Learn the Lingo

Glossary of Skydiving Terms

A-LICENSE – The first level or Basic USPA license that signifies that a skydiver has advanced beyond the student phase. Persons holding a USPA A License are able to jumpmaster themselves, perform basic relative work jumps, water jumps and pack their own parachute.

AIRCRAFT – Any machine or device, including airplanes, helicopters, gliders, balloons, etc. capable of atmospheric flight. Parachutes are not considered aircraft.

AUTOMATIC ACTIVATION DEVICE (AAD) – A self-contained device attached to the parachute which automatically activates the parachute container opening sequence at a preset altitude, time, percentage of terminal velocity, or combination thereof.


B-LICENSE – The second level or Intermediate USPA license. Persons holding a USPA B license are able to jumpmaster themselves, pack their own main parachute, perform water, night, and relative work jumps and participate in record attempts.

BASIC SAFETY REQUIREMENTS – Minimum standards generally agreed upon as the accepted standard for safe skydiving activities. Published by USPA.

BREAK OFF – 1. RW – A predetermined altitude at which all jumpers turn 180 degrees from the center of the formation and track in order to have enough airspace to safely open their parachutes. 2. CRW – The altitude after which no more incoming canopies are allowed to dock.

C-LICENSE – The third level or Advanced USPA license. Persons holding a USPA C license are able to jumpmaster other license skydivers, pack their own main parachute, participate in certain USPA competitions and in record attempts, perform relative work, night, water, and demonstration jumps, and are eligible for the USPA Jumpmaster rating.

CANOPY – The umbrella-like surface or drag surface of a parachute which includes the suspension lines from which the load or person is suspended.

CONTAINER – The portion of the assembly used to store the folded parachute canopy.

CANOPY RELATIVE WORK (CRW) – The intentional maneuvering of two or more open parachute canopies in proximity to or contact with one another during descent.

CUT AWAY – Separating or releasing of the main canopy and risers from the harness by activating riser releases. A procedure for handling a malfunctioned main canopy that must be followed by deployment of the reserve.

CUT AWAY HANDLE – A handle, usually mounted on the harness, used to release both main risers. Sometimes referred to as a single point release.

D-LICENSE – The fourth and highest Master USPA license. Persons holding a USPA D license are able to jumpmaster other licensed skydivers, pack their own main parachute, participate in all USPA competitions and record attempts, perform relative work, night, water, and demonstration jumps, are eligible for all UPSA rating and for appointment as a Safety and Training Advisor.

DEMONSTRATION JUMP -- A jump made away from an established drop zone for the benefit of spectators. Also an exhibition or display jump.

DEPLOYMENT – That portion of a parachute’s operation occurring from the moment of container opening (or pilot chute release when using a hand-deployed pilot chute) to the instant the suspension lines are fully stretched out but prior to the inflation of the canopy.

DEPLOYMNET BAG – A device that contains (holds) a parachute canopy until the suspension lines have deployed. Bag many or may not provide a place to stow suspension lines. A pilot chute lifts a deployment bag away from a parachute container, causing the suspension lines to be extended before the canopy emerges from the deployment bag.

DROP ZONE – A specified area into which skydivers intend to land. Also refers to a commercial parachute center.

EXIT POINT – That point on the ground over which the skydiver jumps from the aircraft.

FEDERATION AERONAUTIQUE INTERNATIONALE (FAI) – An international organization which governs all aviation sports, certifies all official aviation and space records and governs official international competitions. Operates through a non-profit National Aero Club in each country.

FREEFALL – A skydive on which the parachute is activated manually at the discretion of the jumper. The portion of the jump between exit and parachute deployment.

HAND-DEPLOYED PILOT CHUTE – The springless pilot chute used in hand-deployed systems. See THROW OUT.

HARNESS – An arrangement of nylon webbing which is designed to conform to the shape of the load to be carried in order to secure it properly, so that the opening force and the weight of the load during descent are evenly distributed. The harness connects the wearer to the canopy through the risers.

INSTRUCTOR – The holder of a USPA Instructor rating who may be qualified in the static line and/or Accelerated Freefall (AFF) method of instruction. Instructor is the second level of instructional rating and identifies the person who demonstrated the ability to instruct students in both the theoretical and practical skydiving skills required to attain the USPA A License and to supervise jumpmasters.

INSTRUCTOR/EXAMINER – The third level of the instructional rating program. An I/E is an experienced Instructor who has met additional proficiency requirements and passed a series of written examinations on a wide variety of skydiving related subjects. An I/E has all of the privileges of an S&TA and may receive authorization to conduct Instructor and Jumpmaster Certification Courses.

JUDGE – The official who evaluates competitors’ performances. USPA issues judge ratings at both the conference and national levels. The FAI issues a rating for internationally recognized judges.

JUMP RUN – The flight of the aircraft prior to exit, usually flown from the target to the exit point.

JUMPMASTER – 1. Jumpmaster is the entry-level instructional rating and identifies the person who has demonstrated the ability to provide practical instruction for and direct supervision of students in the aircraft. 2. The skydiver who supervises the other skydivers from the time they enter until the time they exit the aircraft. Also called SPOTTER.

MAIN PARACHUTE – The primary canopy of the dual (two-canopy) assembly.

