Parachute Jump Types – Tandem, Static Line, and AFF

Skydiving is a thrilling and adventurous sport which can be quickly learned. In fact, depending on your preferred type of parachute jump, the initial training can take anywhere between 20 minutes and 6 hours before making your first jump. The difficult part for many first-time skydivers is deciding which type of skydiving jump they should start with. This page will overview the three main types of parachute jumps: accelerated free fall training, tandem skydiving and static line jumps.

Summary of Tandem, Solo Freefall, and Static Line Skydiving

Tandem SkydiveSolo Freefall (requires AFF)Static Line (instant opening)
Jump Altitude10,000-14,500 ft10,000-14,500 ft3200 – 10,000 ft
Approx. Freefall Time45+ Sec45+ SecNone
Approx. Canopy Time5+ min5+ min3 – 10+ min, varies greatly with height
Training Time10-20 minute briefing~6 hour class, jumps, and proficiency exam (often spread over several days)3 hour class, then proficiency exam
Approx. Total Time at Drop Zone*1-3 hours8+ Hours4-5 Hours

Note all these numbers are common convention but specific practices can vary with skydiving centers.

*In general, plan to put aside a whole day for your skydive in case of inclement weather or other unexpected delays.

Tandem Skydiving

Skydiving Tandem just jumped

Tandem jumping is one of the most popular and common types of skydiving for the beginners. During this type of jump, the student is attached to the instructor for the entire duration. The instructor will control or supervise the entire jump from exit to landing. In a tandem jump, you can enjoy the thrill of skydiving with minimal training (usually around 10-30 minute briefing for your first jump). In the United States, tandem instructors must be expert skydivers who have passed certification courses, have more than 500 jumps, and 3+ years of skydiving experience. Therefore, tandem skydiving is indisputably the safest type of jump for first time skydivers.

After exiting the plane at around 12,000 feet, a tandem jump includes around 45 seconds of freefall, at which point the instructor will pull the parachute at 4000 ft. The parachute ride to the ground will take 5-6 minutes.

Static Line Parachute Jump

A static line jump, also known as ‘automatic opening’ is usually carried out from a short height of 3500 feet but can be significantly higher. In a static line jump, the parachute is deployed automatically as soon as the jumper exits the plane.

Static line skydiving requires a 3 hour training course and exam for first time static line jumps. This is less training then solo free fall skydiving (AFF) but significantly more than a tandem skydive. Most of the static line training involves learning the nuances involved in safe landing. The downside of static line skydiving is the lack of freefall time.

Accelerated Free Fall (AFF)

Accelerated free fall training (AFF) is for learning the full skydive procedure for solo skydiving from the exit, freefall phase, pulling the parachute, and landing. For those who are ready to take out some time from their schedule to learn the real deal, AFF gives you the true freedom of skydiving independently. AFF training is only for those who wish to pursue skydiving as a regular hobby and not merely as a single experience. This video shows the first in a series of supervised parachute jumps for accelerated freefall training.

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Accelerated freefall training requires classroom instruction and hands-on training. To complete the AFF training, the student needs to take 6 hours of class time, pass an exam, and then adequately perform a series of practice jumps with two instructors, before being allowed to solo jump. Solo freefall jumps are identical to Tandem parachute jumps, except without the instructor. They are also significantly less costly, particularly if you bring your own gear.

What Are the Different Types of Skydiving?

Skydiving is a sport that includes many different disciplines. Tandem skydiving is a great way to try skydiving for the first time. Fancy learning how to skydive by yourself? This is possible too – and once you achieve your skydiving license, a whole new world of possibility opens up.

The different types of skydiving are:

  • Tandem skydiving; a favorite for first-timers, you’ll be strapped to a skydiving instructor who will operate all the gear, leaving you free to relax and enjoy.
  • Student skydiving; there are lots of different ways to learn to skydive, all focused on helping you achieve your skydiving license.
  • Formation skydiving (FS); usually the first thing you learn after you get your license, this is all about flying closely and forming shapes in the sky.
  • Freefly skydiving (FF); using more advanced skills, you’ll fly in all different orientations, including seated, standing and upside down!
  • Camera flying; with specially designed helmets, you’ll fly with cameras on your head to capture the magic of the jump on film.
  • Canopy piloting; learning to fly your parachute is an important skill and many people choose to take it beyond simply flying and landing.

