How Much Experience Do Tandem Skydive Instructors Have?

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Let’s have some straight talk, shall we? If you’re planning to make a tandem skydive, the guy or gal you’re attached to
is responsible for saving your life, and by default, becoming your new best friend!  (Whoa. No pressure!) The good news is your tandem skydiving instructor is also responsible for saving their own lives (and they have every intention of making many more skydives).

So, who are these modern day superheroes with occupations that save lives and give the gift of empowerment? They’re definitely unique human beings and they’re also highly experienced skydivers!

How Much Experience Do Tandem Skydive Instructors Have?

To become a tandem skydiving instructor, aspiring skydivers must meet the following criteria:

  • 18 years of age
  • 500 ram air jumps (read: non-round parachutes)
  • 3 years in the sport
  • D-license or foreign equivalent
  • Hold an instructional rating, coach or higher
  • FAA class 3 medical certificate or foreign equivalent
  • Experienced a cutaway, real emergency or intentional
  • 50 jumps within the last 12 months
  • 4 hours of freefall time

So, exactly what does all of the above mean? It means you can’t just waltz into the sport and just become a tandem skydiving instructor overnight – you have to put your time in! Accruing 500 skydives takes time and for good measure, you have to have made at least 50 jumps within the last 12 months which protects against those that made 500 jumps ten years ago and suddenly wish to get right back into it. Additionally, the Class 3 medical ensures that your new faithful freefall friend is in good health!

Tandem skydive instructor, Dave flexes his muscles in free fall with his student.
Tandem Instructor Dave Fulk with his student and videographer, Terry Hopkins

What’s Involved in Becoming a Tandem Skydiving Instructor?

Good news here, folks! Even if you meet all of the prerequisites above, there’s no guarantee that you’ll earn that tandem instructor rating. You’ve still got to prove yourself and it’s one of the more difficult skydiving instructional ratings to achieve because you’re put through the paces!

To begin with, registering for a tandem instructor training course is neither quick nor cheap! The course is usually between two and four days in length and is completed in multiple phases. The first phase is all about classroom discussion based on theoretical topics (worst case scenarios and emergency scenarios included). After classroom theory, it’s off to the sky for the “practical” testing phase which is completed across five skydives with a tandem instructor examiner. The tandem examiner works as a tandem passenger (a nervy job to be sure) and challenges the skills of the tandem candidate by doing everything wrong in free fall. This testing pushes a tandem candidate to use all of their skills and truthfully, it’s stressful!

Not every candidate passes this course and many have to return for additional testing in order to acquire the necessary skills. That’s phase one!

The second phase involves doing five tandem skydives with other licensed skydivers in order to gain more experience. I, (the author of this article), have served as a tandem passenger during this phase and yes, I was nervous, but my tandem instructor in training passed with flying colors!

A tandem skydiving instructor deploys the drogue in free fall during a skydive
Tandem instructor, Ashley deploys the drogue parachute shortly after exiting Skydive Carolina’s Twin Otter aircraft

Skydive Carolina Pre-Requisites

At Skydive Carolina, all of our skydiving instructors have both the experience and training required to be licensed tandem skydiving instructors. Our most experienced instructors have more than 10,000 jumps while our newer instructors have closer to 1,000 total skydives. Additionally, we hire on personality and not just skillset alone! We recognize that we’re in the hospitality industry, so it’s important we have a team of individuals who are passionate about what they do and keen to deliver great service in addition to great skydives!

Come meet our qualified team and join us in the sky at Skydive Carolina!

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