Canopy Body Position

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In all skydiving disciplines such as formation skydiving and freeflying there is a neutral body position that we always return to.

This neutral body position is adopted and taught for good reasons – to be in control, to be safe and as a start and finish point for more advanced manoeuvres.

Article by Brian Vacher

Pete Allum with a perfect neutral body position
Photo by Tim Parrant

There is also a neutral body position when flying a canopy…


Correct Position

The legs are symmetrical, positioned apart with the knees slightly bent, almost as if you were sitting on a bar stool.


Good neutral position, image by Flight-1
  1. This lower body position is essential for safety. The legs should be held similar to the position someone would adopt if jumping from a table to the ground. The legs would be slightly bent supporting our weight evenly. This means we are ready for the approaching ground – ready to stand, walk or run. This lower body position also means we are ready to go immediately into a PLF (Parachute Landing Fall) if needed.
  2. Secondly this lower body position is essential to know that the body is symmetrical in the harness and therefore not inducing a harness or body turn. Often people complain of canopies ‘not flying straight’ and do not realise that an asymmetrical position in the harness will have a turning effect on a canopy.
  3. The third and the best reason is that this lower body position differentiates a canopy pilot from a parachutist. A canopy pilot flies with the whole body. With this balanced, legs apart, slightly seated position the canopy pilot is using the body to actively fly the canopy. We are moving to what we call ‘Active Piloting’. The pilot understands the importance of learning and developing harness inputs and flying with the whole body. This neutral body position means the body is ready to make small corrections, to actively fly the canopy safely or to perform aggressive turns with a very efficient input.


To help to achieve this body position try to shift your leg straps a little lower after opening. Ensure at first you have a good canopy above your head as normal and any problems or nuisance factors are cleared. Do not loosen off the leg strap itself. In addition, if you feel comfortable, loosen (but do not remove) your chest strap to increase the effectiveness of the harness. Loosening your chest strap also means that your centre of gravity can be forward for landing. This is naturally an easier position for landing as when walking or running your centre of gravity is normally to the front. A tight chest strap can restrict the centre of gravity and keeps it further back on landing.

Incorrect leg position 1

Ankles crossed

Ankles crossed, incorrect
Image by Flight-1

This ‘undercarriage up’ leg position is not ready for landing. It also means that the body inputs are switched off and encourages an asymmetrical seated position in the harness.

Incorrect leg position 2

One leg in front

Leg in front, incorrect
Image by Flight-1

This position is very dangerous if you misjudge your altitude when landing with one leg out in front. It can also be a pretty aggressive harness input causing the canopy to turn.

Incorrect leg position 3

Wide legs

Wide legs, incorrect
Image by Flight-1

This position is again not one that is ready for landing. Having long legs also encourages a person to reach out to the side with a leg on landing instead of trying to fly through the flare for as long as possible.


Correct Position

Good arm body position,
Image by Flight-1

After checking your canopy and taking the toggles as normal in the hands, the neutral upper body position is to grip the rear risers as high as comfortable whilst the toggles remain in the hands. The hand position should not be full reach or too short above the 3-rings, but as high up the risers as feels comfortable. This will depend on personal preference. The grip is relaxed but firm – grasp around the rear risers as if you were shaking hands with someone. Be careful not to be pulling on the risers. Remember a relaxed grip!


  1. This neutral upper body position – gripping the risers with the toggles in the hand – is essential to know that the canopy is flying on full drive and that we are not unknowingly deflecting the tail, even slightly, on either side of the wing with the toggles.
  2. This hand position gripping the rear risers also helps the pilot to perform an even flare. Hands that are not gripping the rear risers are ‘wavy’ hands, making it more likely that an uneven flare will occur or that we have to adjust the flare during the landing process.
  3. Finally a very important reason to fly with your toggles in your hands whilst gripping the rear risers is that we now have our hands on our controls. Similar to thinking of the ‘ten to two’ position on the steering wheel whilst driving a car, with this neutral body position we are ready to react and make inputs.

Incorrect Hand Position

Riding the Clutch

Incorrect arms – riding clutch
Image by Flight-1

Wavy hands can put unwanted inefficient inputs into the tail, which then need to be corrected. This is similar to riding the clutch in a car.


As with all disciplines when we start from a neutral body position our performance improves and we become more confident. Adopting the correct, comfortable and relaxed neutral body position under canopy, the pilot begins to feel how the canopy is truly flying. The pilot is able to fly positively and actively instead of trying to steer and correct the canopy reactively to subconscious inputs. This body position should be flown from opening to landing whenever you are not making a specific input into the canopy. Think of your body position under the canopy and ask yourself these questions:

  • How do I look under my canopy?
  • Do I look like a parachutist or a pilot?

Article courtesy of Flight-1

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Meet: Brian Vacher

Total Jumps: 13,000
Occupation: Flight-1 Instructor, Business Owner, PDFT Legacy Member
Licenses/Ratings: D-10712, AFF Instructor, Pro Exhibition Rating, British Skydiving Canopy Piloting Instructor

Main Canopy: Valkyrie 79/84, Peregrine 67/71/75/79
Container: Javelin Odyssey, UPT Mutant

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I have been teaching Canopy Piloting professionally since 2004. I have taught widely across Europe in the civilian and military markets. At the start of 2009, I joined Flight-1 and the Performance Designs Factory Team.