There are more types of skydiving than this, which you’ll learn about as you progress through the sport. For now, let’s take a look at these in more detail.

Tandem Skydiving

Tandem skydiving is the most common type of skydiving for people trying our sport for the first time.

Tandem skydiving is so-called because there are two of you jumping together – the tandem skydiving instructor, and you, the student.

We call you a student, rather than a passenger because you do have a part to play in the jump. As you’ll learn in your tandem skydive brief, you’ll be expected to hold and maintain an arched body position which helps us fall stable and to lift your legs for landing, amongst other things.

That said, there’s a lot less involved in jumping as a tandem than there is in jumping alone. You can be up in the air with as little as a 20-minute brief, whereas those people learning to jump solo have a full day of ground school. If you’re skydiving as a one-off experience, tandem skydiving is for you.

Here at Skydive Orange, we operate a skydiving lessons program which starts with tandem skydiving, as we’ll explain next.

The HALO Tandem Jump | Skydive Orange

Student Skydiving

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Learning to skydive is one of the most rewarding things you can do. You’ll progress through skydiving levels, each of which is designed to equip you with more and better skills, enabling you to jump solo and to manage and care for your own equipment, too.

There are lots of different ways to learn to skydive. Some centers use static line skydiving, where your parachute is automatically deployed for you. Others use AFF (accelerated freefall) where you’ll jump with two instructors in a highly structured program.

Here at Skydive Orange, we believe your skydiving lessons should be tailored completely to you, so we use a more flexible system known as the Integrated Student Program. This innovative approach encourages self-support and allows you to progress at your own pace. Plus, you’ll learn skills for equipment maintenance, packing and canopy flight at the same time,

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Formation Skydiving (FS) This is also sometimes known as relative work or RW. This is all about flying in close proximity and forming shapes in the sky by holding onto one another’s arms and legs.

Formation skydiving is the first thing you’ll be encouraged to learn about once you have your skydiving license. That’s because it teaches you the skills to fly safely with others and builds your own personal flying skills too.

Skydivers from across the US compete in formation skydiving competitions, culminating in a yearly Nationals event. They also travel around the world for similar events, and US teams have been the world champions on numerous occasions.

Freefly Skydiving (FF)

Freefly skydiving, or freeflying, is flying at any orientation other than belly to earth (as belly to earth is the orientation used in FS). That means that freefliers can be seen flying at all angles, including in a seated position, standing straight up, and upside down in what’s called the ‘head down’ position. These orientations require advanced skills – just think about all that pressure the wind is putting on the skydivers while they make all these funky shapes with their bodies!

Like FS, there are competitions in freeflying too, and again, the US teams perform very well in this discipline. Some skydivers suggest freeflyers are the snowboarders to FS flyers’ skiers. If you ski or snowboard yourself, you’ll know what we mean!

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Camera Flying

Camera flyers are an important part of skydiving. Flying with cameras attached to their helmets, they are the people who capture the magic from up high for us to share with our friends on the ground.

If you’re making a tandem skydive, you can elect to have one of our highly experienced camera flyers jump with you, recording the whole experience for you to treasure forever.

Camera flyers are also an essential part of debriefing and judging skydives. When we’re jumping outside of competition, we still want to improve our skills so having the footage allows us to get coaching and advise one another on how to do better.

In competitions, the camera flyer’s job is to record the jump and then submit their footage to the competition judges, who are then able to score each round without having to jump with every team themselves.

Canopy Piloting

The final discipline we’d like to introduce today is that of canopy piloting. Usually, when we think about types of skydiving, we mean the different things we can do in freefall. But the parachute flight and landing is an important component and there are opportunities to build skills and even compete in this area too.

