Freeflying

From Academic Kids

Freeflying: a skydive made using any or any combination of the three flying axises (roll, pitch, and yaw), in particular in other body positions than the more standard belly flying.

Common freefly body positions include:

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 mph. Variations in jumpsuit construction and the skydiver's weight will affect this fall rate typically no more than 10 mph 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 270 km/h (170 mph). 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 988 km/h (614 mph)). He is the first and only human to break the sound barrier without a vehicle.

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. This is typically called "relative work, or RW."

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, called "vertical relative work, or VRW." Unstable freefliers may experience rapid velocity changes and collide with one another at high rates of speeds. When a freeflier slows down quickly and accidentally, he/she is said to have "corked," because the other jumpers see him/her rapidly going 'up' like a cork being shot off a champagne bottle. These speeds can kill outright, dismember, or disable one or both jumpers. As a result, freeflying is considered more risky than flat or belly flying.

The difference in difficulty between freeflying and flat (belly) flying can be seen in their respective world records. The world's largest, completed, flat flying skydiving formation consisted of 357 skydivers (set in Thailand, February 2004). The world's largest "freeflying" formation (head down) consisted of only 42 skydivers (set during April 2004).

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

See also: Freefall, Parachuting

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