What a great goal! You love skydiving and want to teach others about your passion. That is the right motivation that leads to great Instructors. You won’t become financially rich but you will be so rich in other aspects … Living the dream!
Before you can become an Instructor there is some work to be done. The first step in this journey is the USPA Coach rating. Holding the Coach rating is mandatory for any type of Instructor rating You can become a Coach with a B license and 100 jumps. If you have a minimum of 500 jumps you can take the Coach and AFF courses back to back.
I already have a Coach rating, what do I do next?
AFF Pre-Course Activities
Good question, first step should be to go into your USPA profile and check what pre-course activities you’ll need to get signed off. Any current Instructor can sign them off online via the “verify” function on their USPA online profile. Some of them need to be signed off prior to the course, and some of them can be done during the course. All those tasks are actually really good to do and will help both during and after the course. Most of the tasks are assisting with teaching, like teaching the first jump course and the briefings for all of the Categories. (A-E). Another important part of being an AFF Instructor is teaching your student the basic canopy skills and handling the radio when they are under canopy. This too is part of the prerequisites. Take it seriously and get with Instructors when they do the canopy plan briefing and when they are in the field with the radio. You’ll learn something new all the time. Different Instructors have different methods, tips, and ways of doing. Some have developed great personal training methods. Have fun with it so you’ll arrive at the AFF course fully prepared and with some little experience already in your baggage.
If you wonder how to get the course outline: You can order the Instructional Rating Manual and Skydiver Information Manual from USPA and all the other major Gear stores, or just download them online as a PDF. The outline of all rating courses is in the IRM together with the open-book exams, evaluation forms, and anything else related to rating courses. Once you have your book you can use it for other future courses as well. If you use the online PDF version, it will always be updated with the latest changes.
What Exactly is AFF Pre-course and Do I Really Need to Do That?
The AFF course has 2 mandatory practice jumps. In these jumps, you practice AFF in air Instruction skills.
In most cases it takes more than 2 practice jumps to be fully prepared for the evaluation jumps – Anywhere from 5 to 15, for most people this course is one of the hardest/most rewarding things they’ll ever do!- Ideally your AFF course has these practice jumps included (also known as AFF pre-course) where you can work on getting comfortable with in-air AFF Instructor skills. When we say AFF Instructor skills, think about things like:
Flying hard exits where the student does anything but arching.
Slot flying with a moving student: You let go of your student for the first time and your student is moving around
Reading someone’s body position and properly presenting the correct hand signals
Rolling over a student who is on their back
Assisting a student at the bottom end of the skydive in case they are not altitude aware, from making them aware to actually pulling for them if needed
The AFF pre-course is the best part of the AFF course. It is where you will gain confidence and get to the point where you believe in yourself and know that you can be an AFF Instructor. Where you realize that you have what it takes! Personally, I look at AFF pre-course as an integral part of the actual course. It is the job of an AFF Examiner to teach the course candidates how to be great AFF Instructors both in the air as well as on the ground teaching.
What Preparation Can I Do Between Now and the Course?
-Number one is get the AFF Pre-course activities and pre-reqs signed off.
-Number two is be current with “belly jumping” Forget about all the other disciplines for a while. Focus on belly stuff. Any type of belly flying is good. Whether it is a 2-way, 4-way, big way. Jumping with newer skydivers or with people that fly a little better than you. Try to challenge yourself. Try to get slots that will make you fly. A great 2-way exercise is “follow the leader”: Fly your slot going up-down-left right and every direction in between. Practice approaches in a straight line -smart flying. Make sure your technique is correct. You need to engage your legs and have your arms/hands-free so you can give signals to the student and reach for him without backing up. The best practice for this purpose is to become comfortable staying with your “target” while it is moving around.
– If you have a chance to practice with an AFF-Instructor that is a great opportunity, especially if this Instructor recently went through the course. Be careful though , sometimes AFF Instructors will present you with harder skydives than you will ever get in the course. A professional Evaluator plans carefully how much to challenge each person to make sure the practice is a positive experience and candidates learn and progress instead of feeling intimidated and/or frustrated.
-As far as bookwork preparation: You can read through the ISP and make yourself familiar with the student progression in the AFF Categories. Not just the freefall portion but all areas of learning: Canopy progression, Equipment knowledge, Spotting, etc …
-You have to arrive at the course with the written exams completed. The exams can be done online once you are enrolled in the course, under the “education” tab in your USPA profile. For the AFF rating, you have to make the General Instructor and the AFF exam.
What Do I Have to Do to Pass the AFF Course?
Once you start the evaluation jumps, you have a total of 6 jumps: Two of those are the mandatory practice jumps which you already have completed at this point. You have to make 3 satisfactory evaluation jumps. One category C Main side, One category C Reserve side, and a Category D jump. You have only one chance to repeat a jump if it is not successful – 3 out of 4 –
On the ground, you have to teach a full Category C and a Category D ground briefing, including all the reviews and new information as outlined in the ISP.
The IRM General Instructor and AFF exam passed with at least 80 %
How Long Does it Take to Do the Course
An AFF course typically lasts 6 days. Roughly a day and a half of class, 2 days of jumping, and 2 days of ground preps.
Most of the time you make great friendships during the course. Because it is a 6-day course and an intense week, you work together as a close team. You help each other, learn from each other and at the end of the course for sure, you will have some drinks with each other J
An AFF Instructor rating is something to be proud of. It is the premier rating in skydiving and definitely a rating to learn. Get out there and start doing AFF as often as you can. Learn from more experienced Instructors. Sit in on other Instructor’s briefings and classes. Ask questions, travel to other DZs if you have the chance, be active and most of all enjoy the privileges of this awesome rating.