Foundations of Flight—Head-Down Variations

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Brought to you by AXIS Flight School Instructor Niklas Daniel at Skydive Arizona in Eloy. Photos by Brianne Thompson. For more information visit or search “Axis Flight School” on Facebook.



Increasing your stability and range in the head-down orientation by learning different leg positions.


Always make sure to face perpendicularly to the aircraft’s line of flight. Stay altitude aware; jumpers lose altitude very quickly when flying in the vertical orientation.

Regardless of your leg position, you should position your upper body so that you:

  • Maintain a straight spine.
  • Keep your head aligned with your spine. Fly on the crown of your head, not on your forehead. (To facilitate this, look straight at the horizon.)
  • Relax your shoulders; do not shrug them toward your ears.
  • Do not arch your chest.
  • Engage your hips and slightly squeeze your rear.
  • Keep your elbows a few inches away from your torso.
  • Always keep your hands in front of your body and lower (in relation to your body) than your chest strap.

Leg Positions

  1. Daffy: Position one leg in front of your body and bend the knee 90 degrees. Position one leg back and bend the knee about 45 degrees. Make sure to keep your hips square with your shoulders. When you practice, alternate which leg is forward—you’ll want to become proficient with both.
  2. Shelf: Bend both knees 90 degrees and press your heels firmly into the relative wind. Keep your knees about shoulder-width apart.
  3. Straddle: Keep your legs straight and your knees wider than shoulder width. Point your toes forward.


Helpful Hints

Do not try to feel the airflow on the palms of your hands. This can cause your elbows to roll in toward your torso and your chest to arch, which can compromise stability. Focus on keeping your fingers loose and feeling the airflow on the backs of your hands and forearms. Keep your elbows in front of your torso for all three leg orientations to promote a more efficient body position.


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