Terminology 101: The Jump

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Now that you know what to call everyone on the DZ and you understand the basics of the gear. Now it’s time to dig into what you really care about—the jump!

AFF or Accelerated Freefall – The training program that gets you from 0 to jumping on your own! Think of AFF as skydiver training wheels. You can start AFF without ever having done a tandem, although many people prefer to do a tandem first to find out if skydiving is for them. AFF starts with a ground school that’s usually about 4-6 hours long (exact time can vary based on class size and how fast you soak up new information). Once your instructors are sure you understand what to do, you’ll do your first skydive jump. Two instructors will be with you, holding onto you in the door of the plane and in freefall, but you won’t be attached to anyone. After you deploy your parachute, you’ll land it on your own (with radio assistance to help guide you in). After that, step by step and jump by jump, you’ll gain skill until your instructors clear you for solo status, meaning you can skydive on your own under supervision!

Dirt Dive – Practicing the flow of a skydive on the ground. You’ll often see skydivers holding hands and moving around in what looks like a weird, elaborate dance. If it’s night-time and they’re drunk, that’s probably just how they party. If it’s daytime and they have gear on, they’re most likely practicing their skydiving plan.

Mockup – A metal structure that serves as a pretend plane door, allowing skydivers to practice (“dirt dive”) their plan and exit.

Exit – The way you leave the airplane. There are many body positions to be in as you leave the door of the plane, and some of them work better than others! Skydivers practice specific exits for specific types of skydiving jumps.

Deployment – The part of the jump where you throw out your pilot chute so that your main parachute opens.

Pattern – The way you fly your parachute in to land. Just like airplanes, skydivers fly a landing pattern so that air traffic is predictable.

Flare – The part of landing where the person flying the parachute (tandem instructor or solo jumper) pulls down on the toggles, leveling out the parachute above the ground so they can touch down lightly.


Load – Each flight (load of people) the airplane takes up for their skydiving jump. Load numbers are how skydivers keep track of when they should get on the plane. If someone says you’re on Load 5, you’ll be on that plane’s fifth flight of the day.

Toggles – The handles that control the parachute.

Swoop – To fly the parachute toward the ground really fast and then plane it out above the ground. If you see people on tiny parachutes coming in really hot and “whooshing” above the ground for hundreds of feet, that’s swooping. It requires a high degree of experience and skill to execute well.


Now that you’ve learned the skydiving slang for your jump, don’t miss the first and second parts of our skydiving terminology series about the people and gear. Think we missed an important term? Want us to expand on anything? Leave us a comment below!

Skydiving Terminology 101: The People

Skydiving Terminology 101: The Gear