Obtaining APF Qualifications, by Charl Rootman

Last updated 04 Oct 2023

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It is a journey...not a race.

One day it happens. You decide just jumping for fun does not fulfil you the way it used to. Yes, it is still fun, exciting and exhilarating. But you want to do more.


Tandem Instructor at Skydive Australia 

Most of us make this decision by wanting to give back to the sport that gave us so much in life-changing experiences. We want to share this with others, impart our knowledge, and spread the euphoria. This is the usual point that we embark on the journey of obtaining a coach appointment, or instructor rating, or maybe a packer qualification depending on where we are on our personal journey, and our specific goals. Some may do this purely for monetary incentives, although that may likely result in early burn-out.

So, how do you do it? What is the first step? Complete a form, apply for the qualification and off you go? Not quite...although this is sometimes the perception.

As with most industries and fields, there is a pathway and progression to get to any qualification. You don't become an electrician by doing a four-week course and passing the assessment. Sure, there are formal training and assessments involved, but there is also on-the-job training and apprenticeships to ensure that trainees have the skills and knowledge required to obtain the qualification at the end of the process. Obtaining APF qualifications is not dissimilar.

APF regulations describe the pre-requisites for each qualification. What is sometimes not understood, is that this is the absolute minimum standard. This is the point where the best-of-the-best applicant may be ready, not the average applicant. The minimum requirements are not enough for many applicants, who may need more experience or more time before they are ready. Any Chief Instructor (CI), Course Trainer or Examiner may require additional experience for applicants, over and above the minimum pre-requisites - and many do.

Let us look at a few examples...

The minimum requirement for an Instructor rating with an AFF endorsement is Certificate Class D (which implies 200 stable freefalls) and documented evidence of four hours of freefall. This is not much. It also does not mean anyone with a Cert D is automatically ready and has all the skills to become an AFF instructor. Be realistic, otherwise you will do yourself and students a disservice.

But what and how should someone prepare, and what skills should be obtained?

A practical pathway is to first ensure you are skilled in RW. Both flat and freely are applicable. Next, becoming a B-Rel coach and doing as many B-Rel jumps is an excellent stepping-stone. You will be working with novices with some ability, and developing your teaching, in-air observation and briefing/debriefing skills. A next step could be doing as many mock AFF jumps with friends and AFF instructors as possible, having fun (yes, it is fun for everyone involved) while you learn. And then, when you are fully prepared, sign up for an AFF endorsement course, which should be a breeze then.

AFF at Skydive Jurien Bay

The Course Trainer endorsement is another qualification worth exploring. If we look at this qualification for an Instructor with AFF, the minimum experience requirement is to have held an AFF endorsement for at least the preceding six months, and hold Certificate Class E (which implies 500 stable freefalls). Again, this is the minimum requirement, for a very active AFF instructor. The time-period requirement is to ensure that the applicant has obtained the relevant experience in preparation to obtain the Course Trainer qualification, without the regulation being prescriptive.

What does this mean? Can I apply if I have held an AFF endorsement for 6 months, visited the DZ twice and only did 2 jumps as AFF instructor?

Not quite. Very few candidates would be ready after only six months. The intent is that candidates should obtain significant experience. This includes, obviously, doing as many AFF jumps with students as possible, including all stages multiple times. The wider the diversity of students (body size, weight, skill level, etc) the better. A Course Trainer who understands, and has experience of, the range of challenges students may experience and present, will be a much better teacher. The candidate should also have observed and sat through multiple First Jump Courses, exposing them to what is taught to students and gaining insight in the students' perspective (I believe all AFF instructors should do this from time-to-time, whether they intend on becoming a Course Trainer or not). When the time then comes to sign up for a Course Trainer course, the candidate should be truly ready.

The Senior Instructor rating requires applicants to have held Course Trainer and DZSO endorsements for at least the preceding two years. The intention is that the members should have been very active in both roles while holding these endorsements, gaining experience and skills. The Senior Instructor rating also requires exposure to various other aspects of a skydiving operation, including Safety Management Systems, auditing and group member systems, to name a few. Senior Instructor is one rating where a member needs to start preparing years in advance, before even thinking of attending a course.

The same principle applies to all other APF qualifications.

Qualifications cannot be obtained at the drop of a hat. There is no short-cut or quick way. Despite how good you think you are (and maybe you are that good), or others believe you are, no-one is instantly ready.

Think about your goals, set a realistic future date, and start working on obtaining the experience, knowledge and skills required for the qualification. They you will be ready for the formal training, and obtaining and using the qualification will be much more rewarding.

About the Author

Charl Rootman, APF Safety and Training Manager, is originally from South Africa and now lives in South Australia. He has 30 years of skydiving experience and multiple instructor level ratings behind him.

[Photo Sources: Travis Heath, Skydive Australia, Skydive Jurien Bay]


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