Difference Between AFF & A-License

Difference Between AFF & A-License

Monday, May 14, 2018

So you’re ready to learn to skydive? Fantastic! We’re ready to help you along that fantastic voyage. We’ll start by giving you a sneak peek into the two checkpoints you’ll be crossing along the way: first, graduation from your AFF course; then, earning your USPA A-license. If you’re able to make your student skydives consistently and regularly throughout your solo skydiving training, those two checkpoints will come one-after-another; however, you should keep in mind that they’re distinct.

Here’s the Difference

Wait wait, you say. There’s a difference between graduating AFF and earning your A-license? But I thought those pictures of people with stamps on their foreheads were all the AFF graduates!

Okay. Yes and no. Everyone with a picture on that wall did graduate AFF. They did a bit more, however, before they proudly presented their forehead for a stamp. You see: Graduating AFF simply certifies that the jumper succeeded in completing her licensing coursework and in-air exercises. Earning your USPA A-license means that the jumper has successfully jumped and landed 25 times, as certified by an officially licensed USPA instructor.

Three skydivers making a formation during free fall

Driving School to Driving License

Sure, the analogy is imperfect, but you can look at the AFF-vs-A-License distinctions this way:

  • Your AFF is like driving school.
  • The remaining jumps you do to complete your USPA A-license are like the supervised journeys that you do behind the wheel to prepare for your driver’s test.
  • Earning your A-license is like passing your drivers’ test and getting your driver’s license.

Just like a standard-issue driver’s license, earning your USPA A-license proves that you’ve passed the tests of the training process. You’ve moved along to the next stepping stone towards more advanced skydiving licenses and ratings. Your A-license allows you to rent skydiving gear and make magnificent skydives at most of the world’s dropzones. There’s a reason that people don’t mind wearing it on their foreheads until it wears off. Getting that stamp is a celebration!

Ready To Learn

…But that said, there’s more to the story. Y’know how getting your driver’s license doesn’t mean you’re ready to screw a bunch of aftermarket parts on your mom’s old Datsun and do race Pike’s Peak? While it gives you a lot of latitude to make decisions for yourself, getting a first-time drivers license doesn’t mean you should push your limits by getting into heavy traffic situations or borrowing a powerful car just to see how it feels. Quite honestly, earning your drivers license  doesn’t even mean that you have to drive without supervision if you still like the feeling of a competent someone-else in the car. The same is true for skydiving.

The A-license stamp means, “Okay – You’re ready to go out into the skydiving world and start learning, jump-by-jump, on your own.” With that stamp, your instructor is approving you as a safe enough, competent enough solo skydiver to begin your lifelong learning process outside the heavily structured environment of the well-trodden solo skydiving certification curriculum that the AFF course represents.

Make no mistake: passing your AFF and then successfully earning your A-license are no small accomplishments. Between meeting the challenge and enjoying the ensuing party, almost every jumper in the sky will tell you that it’s the best thing they’ve ever done.


Discover it for yourself! Earn that USPA A license with us at Skydive Tecumseh, and begin to discover all that skydiving has to offer. We can’t wait to see your forehead graced with a great big “A”!

Tandem Skydiver in freefall at Skydive Tecumseh

On Labor Day my daughter took our first jump. She got me it for my 62nd birthday to check off my bucket list. It was the most intense adrenaline rush I have ever experienced. James and Amber (my daughters tandem partner) were very professional and made our jumps fantastic. We will be back again and hope to bring a group with us. Tremendous experience.

John Gay