United States Parachute Association > Experienced Skydivers > SIM > Section 6-2

6-2: Freeflying, Freestyle and Skysurfing

A. The scope of freeflying

  1. These recommendations provide guidance for vertical freefall body positions, generally associated with significantly higher fall rates and rapid changes in relative speed.
  2. The diverse freefall speeds among jumpers engaged in different freefall activities affect separation between individuals and groups exiting on the same pass over the drop zone.
  3. The term “freeflying” in this context is applied to all activities that incorporate back, standing, head-down, or sitting freefall positions, including freestyle and skysurfing.

B. Qualifications

  1. Before engaging in freeflying, the skydiver should either:
    1. hold a USPA A license
    2. receive freeflying instruction from a USPA instructional rating holder with extensive freeflying experience
  2. The skydiver should have demonstrated sufficient air skills, including:
    1. consistent altitude awareness
    2. basic formation skydiving skills
    3. ability to track to achieve horizontal separation
    4. understanding of the jump run line of flight
    5. proficiency in movement up, down, forward, backward, and rotation in a backfly position before attempting sit maneuvers.
    6. proficiency in movement up, down, forward, backward, and rotation in a sit position before attempting a standing or head-down maneuvers.

C. Equipment

  1. Gear must be properly secured to prevent premature deployment of either canopy.
    1. A premature opening at the speeds involved in this type of skydiving could result in severe injury to the body or stressing the equipment beyond limits set by the manufacturers.
    2. Deployment systems and operation handles should remain secure during inverted and stand-up flight; therefore, equipment for freeflying should include:
      1. bottom-of-container mounted throw-out pilot chute pouch, pull-out pilot chute, or ripcord main deployment system
        1. Exposed leg-strap-mounted pilot chutes present an extreme hazard.
        2. Any exposed pilot chute bridle presents a hazard.
        3. Use of a tuck-tab is recommended to provide additional security of the pilot chute during high freefall speeds encountered while freeflying.
      2. closing loops, pin protection flaps, and riser covers well maintained and properly sized
  2. Harness straps
    1. Leg straps should be connected with a seat strap to keep the leg straps from moving toward the knees while in a sitting freefall position or making transitions.
    2. Excess leg and chest straps should be tightly stowed.
  3. Automatic activation devices are recommended because of the high potential for collisions and loss of altitude awareness associated with freeflying.
  4. In the case of skysurfing boards, a board release system that can be activated with either hand without bending at the waist is recommended.
  5. Personal accessories for freeflying should include:
    1. audible altimeter (two are recommended)
    2. visual altimeter
    3. hard helmet
    4. clothing or jumpsuit that will remain in place during inverted and stand-up freefall and will not obscure or obstruct deployment or emergency handles or altimeters

D. Training

  1. Freeflying has many things in common with face-to-earth formation skydiving.
    1. A beginner will progress much faster and more safely with a coach.
    2. Novices should not jump with each other until—
      1. receiving basic training in freeflying.
      2. demonstrating ability to control movement up, down, forward and backward in a sitting position.
  2. Prior to jumping with larger groups, progress should follow the same model as for the freefall and canopy formation disciplines: 2-way formations of novice and coach to develop exit, body position, docking, transition, and breakoff skills.

E. Hazards associated with group freeflying

  1. Inadvertently transitioning from a fast-falling body position to a face-to-earth position (“corking”) results in rapid deceleration from typically 175 mph to 120 mph.
    1. Freeflying in a group requires the ability to:
      1. remain in a fast-flying position at all times
      2. remain clear of the airspace above other freeflyers
    2. Assuming a fast-falling position when the other skydivers are in a slow-falling position puts the freeflyer below the formation, creating a hazard at break-off.
  2. Freeflying offers more potential for loss of altitude awareness than traditional skydiving for several reasons.
    1. Higher speeds mean shorter freefalls.
      1. Face-to-earth freefall time from 13,000 feet to routine deployment altitudes takes about 60-65 seconds.
      2. Typical freefly times from 13,000 feet may be as short as 40 seconds.
    2. Head-down and sit-fly positions present a different visual picture of the earth; freeflyers may not be visually aware of their altitude.
    3. Visual altimeters can be difficult to read in some body positions.
    4. Audible altimeters can be hard to hear in the higher wind noise associated with freefly speeds.
    5. As with other skydiving disciplines, participants must guard against focusing on an unimportant goal and losing track of the more important aspects of the skydive: time and altitude.
  3. Horizontal drift
    1. Novice freeflyers sometimes drift laterally in freefall.
      1. An experienced coach can correct the problem.
      2. On solo jumps, freeflyers should practice movement perpendicular to the line of flight (90 degrees to jump run heading).
      3. Separation from other groups can be enhanced by tracking perpendicular to the line of flight at a routine breakoff altitude.
    2. Experienced freeflyers must also be aware of lateral movement when coaching novices or performing dives involving horizontal movement.
    3. All skydivers on loads mixing freeflyers and traditional formation skydiving must consider the overall effect of the wind on their drift during freefall.
    4. As a general rule, faster-falling groups should leave after slower-falling groups particularly when jump run is flown against a strong headwind.
  4. Faster-falling groups should delay canopy flight downwind and remain in position to allow jumpers who exited before them, but who fell slower, to deploy and then turn downwind also.
  5. Loss of visual contact with other skydivers:
    1. The rapid changes in vertical separation that can occur in freefly positions makes it easy to lose contact with others on the dive.
    2. Even jumpers with extensive experience in formation skydiving may have trouble locating everyone on a freefly dive.
    3. Breakoff can be more confusing than usual.
    4. Important considerations in planning a freefly dive are:
      1. Keep the size of the groups small until proficient.
      2. Plan higher breakoffs than usual.
      3. Transition from fast-fall rate to normal tracking for separation gradually in case of a skydiver above the formation in a high-speed descent.
      4. Avoid maneuvers near breakoff that increase vertical separation.
      5. It is as important to slow down after breakoff as it is to get separation from other jumpers.