Foundations of Flight—The Barrel Roll

Axis Flight LogoBrought to you by Axis Flight School at Skydive Arizona in Eloy. Photos by Brianne Thompson.

FOUNDATIONSFLIGHT0411-1 Reasons to perfect a barrel roll:


  • Good introduction to back-flying
  • Frequently used transition for back-to-belly freefly compulsory moves in competition


  • Technique to recover from instability
  • Use it to clear airspace above you prior to deployment
  • The half-way point, back-flying, is a ball-out procedure for freeflying (to prevent corking)


FOUNDATIONSFLIGHT0411-2 1- While on your belly, look at a fixed point in front of you. FOUNDATIONSFLIGHT0411-5 4- Arrive at the half-way point.
FOUNDATIONSFLIGHT0411-3 2- Initiate the roll by scissoring one knee directly under the other at a 45-degree angle. FOUNDATIONSFLIGHT0411-6 5- Drive one heel at a 45-degree angle underneath your other leg. (Your momentum may carry you through this stage without input during a 360-degree barrel roll)
FOUNDATIONSFLIGHT0411-4 3- Use your arms for stability and heading control. FOUNDATIONSFLIGHT0411-7 6- Use your arms for stability, heading control and to stop.

Helpful Hints

First, use the above tips to perform 360-degree barrel rolls (belly to belly). As you become a more proficient back-flyer, you can break down the motion into two separate 180-degree rotations (belly to back—stop—back to belly). Being able to stop at the 180-degree point with control is important: Prior to deployment, this skill allows you to take the time to ensure your airspace is clear; in artistic events' competitions, it will enable you to score more points in the compulsory round.


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Sun, 05/29/2011 - 23:55

This has been discussed to death and the consensus is the time taken to barrel roll is better taken tracking further and just looking over your shoulders. What's this crap doing on a USPA website?

Does anyone editing this crap actually skydive?

Tue, 05/31/2011 - 15:40

Foundations of Flight is written by highly experienced instructors from a well-respected flight school, and the content is reviewed by experienced, active skydivers on the USPA staff. Though opinions vary on when it may be appropriate to perform a barrel roll to clear airspace, many jumpers agree that there are certain circumstances in which it would be useful. Note that the piece did not recommend that jumpers always or should use a barrel roll to clear airspace (just as the piece did not advocate always using back-flying as a bail-out procedure when corking). It was simply cited as one of five reasons a jumper may want to perfect the maneuver.

Steve Curtis
Wed, 06/29/2011 - 00:24

I can't imagine who you are discussing this with. If they think that doing a barrel roll while tracking significantly shortens the track compared to just looking over your shoulder they really should be investing in some coaching and stop acting like they know what they're talking about. I'd be happy to show you exactly what i mean if you'd like to swing by the DZ sometime.

How much do you actually skydive?

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