Patron: His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales
Enjoyment, exhilaration and limitless challenge are available even to the absolute beginner. And at its highest level, skydiving is an intensely competitive sport which requires finely tuned skills, intimate knowledge of the air and perfect body control.
More people than ever are discovering for themselves the pure joy that freedom of the skies can bring. The majority of skydiving is done as fun jumping. It offers not only the enjoyment of the jumps but great opportunities to meet with friends and enjoy a wide range of social activities.
As their experience grows, many skydivers take part in boogies (fun-jumping events) and there is also a vibrant competitions scene. The BPA offers a programme of skills coaching roadshows to help non-seniors improve their skills. There's something for everyone in the skydiving calendar - just take a look at the diary of events. Some skydivers choose to join display teams, entertaining crowds by jumping into fetes, fairs and shows.
To make a parachute descent, a person must be aged at least 16 years. People aged under 18 must have their parent's or guardian's written permission. Other age, weight and medical restrictions also apply. Please see the information on restrictions in the right-hand column further down this page for further information.
Some people make a parachute jump to raise funds for charity (often called a sponsored jump). If you are considering this, it is very important that, first and foremost, you should want to make a jump. If you do, then tandem skydiving - where you jump in a harness with a qualified instructor (see 3 below) - is the most appropriate type of jump to make. If you are interested in making a sponsored jump, please contact your chosen parachute centre direct for more information.
If you're at university, it may have its own skydiving club. See the British Collegiate Parachute Association (BCPA) website to check.
A static line descent can be made after usually about 6 hours of ground training and involves the student jumper leaving the aircraft at 3500 feet. The main parachute is deployed using a device called a 'static line'. This is a length of webbing attached to the aircraft at one end and the bag, in which the main parachute is kept, at the other, as the jumper falls away from the aircraft, the static line pulls the main parachute out and begins the deployment.
The parachute or canopy used is a modern 'square parachute' made of technically advanced materials and specifically designed to allow the student jumper to steer the canopy to the landing area. A radio attached to the jumper's helmet is often used to coach the student and assist in the landing of the parachute.
This type of jump opens the way to becoming a skydiver, further training and more descents will allow the student to jump without the static line, deploying the parachute manually and achieving that all important 'first free fall' descent.
AFF is an intensive course, more expensive but allowing rapid progression in skydiving. Your first descent is from 12,000 feet accompanied by two highly specialised instructors who will guide you in freefall by way of hand signals and under canopy with radio communication. You will experience 40-45 seconds of freefall before you open your own, ram-air canopy at 5,000 feet. This is the real sport!
Your first AFF jump is part of a week's course of 8 levels and a minimum of 10 consolidation jumps which will qualify you as a skydiver in your own right. If you know you want to take up skydiving, this is probably the quickest and most motivating method by which to do it - although of course it is not cheap.
Tandem parachuting offers a quick and easy introduction to free-fall using a dual harness system.
You are securely attached to an experienced tandem instructor takes charge of vital functions such as opening the parachute and landing safely. Your preparation for the jump takes only 15 minutes. Free from responsibility, you can relax and enjoy the skydive knowing there is a qualified instructor in charge.
Weather permitting, you will exit the aircraft from around 10,000 feet, experiencing 30 seconds of freefall, which is quite a rush! At 5,000 feet, the instructor deploys a huge ram-air parachute designed for two. You can have your choice of a gentle or thrilling flight to the ground, where you should have a soft landing. Tandem parachuting allows many disabled people, subject to a satisfactory risk assessment, to experience the thrill of skydiving. Tandem jumpers who are bitten by the skydiving bug move on to either AFF or RAPS jumping.
Whichever method you choose for your first jump, there is an organised structure for you to learn about the sport and advance at a safe pace. You will be assessed by BPA instructors, they will progress you to the next stage when you are ready. The two systems are identical, only your equipment differs.
Your first freefall can be as early as your sixth jump and will usually be a five second delay. The time you spend in freefall will be gradually increased and you will start to learn body flying skills such as turns and forward movement. About 30 jumps and you can qualify as a fully fledged skydiver. From here, all the different avenues of the sport are open!
There are around 25 parachute clubs/centres approved by and affiliated to the British Parachute Association. These are spread throughout the UK and range from full-time professional centres to weekend clubs run on a voluntary basis. They offer a variety of standard courses for student and provide facilities for experienced parachutists. Most centres can offer video or stills of your skydive.
All courses follow standard British Parachute Association procedures, and are conducted by BPA approved instructors. They can be undertaken at any time of the year, although parachuting can only take place when weather conditions are suitable.
Whatever way you decide to do your jump, enjoy it! To really taste the experience you have to try it for yourself. Sport parachuting is a highly skilled sport which offers many and varied challenges to participants whether jumping purely for pleasure or with a competitive edge. Either way the sky is the limit
Students initially progress within the sport from beginner to complete parachutist via one of two methods, depending on how you make your first jump. Static Line Jumping takes you through a 'Category' system from 1 to 10 while AFF takes you through a number of levels. As you progress, you can also qualify for BPA Licences A to D (for more see What next after BPA A Licence? and Further progression).
Accelerated Freefall (AFF)
Minimum age To make a parachute descent, a person must be aged at least 16 years. People aged under 18 must have their parent's or guardian's written permission.
Maximum age Analysis of statistics compiled over many years indicates that incident rates tend to increase as student jumpers get older. This may be due to slowing reaction times and sometimes less acute senses as the years go by. Risk assessment suggests the tipping point to be when a person reaches their mid-fifties. On this basis, to avoid increased risk, the maximum age at which even a hale, hearty and healthy person can be admitted to start training under BPA rules for solo parachute jumping is before they reach their 55th birthday, although some BPA Affiliated Parachute Centres may set a lower age limit than this based on their own risk assessments. This restriction does not apply to tandem students, where the descent is in harness with a qualified instructor - although health requirements continue to apply.
Weight limits apply to parachute descents for safety reasons. Each BPA Affiliated Parachute Centre will have its own weight limits derived from risk assessments of factors including the type of jump, the equipment used, and the gender of the jumper (statistics show different rates of injury for men and women, which may be to do with body shape and weight distribution). Maximum weights are typically around 15 stone, but a few centres may sometimes be able to take jumpers weighing slightly more than this. The BPA does not maintain a list of current weight limits by Centre, so please contact centres direct.
Acceptance for parachute training is entirely at the discretion of the individual parachute centre. For full information, please contact your chosen parachute centre.
Updated 18 December 2014