What’s in an AFF COURSE?

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Insights from the biggest AFF skydiving school in Spain…

AFF Level 1 jump at Skydive Spain

Here at sunny Skydive Spain we take great pleasure watching our AFF students, who start with only one jump or even zero jumps, transform into fully qualified skydivers in just a few days.

The learning curve for skydiving students is aggressively steep to say the least. The acute mental and physical capacity required to attend the school every day, retain an abundance of new and sometimes technical information, not to mention navigate around the unfamiliar skydiving lingo, can get a little exhausting and occasionally frustrating. Our skydiving instructors are not only masters in training skills, a large part of their task is to mentor their students through the entire course. Each student needs a different kind of support and attention to draw out their best.

This article is a guide to future skydiving students on what to expect during an AFF course. Becoming familiar with most aspects of the course will help to get the most out of the experience.

So, what does it really take to be able to offer this transformation?


The AFF course is a skydiving course drafted to quickly teach people how to skydive in a quick and safe manner. AFF = Accelerated Free Fall, meaning that the learning process in freefall is Accelerated, because of the individual nature of the instruction. 

The goal of the program is to allow people with zero or very little experience in skydiving to gain all the necessary skills to be able to jump solo after only 8 jumps. This means that (especially in locations like ours with great conditions for skydiving throughout the year), people will have all the necessary competences to start jumping solo just a few days after they arrive.

The AFF program and the teaching techniques used have been specifically designed to help skydiving students to progress as quickly and as safely as possible.

Safety comes first and that includes aircraft maintenance
Image shows the Swallow Group’s G92 Turbine, taking off at Skydive Algarve



Anybody who gets started in our sport will likely have some doubts about how things can go, and rightfully so. Skydiving is an extreme, but safe sport, and the dropzone is responsible to take all the necessary measures to make our students be as safe as possible. Any learning curve improves with a higher level of comfort of the students. We strive to convert nervousness into confidence.

Our company has more than 25 years of experience in the skydive industry. We can say that we have seen it all, and when we say that safety comes first, we mean it. We are proudly certified to award British Skydiving (BS) and American (USPA) skydiving licenses. We have built a very strong reputation over the years and our goal is to maintain this for all the years to come.


All extreme sports come with some prejudices. Although thinking skydiving is dangerous is as a normal first reaction, looking closer at some official figures makes these preconceptions dissolve. Here are some stats to put things in perspective:

Probability of fatality through:

  • Motor collision: 1 in 114
  • Choking on your own food: 1 in 3,461
  • Bike-related incident: 1 in 4.486
  • Coming in contact with a hornet, wasp or bee: 1 in 63,225
  • Dog bite or attack: 1 in 112,400
  • Lightning strike: 1 in 161,856
  • Skydiving: 1 in 220,301

At a rate of 0.004 skydiving fatalities per 1,000, that’s 1 fatality in every 167,000 jumps. This means it’s more likely you’ll depart this life from a lightning strike, dog bite, wasp sting, bike accident, choking or a car crash.

For injuries, in 2019, USPA members in the US reported 2,522 skydiving injuries requiring a medical care facility. That’s approximately 1 injury per 1,310 skydives.

With all of these figures, we consider to be fair to categorise our sport as “extreme” but not “risky”. 

Sources: America’s National Safety Council & USPA

A confident student during an AFF Level 3 jump at Skydive Hibaldstow
Photo by Rob Spour


Once you get to a skydiving centre for the first time, you’ll start hearing some words that may be unfamiliar. Take this opportunity to start getting comfortable with our lingo:


  • Drop zone (DZ): This is basically the skydiving centre where you’ll make skydiving. It´s mainly consists of a huge grassy field and some aircraft hangars.
  • Ground school: 6 hours’ classroom training to be completed prior to starting AFF jumps.
  • Jumpsuit: A full body suit that you wear over your clothes when you go skydiving.
  • Freefall: The most exciting part of your jump, falling through the sky till it´s time to open your parachute.
  • Canopy:  The term used for the parachute above your head.
  • Rig: “Backpack” where the canopy is placed, properly packed.
  • Altimeter (alti): Instrument used to measure the altitude of an object above the ground, usually worn on your wrist.
  • AFF Levels:  First set of jumps where the student jumps along with AFF instructors who will assist during freefall.
  • Hop ‘n’ Pop:  Low altitude jump performed after successfully completing the first 7 levels [‘Hop’ out ‘and Pop’ the parachute].
  • Consolidation jumps (consols): Solo jumps performed after all the level jumps have been successfully completed.
  • Dornier G92:  Our awesome skydiving aircraft. Other skydiving aircraft in common use are Caravans, Twin Otters and Cessnas.  
  • “Tortilla de patatas”: Not a skydiving related term, but we strongly recommend this typical Spanish dish! 🙂
A very happy student 🙂
Photo courtesy of Skydive Algarve


