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Knee Flying...
A Sensational New Way to Fly!

Basic Knee Flying Position
Fall Rate Control
to Wear
Go For It!

Enjoy the View and Maneuver Too!

    Imagine a flying position that lets you fly upright so you can enjoy your 3D surroundings without having a ballistic fall rate. Image a flying position that gives you the same maneuverability as sit flying for two-way or multi-way points and 3-D relative work, but easier to learn. And imagine a flying position that gives you the capability for smooth and continuous fall rate changes from slow belly-to-earth flying all the way to fast standups. Sound like too much to expect? Well, it’s here, it’s real, and it became the runaway favorite new topic at my various Fun-Flying seminars.

    The subject is knee flying, a vertical flying position that lets your legs work for you—to increase your stability and maneuverability in an upright position—instead of against you. The concept is simple, the deviation from a traditional sit flying position only slight, but the results and advantages are dramatic. After getting familiar with the balance and sensations of this new position, you'll find the maneuverability it gives you makes it great for two-(or more-) way fun flying. The feedback I received when teaching it during seminars, and the fun people were having was terrific, so now I present it to all of you who are seeking a new and interesting way to fly.

The Basic Knee Flying Position

    The basic knee flying position resembles a wide kneeling stance. Your torso is in a vertical position, your waist is bent about 90° so your thighs are nearly horizontal to the ground, and your knees are spread wide apart. Your knees are also bent such that your heels tuck up back under your seat or flare outward beside your thighs, depending on what's more comfortable for you. The arms are outstretched to your sides to assist with balance. (See Photo 1 for examples of the basic and the flared knee flying positions.) With your lower legs nearly horizontal, instead of pointing down into the wind as in traditional sit flying, they will help you with stability and control, since it's very easy to keep them in the right position. You won't have to struggle to keep them lined up correctly straight into the wind, and in fact you can use your entire legs as actual flying surfaces since it's easy to adjust their position without the wind trying to push them out of position.
Getting Into the Knee Flying Position

    To get into the knee flying position from a belly-to-earth position, spread your arms outward and gently cup your chest to lift it to a vertical position. Keep your arms outstretched and think of letting yourself hang from your arms. At the same time, tuck your knees slightly and pull them forwards to place them just in front of your torso and to place you feet below or beside your hips. You want to think of getting your shins horizontal to the ground and your torso lifted to where you don't feel the pressure of the wind on your chest anymore, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Basic Knee Flying Position

    There are several important points to keep in mind to help get your body into the right position. First, keep your knees apart. This gives you a nice wide platform for support and later for maneuvering on. Second, keep your seat sitting down between, or just above, your heels. Arching is a no-no! If you try to arch or straighten your hips, you will be placing your thighs close to a vertical position, which is harder to balance. Finally, you want to keep your chest up so that it's completely vertical and you don't feel the wind on your chest.

    A common mistake is leaning forward to keep that nice familiar feeling of the wind on your chest. This will make you seriously backslide. To guard against that, while you're balancing in your knee flying position, visually check how your body is aligned. Look straight down towards the ground and notice where your nose is lined up relative to your knees and hips. If your nose is ahead of your knees, as in Figure 2, then you're bent way over onto your chest and you're backsliding like crazy!. If your nose is between your knees or somewhere over your thighs, you're still leaning a bit too far forward. If, when you look down, you're looking straight down your chest, and your nose is in line with the front of your hips, then you're doing great and your torso is nice and vertical.

Figure 2. Forward Lean

    Another common mistake is trying to fly with your knees too close together, as if you were kneeling on them on the ground, as in Figure 3. It is indeed possible to balance with your knees together in the air, but it's much harder and will restrict your maneuverability. So do your visual check again, and look at where your knees are. Spread them as wide as you comfortably can and let yourself sit back and relax!

Figure 3. Narrow Knees



    Once you've got the balance in the basic knee flying position, you'll want to learn to maneuver. Initially, you'll be using mostly your torso for forwards, backwards and sideways motion. Eventually you can use your legs and knees for quicker response and finer control. One of the advantages of the knee flying position is that you can use your torso and legs either together or separately for control, depending on what you want to be doing.
Forward Motion

    The first type of maneuvering to learn is forwards and backwards motion. To move forwards, lean your torso backwards slightly until you feel slight wind pressure on your back (through your rig, or on the backs of your shoulders). To use your legs for extra effect, push your knees slightly down in front of you so that your shins and thighs slant downwards a bit to the front (see Figure 4). This makes your legs work as flying surfaces as well. You will probably also naturally move your arms slightly backwards for balance.

Figure 4. Forward Motion

Backward Motion

    For backwards motion, lean slightly forwards so you feel a bit of wind pressure on your chest. Keep the lean nice and subtle unless you want some high-speed backwards motion, since you can really get going fast with your whole chest as a flying surface. You can lift your knees upwards a bit to contribute if you like (see Figure 5).

