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Static-Line Progression

Static line jumper ready to go, over Skydive Langar, UK — by Gary Wainwright
Static line jumper ready to go, over Skydive Langar, UK — by Gary Wainwright

What is static-line progression?

This is the classic way we learnt to skydive, in the good ol' days. As the cheapest entry to parachuting it's become a bit the poor relation but is still a perfectly valid method. You start by jumping from around 3,500 feet, initially with no free fall. You slowly but surely increase the height you jump from, and the time in free fall, and you learn all the skills to become a certified independent skydiver.

What is the static-line?

Static line is a bit of a misnomer because the only thing 'static' about it, is that it stays in the airplane when you jump out. The action of you falling away under gravity from this piece of webbing begins the opening sequence of your parachute.

by Gary Wainwright
by Gary Wainwright

How does the parachute open?

You're taught to jump out into a big stable position like a giant starfish, to avoid spinning in the wind. The first jump student in this photo is in a good spreadeagled position, Some would say he is is too flat, ideally he should also be arched into the force of the wind. But he's achieving the object of the exercise, to be stable in the slipstream, which gives a nice clean opening wind for the parachute. You can see the static line is just pulling a bag out of the pack on his back, this contains the parachute.

by Gary Wainwright
by Gary Wainwright

Now the bag has been pulled off his back, with the lines paying out neatly. The bag remains attached to the static-line on the aeroplane. A thin piece of thread is about to snap, neatly delivering his parachute into the wind.

How does the progression system work?

The precise details vary from country to country but normally you will do a couple of static-line jumps from around 4,000 feet, to get used to the stable spread position. For the next few jumps you are given a dummy ripcord handle, which you leave and pull, while still stable in the slipstream. The dummy handle doesn't operate anything but it demonstrates you are ready to pull a ripcord and open your parachute for real.

First free fall

Your first free fall will be a 3 or 5 second delay, almost exactly as rehearsed with the static-line. With a few 5 second delays you'll jump from slightly higher altitude and do a 10 second delay, then higher again with 15 seconds free fall, then 20 and so on.

Gaining skills

Gradually you will add new skills; reading an altimeter, performing turns, tracking (horizontal movement) and track turns. You will try a variety of exits; first sitting, then diving, then an unstable exit, where you curl up into a ball and go out tumbling; this is to show how easy it is to recover into a stable position again.

How long will it take?

Each jump is recorded in a logbook. Once you have demonstrated sufficient body flying, survival and canopy skills you will be signed off as a qualified experienced parachutist, just as with the AFF route, the same skills are required. You may have to repeat jumps to progress to the next level. The total jumps and time vary tremendously; as a very rough guide, probably between 20 - 50 jumps, depending how close they are together. Qualification can theoretically be reached in two weeks but can take a year.

Solo exit — by Andy Ford
Solo exit — by Andy Ford

Why is it slower than AFF?

Mainly because you don't try freefall until later. When someone jumps out of an aeroplane, there is a tiny period of 'sensory overload' where your brain struggles to make sense of the situation as there are so many new, extreme sensations. So the first few seconds can be a bit blank, even if you function well, before the 'lights come back on'. As an AFF instructor you can see the exact moment this happens. On static-line there isn't time, the novice will be under a parachute almost before they know it, so it takes longer to get past this stage.

by Andy Ford
by Andy Ford

Also, jumps are likely to be a longer distance apart so you don't progress so rapidly. If the drop zone also offers AFF you can end up behind them in the priority list. Finally, on AFF, the instructors will push, encourage and even beast you to get the jumps in. On the progression system it can be more down to the individual to make the effort, which can prove too much, for something that's already daunting!

Why would you choose this system?

It is tried and tested, and it works. It is popular with university and college students, because of the cost. It is cheaper than AFF, and it spreads the cost out over a greater time, because it will probably take longer to progress. It also delays the point where newcomers will need to buy their own set of gear. Once you are no longer a novice you will want your own equipment fairly quickly, to be safest and independent. Acquiring gear becomes fairly urgent after AFF, whereas with the progression system you have more time to look around for a good deal. Some people say that people who do this system have more time under their parachutes, arguably leading to better canopy control.

What gear is used?

The equipment, ie, the harness, main and reserve parachute, is usually exactly the same as the AFF students. The only difference is that for the static-line jumps the rig will have a slight modification of the opening system.

What if the parachute doesn't open?

Everyone jumps with two parachutes; a main and a reserve. The latter is used in the unlikely event of a problem with the main. Instructions on how to operate the reserve will be fully taught in the first jump course Emergency Procedures lecture. In addition as a final security, the rig includes an Automatic Activation Device, designed to activate your reserve if you are incapacitated.

Are IAD and RAPS the same?

Yes. IAD, Instructor Assisted Deployment, is a variant of the static-line. It's virtually the same, but the instructor helps to control the deployment, via the static-line. Most instructors naturally do that anyway. RAPS is an acronym for Ram-Air Progression System. Ram-air is a posh word for rectangular parachute, different from round parachutes. There are still some places in the world that you can jump a round parachute (by static line). It's a very peaceful floating sensation under a round, but they have largely fallen out of use.

Where should I go?

Shop around. Look online for drop zones, and check them out. You'll get a flavour of their operation from their website, emails and phone calls. If you can, go and visit prospective places. If this is where you're going to be hanging out at the weekends it's worth taking the time to find somewhere you like.

Category 8 qualifying jump for Courtney Benson — by Steve Nolan
Category 8 qualifying jump for Courtney Benson — by Steve Nolan

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