If you are a bit worried or even getting nervous while you are reading all of this, that’s a very natural place to be. We even encourage you to be there! Here is what most students go through in their AFF journey:

  • Stage 1: Arrival. Getting to the dropzone with a pinch of nerves is quite common, keen to know everything all at once.
  • Stage 2: Between level jumps. Overwhelmed. Going through the ground school and performing the first level jumps can be mentally challenging. It’s completely normal.
  • Stage 3: Last levels and consolidation jumps – I am the king/queen of the world!! Being overwhelmed pays off right away.

These are of course generalisations which don’t apply to everybody, but our point is that is completely OK to feel nervous and insecure while making the decision of taking the AFF course and the first couple of days.

Practice pulls during AFF Ground School, Skydive Algarve



The AFF course starts off with a classroom theory session of 6 hours. During this training, students go through orientation of the DZ, landing area and their equipment, the instructions of how to perform their jumps and fly their canopy, and all emergency procedures required to stay safe.

All the information seen during the ground school may look like a hurdle to overcome at first, but little by little, performing the first jumps with the close guidance of our instructors, everything begins to look a lot clearer. Needless to say, staying focused during the lectures and various practical classes and asking questions during the ground training, will make your whole AFF experience more successful and enjoyable.


After completion of the ground training, students are ready for their AFF tandem skydive. Note, not all skydiving centers offer this special type of tandem, it is very different than a regular tandem. The student has the opportunity to take their first skydive attached to an instructor, which gives a great sense of security for first timers. But it’s not a ‘regular’ tandem; all aspects of the skydive are linked to the ground training; gearing up, boarding the aircraft, the aircraft’s ascent to altitude, exit, free fall manoeuvres, altitude awareness, opening of the parachute, flying the canopy and preparation for landing.

For those students who have already experienced a regular tandem skydive, the AFF Tandem is an invaluable learning tool to accomplish before attempting the AFF Level One skydive. All our students agree, it really opens their eyes to what they need to prepare for on their skydives.

It’s all in the numbers…
Photo courtesy of Skydive Spain


In very few words, the AFF levels could be described like this:

  • AFF Level 1 – Your first skydive
  • AFF Level 2 – Refine your body position
  • AFF Level 3 – Instructors release you
  • AFF Level 4 – Practice 90 degree turns
  • AFF Level 5 – Practice 360 degree turns
  • AFF Level 6 – Gain confidence in your own stability
  • AFF Level 7 – Putting it all together
  • AFF Level 8 – Hop ‘n’ Pop

Students then get started with their AFF Level Jumps, normally the day after the ground school. These jumps are designed to introduce the basic practical concepts of skydiving while enhancing the confidence of the student.

Levels 1 through 3 are performed with 2 instructors alongside, while levels 4 through 7 are supported by one instructor; before, during and after each jump. The student develops capabilities progressively through the different levels until they reach the level 8, which is a low altitude exit executed solo, under the supervision of an instructor. This level is known as “Hop ‘n’ Pop!”

In order to pass each AFF Level, it is necessary to satisfy all the key requirements involved with safety aspects, freefall manoeuvres, canopy flying. These key requirements will be made clear to you before each skydive. What happens if you do not satisfy them? A repeat jump of that level is necessary in order to prove the skills called for. It is possible that more than one repeat jump of the same level is needed until the instructor has witnessed all the key requirements and he/she is confident the student is ready to advance. Although there has to be a cost to the repeat jumps, rest assured, instructors do their very best via de-briefing and ground training sessions to progress people. Everyone is different and their paths to get to the completion of the skydiving course are unique.

All the AFF level jumps are filmed by the instructor so each jump can be reviewed on the ground, to provide constructive feedback and points for improvement.

Consolidation jump at Skydive Algarve



After successful completion of the 8 AFF levels, there is a set of jumps for students to reach the minimum requirements to apply for an international skydiving license.

These consolidation jumps are on your own, “solo”, under the supervision of an instructor in the aircraft. 

After only 18 jumps you can become a fully-fledged qualified skydiver, ready to jump independently. The transformation can be completed very quickly, due to the personalised instruction, matched to the style and personality of each person on the AFF course. 

One of the best things about skydiving is the community
Photo courtesy of Skydive Spain
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Meet: Swallow Group

The Swallow Group ownes three of the best dropzones in Europe:
* Skydive Hibaldstow in UK
* Skydive Algarve in Portugal
* Skydive Spain in Spain :)

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