On the path to earn your solo skydiving license, you'll have two hurdles to cross: completing your AFF training and earning your USPA A-license. If you jump consistently and constantly through your training process, those two items will come on each others' heels, but they are distinct entities. Here we explain these steps on your journey to skydiving alone.
There's one major difference between graduating from AFF training and earning your A-license: the first certifies that you've succeeded in completing your licensing coursework and in-air exercises; the other, that you've successfully jumped and landed 25 times, and an officially licensed USPA instructor has certified that you're okay to go out into the world and jump on your own. (That last jump is called a "check-out," and it usually ends with you receiving a USPA A-license stamp in your logbook and also your forehead. Fair warning.)
When you receive your A license, it means that skydiving professionals (who know what to look for!) say that you're ready to learn. They are approving you as a safe enough, competent enough solo skydiver to begin your lifelong learning process outside the heavily structured environment of the AFF curriculum. Your A-license allows you to rent skydiving gear and make jumps at most of the world's dropzones (though you should always check before you travel, as local conditions and policies may vary).
It's an imperfect analogy, but you can look at it this way:
Your AFF is driving school.
The remaining jumps you do towards your A license are like the supervised driving that you do in prep for your driver's test.
Earning your A license is like passing your drivers' test and getting your driver's license.
You will note that getting your driver's license doesn't mean you should assume you're ready to join a midnight drift club. It doesn't mean you should push your limits by driving in heavy traffic or by borrowing a powerful car just to see how it feels to drive. It doesn't even mean that you have to drive unsupervised if you don't feel like it. Indeed, just like a driver's license, the A license proves that you've passed the tests of the training process and you've moved along to the next stepping stone towards more advanced skydiving licenses and ratings.
Make no mistake: passing your AFF and then earning your A-license are nothing to shake a stick at. They're both challenges--and you should be very proud of successfully meeting them! Pretty much every jumper contends that it's the best thing they have ever done.
So: Get started now! Earn that USPA A license with us at Jumptown, and begin to discover all that skydiving has to offer. We can't wait to stamp your forehead!