If you’re reading this, you’re likely thinking, “Should I start with a tandem skydive or do the AFF Ground School first? This is a common question and we definitely have some insights to steer you in the right direction. Before we get too far, we should share that at WNY Skydiving, this is not an option we offer – everyone must participate in two tandem skydives before enrolling in our AFF training program. This form of training is known as Tandem Progression. There are a lot of reasons why our training is set up this way and we’re going to share all there is to know about how best to get into skydiving.
When it comes to learning how to skydive, every dropzone’s training program and policies are slightly different. Some DZ’s require that you make a tandem skydive first while others may not. The reason for this is that the United States Parachute Association (USPA) doesn’t mandate that everyone make a tandem skydive first, but you’ll find the majority of skydive centers do require it. The reason for this is not to jilt anyone out of more money, but because a tandem skydive serves as an excellent training jump for aspiring skydivers. Those that make a tandem skydive (or two) before making their first AFF jump generally perform better. This is key when getting started as losing confidence on the first jump generally results in not making it through the program.
Making a tandem skydive before the AFF first jump course makes a significant difference in performance when it comes time to exiting a plane with your own parachute. It’s important to understand that the AFF First Jump Course is a six-hour ground school packed with information that often overwhelms people. The course covers an introduction to the gear and equipment, aircraft procedures, exit procedures, body position in free fall, interpreting hand signals from instructors, managing emergency procedures, flying a parachute and landing techniques… all in one class! It’s hard to process all of this information and then be tested immediately after by exiting an airplane!
Making two tandem skydives via the Tandem Progression learning method before making that first AFF jump helps prepare a new skydiver with exit procedures, body position, altitude awareness, and spatial awareness. A 60-second free fall goes by quickly and getting conditioned to the elements of free fall helps bridge the gap in preparation for that first AFF skydive.
We’ve been in and around the skydiving industry for many years and while some DZs don’t require that everyone make a tandem skydive first, nearly every AFF instructor prefers it when the student has made a couple of tandems in advance.
Many people are inspired to skydive because of wingsuit skydiving videos on YouTube which are breathtaking! Because of this, many people call their local dropzone ready to get started by immediately enrolling into an AFF First Jump Course. This is usually ill-advised as the AFF program is expensive and if you’ve never experienced free fall before, you may be surprised that you don’t like it at all. Making a tandem skydive is an excellent way to get a taste of skydiving to determine if this is really something you want to do. Skydiving isn’t for everyone and a tandem is the best way to figure it out (even if you’re absolutely sure that it is for you!)
Another scenario that we often see is a fragile man’s ego (yep, we said it) getting in the way of making good decisions! We’ve heard many times that guys “don’t want to get strapped to a woman”, (there are many female tandem instructors in the sport) and thus forgo making a tandem and going straight to AFF. We’ve also seen scenarios of men not wishing to be “strapped to other men” due to homophobia and as a result, opt for AFF. Most everyone in the skydiving industry eye-rolls at this way of thinking as it’s not only silly but indicates poor decision making at the very start of one’s skydiving career. This sport requires good decision making and having any kind of ego can get checked quickly by making poor decisions.
Tandem skydiving isn’t a roller coaster or carnival ride. Everyone who makes a tandem skydive is actively participating in the jump and assists the instructor with the outcome by helping with a stable exit, free fall, and set up for landing. Nothing compares to sitting in the open door of an airplane and exiting or the sensation of free fall. To get comfortable, one must be exposed to it, and having someone to help should you not respond well is important. This is why tandem skydiving is a valuable aspect of becoming a skydiver.
In our professional opinion, starting out with a tandem skydive is the best idea when learning how to become a skydiver.
Have questions? Contact us or call us at (716) 597-7393; we’d love to chat with you about it!