Published: August 24, 2017
What Is Head-Down Skydiving?
It's exactly what it sounds like, dear rider. To wit: You point your feet to the sky and your head to the ground, and you rocket down (or carve around) like a little lawn dart. The idea is to "balance" on the crown of your head, so the crown of your head is the first surface of your body to contact the air flow.
For the basics, do yourself a favor and check out this little video that the good people of Axis Flight School put together. It demonstrates the range of different ways you can fly head-down.
What training is involved in head-down skydiving?
Head-down skydiving is tricky. It's traditionally the last nut that students crack as they work their way along the freefly progression (after backflying and sitflying). Since learning how to fly head-down is pretty darn ineffective when you're alone in the sky, skydivers usually employ the services of a freefly coach to learn how to enter, maintain and transition out of the head-down body position.
Pro tip: The keenest students work on their body position in the "indoor skydiving" wind tunnel as well as the sky. Flying the position in the tunnel helps to familiarize the jumper with the feeling of proper body position without the stress and variables of a real-live skydive.
How do you practice head-down skydiving?
As we mentioned before, working with a freefly coach is the most effective way to get the hang of the basics. When the coaching day is over, it's a smart idea to ask your coach for drills that you can do on solo skydives--and to ask him/her to tell you what, if any, group skydiving situation you're safe to tackle with the skills that he/she has witnessed you demonstrate. Skydiving is a very mentorship-driven sport, so trust your teachers!
What speed do you go in the head-down configuration?
Head-down skydiving, as you might well imagine, increases the jumper's rate of descent significantly. Since the body's surface area is significantly reduced from, say, a belly jump, head-down jumpers zoom down to deployment altitude, comparatively speaking. Whereas a belly jump moves at about 120mph, a head-down jump moves between 150-180mph. "Speed skydiving" is technically a head-down configuration--and speed skydivers can ping around 300mph. Whee!
What dangers should you be worried about when you go head-down on a skydive?
At speeds like that, you have a few major considerations to take into account:
Accidental early deployment of the parachute
This is the big one--and this is why we skydivers are really pernickety about our gear. If some of that fast-moving relative wind works its way under a loose bit and wiggles the parachute free, the skydiver could be in serious trouble. Skydiving parachutes are only meant to deploy at around belly-jump speed; faster deployments can wreak havoc on both the parachute and the person.
Zooming into someone below you
We also take care to know the location in the sky around us of everyone else on the jump. If one of the jumpers has moved "off level" (that is to say, not lined up vertically with the rest of the group), there's a chance that they could slow down below the group while everyone else is still zinging down at, y'know, 180mph. We do a constant "roll call" in our heads to make sure that doesn't happen.
Losing altitude awareness.
When you're upside down, the world looks different--and when you're concentrating on doing something complicated, like flying around in a levitating headstand, it's easier than you think to lose track of time. Skydivers at the head-down level often have not one but three altitude indicators (an altimeter on the wrist and a noisemaking 'dytter' in each ear) to make sure they don't drift off and forget where they are.
Soooo....can tandems go head down?
Nopey nopey nope. Head-down skydiving is reserved for experienced sport skydivers only. Neither the configuration nor the equipment for tandem skydiving supports flying in anything other than a belly-to-earth configuration. So: the only way to fly on your head is to make that first flight on your belly! Contact us today and we'll help you take the first steps to make that feets-up dream a reality.
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» Tyler D.