Figure 5. Backward Motion

Sideways Motion

    Sideways motion is surprisingly easy in knee flying, and can be controlled with either the torso or legs, or both. Lean your torso to one side, the side away from the direction in which you want to move, to use your torso for moving sideways. To use your legs, push one knee and lower leg down on the same side you want to move towards, keeping your shin horizontal to the ground. You want to extend your knee to the point where your thigh is at about a 45° angle outward from your hip. This works whether you fly with your feet close to your seat, or with them out to the side in the flared position. Sideways motion using both torso and legs is shown in Figure 6.

Figure 6. Sideways Motion

    To help you remember how to move your torso and legs to maneuver, think of the expression "lead with your knees." This will remind you to push your knees into the direction you want to go, and lean your torso in the opposite direction.


Fall Rate Control

    Now that you've got your horizontal maneuvers going, you'll also want to make adjustments to your fall rate if you're flying with other people, or doing camera work. So, to change your fall rate, you can use either your legs or arms, or both. The slowest falling position has your arms out horizontally, and your legs flared so that both your thighs and shins are exposed to the wind (see Figure 7). To make small increases in fall rate from that position, you can angle your arms upward slightly. You don't want to be flying with them raised beyond about a 45° angle, however, since that makes it more difficult to maneuver. When you run out of fall rate range with your arms, it's time to use your legs.

Figure 7. Slow Fall Position

    You can increase your fall rate with your legs by bringing your shins inward under your thighs – if you've been flying in a flared position, or by straightening out your legs slightly towards a standup position – if you've already been flying with your shins tucked under you. Be sure that you keep your feet under your hips, in line with your torso, as you move them downwards in order to maintain your balance (see Figure 8).

Figure 8. Fast Fall Position

    You don't need to bring them all the way together—it's actually easier to maneuver if you keep them slightly apart—but you want to bring your feet under you to where you feel like you're able to stand on them. You can get a tremendous increase in fall rate as you straighten your legs this way, and you can fly in any intermediate position between the basic knee flying position and a standup to get the fall rate you need. The fastest falling position is a full standup (see Figure 9). To maneuver in any of these intermediate positions, as well as in a standup, you can use the same techniques for using your torso that were described earlier in this article.

Figure 9. Standup Position


Jumpsuits to Wear

    Finally, it's time to address how to dress. Believe it or not, you can wear almost anything! An ordinary RW suit works fine for starters, as long as it doesn't have booties or hugely baggy legs. If you have tight spandex arms on your suit, you'll want to put a sweatshirt on over it. Basically, you want to have a moderate amount of drag on your arms, and a low or moderate amount of drag on your legs. It's not so critical that you minimize the drag on your legs in knee flying since you're not trying to point them straight down into the wind. Instead, a bit of drag on your legs will give you more of a platform to balance on, and will help in using your legs for maneuvering. It also helps slow down your fall rate, if you're trying to fall compatibly with others. Jeans and sweatpants work as well, as long as they don't impair your range of motion. Since your lower legs are horizontal to the wind with knee flying, you also don't have to worry about air catching under the cuffs and pushing the bottom of your pants up your legs.

    On your arms you want some additional drag since you use them to maintain your balance. Several good options exist for arm wear. First, the basic sweatshirt or lightweight jacket will get you started, but as with sit flying and freestyle, you'll eventually want a cleaner way to increase the drag on your arms without excess fabric and flutter. The double-sided arm winglets popular for freestyle work extremely well for knee flying, and are available on several lines of jumpsuits. The Sky Skins with arm winglets ("air cuffs") from D.L.T. Designs function well, since the winglet is designed for maneuverability as well as balance. The basic sit flying suit is acceptable, but the deep-pocketed winglets will have more of a tendency to flutter and snap open or closed at different angles. Vented arms that inflate the entire sleeve are less effective than winglets, but can still be used if you have them.

    Overall, don't fuss too much over what you wear. As long as it's safe, and not tending towards any extremes, you'll be fine. You just want to go up and have fun at first, and work with what you've got. Get used to the position and get started with maneuvering and flying with other people, and get the basics under control. You'll eventually want to try a suit with winglets when you start doing finer maneuvering, but you can have great fun already in plenty of things you already have.


Give Yourself A Chance, and Go For It!

    As easy as knee flying may sound, it still requires practice until it becomes instinctive. If you've already mastered standups or other vertical positions, then it may come easily to you, but it is a very different way to fly, and you may have to break some habits from your belly-to-earth flying before it starts to feel natural. So don't expect to go up on your first knee flying jump and be able to balance and maneuver right away as well as you can on your other kinds of jumps. Take it in stages, and enjoy the learning process as well as the results as your skill increases. Give yourself permission to be a student again, and have a laugh if you find yourself flopping and flailing unexpectedly. It's all part of the fun!

    If you wear a suit with more drag on the arms than what you're used to, then expect your arms to get tired and your muscles to protest being put to work. You might even feel a bit sore the next day. In knee flying, as in any vertical flying position, more of your weight is being supported by your arms than when you're belly to earth, and it's natural for them to get tired from the extra workout. If you keep with it, however, as with any new athletic activity, you'll start building up the required strength and your muscles will eventually stop complaining.

So, give it a go, have a giggle, and put your knees in the breeze!



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© 1999 Dale Stuart