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What is Freeflying?

L. S. Wynn
By L. S. Wynn
Updated May 17, 2024
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Freeflying is a skydive made using any or any combination of the three flying axises (roll, pitch, and yaw). Common freefly body positions include:

  • Sit flying
  • Tracking
  • Head down
  • Stand up
  • Belly flying

(Note that although belly flying is encompassed by the definition of freeflying, a strictly belly to earth skydive is not considered a "Freefly" jump.)

Freeflying is especially noted for its varying terminal velocities. While in the standard "boxman" position (belly to earth), a skydiver's descent rate following initial acceleration remains at roughly 120 miles per hour (193 km/h). Variations in jumpsuit construction and the skydiver's weight will affect this fall rate typically no more than 10 miles per hour (16 mi/h) more or less.

However, freefliers often use body positions that present less surface area to the relative wind. For example, a freeflier might dive straight, head-down to the earth using legs and arms to adjust orientation and speed and to remain stable. In such a position, a freeflier may obtain speeds up to 170 miles per hour (270 km/h). Freefliers may exceed this rate, but generally only by making a special effort to streamline both their body and their equipment, or by jumping from a higher altitude. Joseph Kittinger reached 614 miles per hour (988 km/h)!

Freefliers often jump in groups of two or three. Each jumper uses the other as a relative reference to help judge their own trajectory. Together, they may perform acrobatic maneuvers, make contact with each other (dock), or simply photograph or video tape each other in freefall.

Freefly positions, other than belly-to-earth, tend to be less stable. That is, they require increased skill and concentration from the skydiver to maintain. Since changes in position, intentional or otherwise, may also cause a change in terminal velocity, freefliers must take special care when jumping with others. Freefliers in control of their dive can make contact (dock) with each other safely. Unstable freefliers may experience rapid velocity changes and collide with one another at high rates of speeds. These speeds can dismember, disable or kill one or both jumpers. As a result, freeflying is considered more risky than flat or belly flying.

In spite of the increased difficulty and danger of this type of skydiving, freeflying is rapidly growing in popularity in the skydiving community. The rush by skydiving equipment manufacturers to modify their equipment designs to support the special needs of freefliers illustrates this growing popularity.

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