Many first-time jumpers get their start doing what is known as tandem skydiving. In this type of jump, the novice is harnessed to an experienced instructor who has been certified as an instructor by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The instructor must have more than 500 documented skydives of his or her own and a minimum of 3 years of skydiving experience to meet FAA standards. The manufacturers of individual certification courses usually have additional requirements of their instructors.
The equipment required for tandem skydiving is similar to that of an individual skydiver with modifications added to support the weight of two skydivers instead of one. Shortly after the tandem team leaves the plane, a drogue parachute is deployed to slow the freefall speed of the team, which is falling much faster than a single jumper would be. The drogue parachute allows for proper deployment of the main chute at the appropriate time and it slows descent, allowing for a longer and more enjoyable first jump. Often a single videographer will film the tandem skydiving team so the drogue parachute allows the tandem team to fall at near the same speed as the videographer.
The main parachute used in tandem skydiving is considerably larger than that used by a single skydiver. It is usually 400 square feet or larger to better support the weight of two jumpers instead of one.
Three tandem skydiving systems are most commonly used – the Strong Dual Hawk, the Relative Workshop Vector Tandem, and the Relative Workshop Sigma Tandem. Most jump sites and instruction schools offer one of these well-established and respected systems. Many skydiving facilities offer the option of tandem skydiving for beginners while others require it.
Anyone considering a first jump may want to research the different systems commonly used to find the one that seems the most comfortable and find a facility that offers that particular system as part of its tandem skydiving program.
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