A Guide to Category System

The CS (‘Category System’) static line course is the most popular (and affordable) way for students to learn to skydive. You will start with an intensive ground school course, before making your first ever solo parachute descent.

From here, the instructors will gradually add to your routine; before long you will be doing all sorts of complicated stuff at 15,000ft above the ground!

The stages of progression in the CS course are described below. Note that you will be fully briefed and debriefed before and after each descent.

You will begin a ground school consists of a minimum of 6 hours of training. Your instructor will take you through absolutely everything you’ll need to know, including all of the emergency procedures and a comprehensive guide to all of your equipment. They will take you through the ‘routine’ that you will be required to do for your first jump, practising in mocked up versions of the aircraft’s exit. You will work intensively on perfecting your body position and your landing pattern (yes, you will be landing yourself!), and you will be given a complete tour of the airfield.

Category 1 – Has received a minimum of six hours ground training and has been cleared to make a first static line descent.

The primary focus of the first jump is that you exit the aircraft properly and with a stable, arched, body position. Your parachute is pulled for you by a ‘static line’, which is basically a rope that is attached to the plane. As you leave the aircraft (at 3,500 feet), the static line pulls the parachute open and leaves you to land your canopy by yourself.

You will need to complete two of these correctly and with confidence to progress.

Category 2 – Has demonstrated the ability to fall in a stable position counting throughout.

Here, you do exactly the same routine as in your first jump, but you must also perform a ‘dummy ripcord pull’. This involves reaching to where your ripcord would normally be and pulling out a bright orange flag to show to your instructor. Your parachute is still pulled for you by the static line; the aim of this jump is to demonstrate that you are capable of pulling your own ripcord. An arched and stable body position is essential for the success of these jumps.

You will need to complete three successful dummy ripcord pulls in a row to progress.

Category 3 – Has demonstrated the ability to perform three consecutive stable Dummy Ripcord Pulls (DRPs), counting and maintaining a positive arch throughout.

This is the big one – you’re on your own here, jumping from at least 4,000 ft. There is no static line; you must pull your own ripcord to deploy your parachute. You will wait 4 seconds (experiencing a teasing 4 seconds of free-fall) and then pull. The thing to remember here is that the jump is pretty much exactly the same as your dummy-pulls; you don’t actually do anything different. You will need to complete two successful ‘four-second delays’ to progress.

Category 4 – Has demonstrated the ability to perform two consecutive stable delayed openings, counting throughout, of between three and five seconds.

This is exactly the same as your previous jump, but instead of counting to four, you must count to ten. A degree in mathematics is not required. For the first time, your body will actually reach the horizontal skydiving position. You must pick a ‘heading’ and keep yourself stable and controlled.

Category 5 – Has demonstrated the ability to perform two consecutive stable delayed openings of ten seconds, maintaining a heading and counting throughout.

You will now be required to take two jumps, this time delaying for fifteen seconds before deploying. On your first jump, you will simply count to fifteen (as you have been previously) and on your second jump you will be required to pull based on your altimeter reading.

Category 6 – Has demonstrated the ability to perform the following:
– Two consecutive delayed openings of fifteen seconds.
– Use an altimeter in free fall.

Here you will jump from 15,000ft and must perform a 360° turn in each direction. You should first pick a ‘heading’, and show a clear ability to stop between each turn when you return to your heading. This jump really helps you practise control when in free-fall.

Category 7 – Has demonstrated the ability to perform controlled 360° turns in both directions.

This jump is awesome! The main point of it is to show that you’re capable of returning to an arched (and stable) free-fall position should you for any reason go unstable. You will sit cross-legged in the exit of the plane, with your back facing the door. The instructor will then push you out whilst you hold your position. After about five seconds, you should whack out an arch and return to stability.

You will then be required to perform two back-loops whilst in free-fall before deploying at around 4,000ft.

This is the first jump you will do where you actually dive out of the plane (all previous jumps will have exited from a seated position). After exiting and stabilising, you should adopt a tracking position and show that you are able to turn in each direction whilst in a track.

Here’s Ethan diving out of the plane for the first time:

Here’s his full tracking dive:

Here is where it all comes together. You must showcase to your instructor everything that you’ve learned. You will exit the plane in a dive, before doing a back-loop, a track and a 360° turn. You then deploy and land your canopy before doing a little dance on the ground because you’ve just qualified as an A-licensed skydiver!

Category 8 – Has demonstrated the ability to perform the following:
– An unstable exit
– A dive exit
– Back loops
– Tracks, including a track turn as an avoidance manoeuvre.

At some point during your CS tuition, an instructor will take you through the Canopy Handling 1 (CH1) module; a co-requisite to progression through the category system.

Upon qualifying as a Category 8 skydiver, you will be required to complete the following before making any further descents:

  • Knife briefing: As a qualified skydiver, you should always jump with a hook-knife.
  • Thow-away conversions: You will have so far jumped only with ripcord rigs, so will be required to complete two of these conversion jumps.

That’s it! You’re now a fully qualified skydiver and can go on to do all sorts of awesome things like this…

4 Responses to A Guide to Category System

  1. dan says:

    Hi, I joined the Skydiving Club at the freshers’ fair but was just wondering how much the AFF and RAPS full courses costs.



    • webmaster says:

      Hi there Dan,

      The cost for the 8 AFF levels is £1350 (includes kit hire etc. and transport for your first jump). You’ll then need to complete 10 ‘consolidation’ jumps, which cost £35 each.

      RAPS costs £190 for the ground school training and first jump (includes transport). All jumps after that cost £35 until you qualify.

      Best thing to do is come along to our welcome information evening on Monday – details are here.

      Adam 🙂

  2. lukasz says:

    i see that RAPS is much cheaper (like ~1000£ cheaper)
    Do you have exactly the same A-license at the end ?

    • webmaster says:

      Hi Lukasz,

      With both training methods, you receive the same A-License qualification at the end of it. The main difference is the length of time in which training can be completed. RAPS tends to be a much longer process that encourages gradual progression towards your license. AFF offers a more intense set of training jumps and you can achieve A License in a much shorter time period.

      Hope this helps! Maybe we’ll see you at our ground schools in September 🙂

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