs, customers are asked to avoid littering (smokers, please put your butts in the yellow or orange cans) and to be on time for their aircraft. Feel free to bring non-skydiving guests out to share the fun, but be sure that children are under constant supervision: drop zones abound with expensive and dangerous objects! Dogs are not permitted in the grassy central grounds or in the buildings.
Drop zone etiquette is casual, but when you are in an area where people are packing, be sure to walk around the parachutes rather than step over them, and never smoke or leave drinks around parachutes. Do not borrow or examine other people's gear without permission. Drinking alcohol on the drop zone is forbidden until the last load of jumpers is up. This rule extends to non-skydiving guests for a simple reason: we try hard to maintain a good image, and an uninformed observer might not be able to distinguish between a skydiver and a non jumper.
Where do you go from here?
The ASP program has eight levels that cover all the skills discussed in this handbook. At each level you will receive detailed instructions from the school staff. After graduating from our student program you will make several more jumps to hone your basic flying skills. At the same time, you'll be trying more advanced things and looking at buying gear. For this stage of your progression we have written a second handbook, geared for jumpers off student status and working towards their A license. The Skydiver's Handbook will fit right in with this one, and goes into details on license requirements, relative work, the coach program, buying gear, and other neat stuff. Keep the two together for reference and rainy day study. You can also keep notes and sketches, packing manuals, license applications, etc. in this folder.
All of these materials are designed to be flexible and are subject to continuous updates. Please let Bryan Burke, the Safety and Training Advisor, know if any of the information was unclear or if you felt more detail was needed. We very much appreciate your comments and suggestions, as well as your questions. Welcome to skydiving!