One such parachute discipline is CRW, or canopy relative work. This refers to the practice of flying parachutes closely and taking ‘docks’ on one another to build formations in the sky. Much like FS skydiving, skydivers competing in this discipline are given a set of formations to complete in a given time, and the team to complete the most wins.

Then there’s swooping. This is all about accelerating the parachute’s downward speed to produce faster across-the-ground speed and therefore cover greater distances. You can spot ‘swoopers’ when you’re watching people come into land as they put in big turns at low altitude, and their parachutes often make a whistling sound as they speed past you along the ground.

Are you ready to come and experience all the different types of skydiving? Find out more about first time skydiving, or get in touch if you have any questions.

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The 10 Basic Types of Clouds

Also learn what weather’s coming based on the cloud type

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Types of Clouds

ThoughtCo / Vin Ganapathy


  • B.S., Atmospheric Sciences and Meteorology, University of North Carolina

Tiffany Means is a meteorologist and member of the American Meteorological Society who has worked for CNN, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and more.

According to the World Meteorological Organization’s International Cloud Atlas, more than 100 types of clouds exist. The many variations, however, can be grouped into one of 10 basic types depending on their general shape and height in the sky. Thus, the 10 types are:

  • Low-level clouds (cumulus, stratus, stratocumulus) that lie below 6,500 feet (1,981 m)
  • Middle clouds (altocumulus, nimbostratus, altostratus) that form between 6,500 and 20,000 feet (1981–6,096 m)
  • High-level clouds (cirrus, cirrocumulus, cirrostratus) that form above 20,000 feet (6,096 m)
  • Cumulonimbus, which tower across the low, middle, and upper atmosphere

Whether you’re interested in cloud watching or are just curious to know what clouds are overhead, read on to find out how to recognize them and what type of weather you can expect from each.


cumulus sky open road

DENNISAXER Photography/Getty Images

Cumulus clouds are the clouds you learned to draw at an early age and that serve as the symbol of all clouds (much like the snowflake symbolizes winter). Their tops are rounded, puffy, and a brilliant white when sunlit, while their bottoms are flat and relatively dark.

When You’ll See Them

Cumulus clouds develop on clear, sunny days when the sun heats the ground directly below (diurnal convection). This is where they get their nickname of “fair weather” clouds. They appear in the late morning, grow, and then disappear toward evening.


stratus clouds

Matthew Levine/Getty Images

Stratus clouds hang low in the sky as a flat, featureless, uniform layer of grayish cloud. They resemble fog that hugs the horizon (instead of the ground).

When You’ll See Them

Stratus clouds are seen on dreary, overcast days and are associated with light mist or drizzle.


stratocumulus sky desert

Danita Delimont/Getty Images

If you took an imaginary knife and spread cumulus clouds together across the sky but not into a smooth layer (like stratus), you’d get stratocumulus—these are low, puffy, grayish or whitish clouds that occur in patches with blue sky visible in between. When viewed from underneath, stratocumulus have a dark, honeycomb appearance.

When You’ll See Them

You’re likely to see stratocumulus on mostly cloudy days. They form when there’s weak convection in the atmosphere.


altocumulus and the moon

Seth Joel/Getty Images

Altocumulus clouds are the most common clouds in the middle atmosphere. You’ll recognize them as white or gray patches that dot the sky in large, rounded masses or clouds that are aligned in parallel bands. They look like the wool of sheep or scales of mackerel fish—hence their nicknames “sheep backs” and “mackerel skies.”

Telling Altocumulus and Stratocumulus Apart

Altocumulus and stratocumulus are often mistaken. Besides altocumulus being higher up in the sky, another way to tell them apart is by the size of their individual cloud mounds. Place your hand up to the sky and in the direction of the cloud; if the mound is the size of your thumb, it’s altocumulus. (If it’s closer to fist-size, it’s probably stratocumulus.)

When You’ll See Them

Altocumulus are often spotted on warm and humid mornings, especially during summer. They can signal thunderstorms to come later in the day. You may also see them out ahead of cold fronts, in which case they signal the onset of cooler temperatures.




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