Airmanship 490 (AM-490), Basic Freefall Parachuting, is the core mission of the Wings of Blue and the 98th Flying Training Squadron. Over 700 cadets each year successfully complete 5 parachute jumps and earn their jump wings. Each cadet on the Wings of Blue is a certified AM-490 instructor and jumpmaster.
Most first-jump programs have students jump with instructors, tandem masters, or a static line. However, AM-490 is the only certified program in the world where a student’s very first jump is an unassisted freefall. In order to adequately prepare students for this enormous task, all AM-490 students go through nearly 40 hours of ground training.
If all the ground training is successfully completed, students move on to the aerial phase of AM-490. The students jump with parachute systems that are carefully packed by certified riggers. For added safety, the system contains two automatic activation devices (AADs), one on the main parachute and one on the reserve parachute. After each jump, Wings of Blue members review the ground-to-air video footage. The students then receive a grade on the jump and accomplish retraining if necessary. If the students safely complete five jumps, they earn their jump wings, which they can wear on their uniforms for the rest of their Air Force careers.