In Germany, it’s not mandatory for a skydive student to participate in theory classes. „The student is allowed to prepare himself for the exam by self-study of the relevant questions“, it says in the parachuting training manual (AHB), published by the DFV and DAeC the German parachuting associations.
For comparison: for the (no matter which!) German driving license you have to come to class 14 times (90 minutes each) in total. I think, everbody knows from own experience that there is a big difference whether you only know the correct answer to a question or you actually understand it. In this issue of Jacky’s classroom talk,I’d like to share my thoughts on this subject with you.
There is a platform-independent online training application called „DFV Theorie Coach“. It has been published, in February 2016. I was sceptical about it but gave it a shot. And I must confess: For one thing, I really like the technical implementation as a web-app. And on the other hand, the content of the program is very well structured. So from that view, I can really recommend it for all skydiving students and other interested parties.
In addition, there is an android-app called “Fallschirmsprung Theorie Trainer“. It is also authorized by the DFV. And of course the ~520 questions from seven different subject areas are as well available on the DFV homepage and can be downloaded and printed. As a student, you can use all these tools to study in private for your theory exam.
Swotting up on it, which in this case means plain and simple; dull memorization of the correct answers to the questions. Whether you have understood what a gliding angle is, if you know what stretching means, or if you have seriously thought about surface- or form resistance, doesn’t matter at all, as long as you can only answer at least 75% of the questions correctly in the end.
Hand on your heart; which one of you went to his instructor on the next jumping day with a question or a terminology that you did not understand and asked him or her to explain it? And who really read one of the recommended books at the beginning of the training?
“It is the responsibility of the chief instructor to determine the theoretical readiness of the students for the examination. It is still considered to be useful to support the student by class-teaching the specific subjects to prepare for the exam,” says the AHB.
Most students who are preparing for their license exam are happy with that, as they like it to be quick and easy. You don’t want to go to class. You want to finally get your license “to be free” and allowed to do all the things licensed jumpers do.
Finally – that means, when things are going well (with the AFF method), after seven to eight jumping days. Who takes time to study theory in this short period?
In my home club, where I at first started my static line training in 2015, theoretical classes were essential part of the exam preparation. They took place in winter (!) on several Saturdays. Without participation in all subjects, there was no admission to the theory examination. This means by implication, that it was not possible to get your license within one skydiving season.
At the time, I felt this was more of a pain in the ass than useful. I think, everyone of you knows this feeling.
I wasn’t exactly what you call a natural, when it came to jumping out of an airplane in a stable body position. So it happened that after a few quite frustrating static line jumps, I ended up in another jump school for AFF training. There the chief instructor told me to download the questionnaire to study by myself and let the him know when I felt ready for the examination. I was happy about this nice side-effect my dropzone-change had. So I prepared myself with the smartphone app. Memorizing the correct answers to the questions wasn’t a problem at all and the theory exam really was a piece of cake.
A few weeks later I – with the license in my pocket – voluntarily took part in the class at my home club and suddenly realized how much I in fact didn’t know.
This was one of my key experiences in parachuting that led me to obtain my own instructors license in 2017.
Jumping off a plane, steering and landing a parachute isn’t difficult at all. Every student learns this at the beginning of his training. However, it is also the task of the instructor staff to provide the student with a good awareness of what he’s doing. But since the time in which the student is virtually in the care of his instructors is sometimes very short and many questions only arise over time, we face the challenge of a a balancing act here. Let’s do it!
If you want to read this article in German, you can find it here