MALFUNCTION – The complete or partial failure of a parachute canopy to accomplish proper opening, descent, or flight characteristics.

NATIONAL AERONAUTIC ASSOCIATION (NAA) – The National Aero Club of the USA which represents the FAI. USPA is a division of the NAA.

NATIONAL COLLEGIATE PARACHUTING COMMITTEE (NCPC) – Supports and encourages skydiving as a collegiate sport; conducts an annual national collegiate parachuting championships.

NATIONAL DIRECTOR – Those Directors elected at large by the general membership.

NIGHT JUMP – A skydive made from one hour after official sunset to one hour before official sunrise. The FAA considers any jump made after a sunset and before sunrise a night jump.

OPENING FORCE – The decelerating force exerted on the load as the parachute deploys and inflates. Caused by the resistance of the canopy and items associated with it. Also called opening shock.

PACK (or PARACHUTE PACK) – An FAA term for the parachute assembly less the harness. It means the container, canopy, suspension lines, pilot chute, risers, and connector links. The terms pack and container are synonymous.

PARACHUTE – A fabric device that slows the descent of a falling object; derived from the French words "para," to shield, and "chute," to fall. Thus, parachute literally means "to shield from a fall."

PILOT CHUTE – A small parachute used to aid or accelerate canopy deployment by acting as an anchor.

POISED EXIT – A departure from an aircraft wherein the jumper uses an external structure to brace himself and to assist in gaining a stable position immediately upon leaving the aircraft.

PULL OUT – A hand deployment method of initiating parachute opening, where the springless pilot chute is packed into the main container. Pulling a handle first withdraws a container closing pin and then extracts the pilot chute.

REGIONAL DIRECTOR – Those Directors of a specified geographical area, elected by and responsible for representing the interests of the skydivers in a regional area.

RELATIVE WORK (RW) – Aerial maneuvers by two or more freefalling skydivers with each other, usually to form geometric formations.

RESERVE PARACHUTE – The second or auxiliary parachute worn by a person making an intentional jump.

RESERVE STATIC LINE (RSL) – A line or lanyard attached to a main parachute riser and to a reserve ripcord handle, cable or housing to effect automatic activation of the reserve ripcord pin following a breakaway. Also called a Stevens system.

SAFETY AND TRAINING ADVISOR (S&TA) – A local person appointed by the Regional Director as his representative who is available to provide advice and administration assistance as the USPA representative at an individual drop zone.

SKYDIVE – The descent of a person to the surface from an aircraft in flight when he or she uses or intends to use a parachute during all or part of that descent.

SKYDIVER – A person who engages in skydiving.

SLIDER – A device that controls a canopy’s inflation by progressively sliding down the suspension lines during deployment. Found on most ram-air canopies.

SPORT PARACHUTIST – One who engages I skydiving. A skydiver.

SPOTTING – Selecting the course for the aircraft to fly, directing the pilot and selecting the correct ground reference point over which to leave the aircraft.

STABILITY – In skydiving, having control of body position during freefall.

STATIC LINE – A line, cable, or webbing, one end of which is fastened to the pack, the other to some part of the aircraft; used to open a container or deploy a canopy as the load falls away from the aircraft.

STATIC LINE JUMP – A parachute jump during which deployment of the parachute is initiated by a static line attached to the aircraft, used primarily in student training.

STUDENT – A skydiver trainee who has not qualified for a USPA A license.

SUSPENSION LINE – Cords that connect the parachute to the harness. They are the means by which the wearer or weight is suspended from the inflated canopy.

TANDEM JUMP – A skydive during which two people use the same parachute system, each wearing a harness with one attached to the other and featuring a single piggyback container system with an extra-large main and reserve canopy.

TARGET – For competition, a five centimeter disk.

TECHNICAL STANDARD ORDER (TSO) – Issued by the FAA, requires compliance with minimum performance standards and specifications for material and products. Parachutes are covered by TSO-C23.

TERMINAL VELOCITY – The equilibrium velocity that a freefalling body can attain against the resistance of the air. The greatest speed at which a human body falls through the atmosphere. Resistance of the air overcoming the pull of gravity establishes the approximate figure of 150 to 176 feet per second or 102- 120 mpg for the stable, face-to-earth position.

3-RING RELEASE – A patented canopy release system based on three interlocking rings. In its common configuration, pulling one breakaway handle simultaneously releases both main risers. Also called a single point release. See CUTAWAY HANDLE.

THROW OUT – A hand deployment method of initiating a parachute opening where the skydiver grasps a springless pilot chute and tosses it into the airstream. See HAND-DEPLOY PILOT CHUTE.

TRACKING – A freefall action achieved by a skydiver to attain maximum horizontal movement.

UNITED STATES PARACHUTE ASSOCIATION (USPA) – A not-for-profit, voluntary membership association of skydivers whose purpose is promoting and representing skydiving. As a division of the NAA, it is the official representative of the FAI for skydiving in the U.S.

USPA LICENSE – Formal recognition that a skydiver has met a specified level of experience, skill, and knowledge. There are four classes of USPA licenses: A, B, C, and D. USPA licenses are recognized internationally through the FAI and exceed the minimum requirements established for each level by the FAI.


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