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How Qualified is my Instructor?


Start Skydiving Posted by: Start Skydiving 7 months ago

There’s a reason first time skydivers strap themselves to another human before jumping, and it’s not just because it’s nice to have moral support when launching face first out of an airplane door. 

Skydiving is a complex activity that comes with calculated risk. And it’s like nothing your brain or body has ever experienced before. That’s why making your first skydive with a qualified tandem instructor is so important. 

Your skydiving instructor is a pro. They’ve gone through countless hours of rigorous training and practice to meet the elite tandem instructor requirements. It’s no cakewalk to become a skydive instructor. They’ve earned the privilege to take you out of an airplane, and they revel in that experience as much as the opportunity to share the sky with their students. 

Every United States Parachute Association (USPA) rated tandem instructor has to meet a certain set of prerequisites before they can even enter a training program. Once they are qualified, they then have to complete a series of written and practical tests to prove they are up to the challenge. 

But that’s not all. Even once they are certified, skydiving instructors are held to certain currency standards that ensure they are making enough jumps every year to stay up to date and safe in the sky. Not to mention they have to pass Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) medical clearance on a regular basis. 

Let’s take a look at what tandem instructors go through before they get to take you and your epic skydive. 

Tandem Instructor Requirements

To become a tandem instructor, as mandated by the USPA, you are – at a minimum – required to:

  • Be 18 years of age
  • Log at least 500 jumps
  • Have 3 years experience in the sport
  • Have your USPA D-license or foreign equivalent
  • Hold a coach rating
  • Have your FAA Class III Flight Medical Certificate or foreign equivalent
  • Complete USPA tandem instructor rating certification program

And this is just the bare minimum. A lot of tandem instructors are qualified above and beyond these requirements before they become an instructor. 

Practice Makes Perfect

In order to meet all of these requirements, prospective tandem instructors put in a lot of practice. There are many different ways to prepare for a tandem rating, but one thing’s for certain, every instructor has paid their dues. There’s too much on the line to waltz into a certification program without having a ton of practical experience under their belt. 

One foundation all tandem instructors have in common is a coach rating. Holding a coach rating is one of the prerequisites for taking the tandem course. The coach rating allows skydivers who haven’t yet met the requirements of the instructor ratings to learn the ropes of teaching. Coaches work with solo students to help them learn skills and achieve their first skydiving license. 

That means that before your instructor even stepped foot in a tandem rating course, they were teaching students and making jumps with keeping people safe in mind. 


With all that practice and studying to get certified, tandem instructors pick up a lot of knowledge. Many of them even hold other instructional ratings. This means that the person you’re trusting with your life has a head full of useful information about jumping out of airplanes. And how to handle any issues should they arise. 

Tandem instructors are able to use their wealth of knowledge to prepare for any scenario they might come across on any skydive. Both good and … not so good. They can tell you everything you’d want to know about your skydive, and keep you in good hands all the whole way down. 

And, don’t forget, they were once a tandem student, too! They know what it’s like to be in your shoes. Everyone did their very first skydive at some point, even instructors. They’re able to use this history and experience to ensure that your first skydive is as memorable as theirs was. 

Customer Service

Tandem instructors are also pros at being personable. Jumping out of an airplane isn’t the only part of the skydiving experience. There’s the training, the waiting, the ride up in the plane. Being able to provide a calm and supportive atmosphere for each and every student is all part of being a good instructor. 

Communicating clearly and staying calm, cool, and collected is all part of the job. A tandem instructor has to be able to execute with precision in the air and on the ground. What good is an instructor who can jump but can’t teach? It’s right there in the name! Your tandem instructor has put as much time into learning how to be an effective trainer and communicator as they have into learning the ins and outs of tandem skydiving. 

Of all the things to stress about the day of your skydive, your instructor doesn’t have to be one of them. Enjoy your jump knowing that you’re in qualified hands!