Published: May 24, 2017
What Qualifications Does A Tandem Instructor Need To Have?
You probably already know this to be the case, but listen up: the pro you're clipped to on your tandem skydive is no state-fair-ride operator, blandly delivering ride after indistinguishable ride. Far from it, in fact. Before even entering into the tandem skydiving training program, an athlete has to have a lot of experience on the books as a solo jumper--and the requirements only mount from there. To illustrate the point, take a look at this list of the entry prerequisites your tandem instructor had to prove before even being granted the opportunity to take the course:
1. Loads of jumps.
Five hundred of them, to be exact. As a prerequisite to the tandem course, the candidate has to present a signed-off logbook that proves that he or she has successfully completed 500 jumps on a ram-air (not round) parachute.
2. Lots of previous time in the sport
Before a candidate is admitted to a tandem instructor course, that aforementioned logbook must also demonstrate that the candidate has spent at least three years in the sport. Time in the sport is important for tandem instructors because they need to have the instinctual savvy that only comes from personal, boots-on-the-ground experience.
3. The highest-level license granted to a sport skydiver
The United States Parachute Association grants four licenses: A, B, C and D. The most experienced of these--and therefore the hardest to earn--is the D license, or its foreign equivalent. A candidate for the tandem instructor course has to have one; no exceptions.
4. Another instructional rating
A tandem instructor is not a "chauffeur of the sky." The most important part of the job is safety, of course, but the tandem instructor must also be a skilled, competent, intuitive teacher. Requiring that all candidates show an instructional rating as proof of their commitment to education helps to insist this point in a procedural way.
5. Proof of health
Each candidate also needs to show a current FAA class 3 medical certificate (or the certificate's foreign equivalent). The medical certificate requirement ensures that each candidate has been evaluated by a doctor who understands the unique pressures of this challenging job, and that doctor has vouched on record that the candidate is physically ready to do it.
6. Manufacturer-specific training
There are several companies that manufacture skydiving tandem rigs. While each is built to do the same job, the construction of each is subtly different. Since piloting a tandem isn't like hopping into a new rental car and figuring out where the dials are on the fly, each tandem manufacturer sets down its own training procedures and levies its own requirements. These are called proficiency ratings. These aren't stand-alone training programs, though; USPA group member dropzones, as part of their firm adherence to best safety practices, require all tandem instructors to hold the USPA Tandem Instructor rating in addition to the factory rating.
...That's a long list, right?! And that's just the list of prerequisites. The training that follows is tough and exhaustive. After it's done, however, the result is that skydiving tandem instructors are skill-burly and in fighting shape to introduce a reg'lr army of bright-eyed new skydivers to the wild blue yonder. At the Ozarks Skydiving Center, we're proud to employ some of the best in the business. Give 'em a high-five when you meet 'em, 'cause they've worked incredibly hard to earn those wings!