Tandem and AFF (accelerated free fall) skydiving methods get a lot of attention. They are, it’s true, two very common ways of instructing students in the art of falling out of a plane with a parachute. But there’s a traditional method that is still very frequently employed – Instant Opening.
Instant Opening skydiving comes in two basic types that accomplish the same purpose: Static Line and Instructor Assisted Deployment. In either case the result is the same: the student has his or her parachute deployed without action on their part.
In the second case, as the student exits the plane, an instructor ‘pulls the ripcord’. That extracts a small pilot chute called a drogue, which fills with air and extracts the main canopy a few seconds later. That delay provides some minimal level of near free fall.
The Static Line method, by contrast, is familiar to anyone who has seen an old WWII movie. The skydiver or the instructor attaches a mechanism (such as a simple clip) to a line or hook inside the plane. As the student leaves the plane, the attached line pulls the parachute open automatically.
Jumps made by either method will often be done from about 3,500-4,000 feet (1,067-1,220m), though in some cases it’s higher. Usually, those higher elevations will occur as the student progresses through more jumps. One reason for the technique being used in the military, where it was invented, is that it allows for rapid chute deployment to accommodate low level jumps, though.
As the skydiver descends, they’ll typically be in two-way radio contact with an instructor on the ground who will provide directions on landing.
Novice skydivers may want to select Static or IAD for any number of reasons.
Ground instruction in AFF can take nearly all day, with class lasting 6-8 hours. With Static or IAD, that time is often shaved down to as little as four hours. Since the chute is deployed for the student there’s less material to cover on safety, what actions the skydiver has to take to deploy the chute and more. It’s still necessary to cover many things, such as how to deploy the reserve canopy if needed, landing and many other topics. So instruction in Instant Opening still takes a few hours.
The alternative to Static or IAD may be a Tandem jump. But in that method, the student is strapped to an instructor by a harness. The instructor deploys the chute and controls every aspect of the skydive. That leaves the student with little to worry about, but also little to do. For some, that brings peace of mind, while still enjoying the thrill of a dive. For others, it reduces the value of the experience. Instruction required is minimal.
AFF is an often chosen alternative. Here the student receives a lot of ground instruction, but that’s followed by minimal hand holding (literally and figuratively) by the instructor. In some schools, about 8 jumps are required before the student graduates to solo free fall. With Static or IAD, the free fall is minimal but the skydive is solo from the very first jump.
Prices and the experiences vary for every kind of jump. Each individual is different and will choose according to his or her own personality and the goals they bring to the exciting activity of skydiving.
But Static Line or IAD has a big advantage. You get up in the air quickly and you’re on your own from the minute you exit the plane.