Saturday, 1 March 2014

Indoor Skydiving

So, a couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to go skydiving. Inside. Weird, right? Well, it kind of was, but it was also super awesome, and a whole lot of fun.

How is it that I ended up on this excursion? It doesn't really seem like the kind of thing that I'd end up doing on my own, does it? Well, it's fairly simple: for his birthday, my friend's grandma payed for him and a friend to go do this, and I ended up being the plus one. The facility that we went to was iFly Dallas, the local site of a company that sets up these facilities all around the world. They've got sites all around America, in Australia, Singapore, the UAE, England, Russia, and a whole bunch of others. If it's something you want to check out, you can go to their website and see if there are any facilities near where you live. In any case, let's talk about my experience.

One of the first things that I noticed when I arrived was the interesting setup of the building. It's obviously several floors tall, but although the registration is all on the first floor, the actual wind tunnel entrance is located on the second floor. The weirdest part though, is that the fans that propel the air through the tunnel are located at the top of the building, not at the bottom. I was expecting them to be at the bottom for the maximum force pushing the air through the center tunnel, but I guess that's not how it works. Apparently it's more efficient to have them at the top. The air is forced around the outside edge of the building and then back up through the center, creating the wind tunnel. It's all a giant loop (which I'm going to guess is pretty good for efficiency too).

A diagram showing how the fans at the top of the tunnel force the air down the outside and up the middle of the building.
Picture taken from iFly's official website. Cool, huh?
When we went upstairs, I was immediately struck by how open the area was. It wasn't that big of a space, but there was pretty much a straight shot from one wall to the opposing one, broken only by the giant tube in the center of the room and the comfy chairs set up around it. The wind tunnel itself was just a large clear plastic cylinder in the dead center of the room with a door in the side and an enclosed waiting room attached to it. Anyone who wasn't currently in the rotation to go flying could sit outside as close to the plastic tunnel wall as they wanted and watch. Also, they let you take pictures or record video (as you'll see in a bit), which was pretty sweet.

After waiting for a bit, they called our flight group into a side room for a brief training session. And I mean brief. We watched a 5 minute video that covered the four hand signals that would be used (due to how loud the wind is in the tunnel), the basic body position, and how to get into the tunnel. Then the instructor came in and had us lay down on a padded table and show that we knew what the proper body position would be. He had a cute little discussion with the 6 year old kid in our group ("Do you know how to swim? Yeah? Well, we don't swim in air, so make sure you stay nice and still, OK?"), and then we were back outside suiting up. We got onepiece jumpsuits with handles on the back for the instructor, a helmet, earplugs, and these strange soft plastic goggles that you tighten onto your face. The goggles actually started fogging up on me, which was kind of obnoxious, but they always cleared as soon as I entered the wind.

When it was our turn, we entered the waiting chamber with the six year old kid at the front of the line. He went, and then his dad went, and then my friend, and then it was my turn. I walked up to the door, tucked my arms in, and leaned into the rushing wind, stretching out as I lay gently onto the invisible cushion...

This was actually my second time in the tunnel. My friend's dad filmed the video. I wasn't super good at it, but it was still a lot of fun, even for someone at my level. The floor is a woven steel mesh, and it doesn't hurt to crash into it or the walls. But I definitely don't know that from personal experience or anything. Definitely.

Our passes got us two 60 second sessions in the wind tunnel each, after which you could purchase additional time (which a few people did, like the dad did for his six year old). Then the instructor got the technician to turn up the wind speed, and he jumped into the tunnel on his own to show off what you can do with a bit more practice.

Well, ok, maybe a bit more practice is an understatement. He was really good. When he climbed headfirst down the wall, he actually stopped directly in front of the little kid and said hello. I must say, he did really good, not just at the skydiving, but also at being engaging and relating to us, the people he had to help out and keep safe (not that it was dangerous). Plus, that exit from the tunnel at the end? Ridiculous. After he finished showing us all up, we had to exit and take off our jumpsuits. As we were doing so (and waiting for our certificates), the little six year old was grinning from ear-to-ear. He looked over at the rest of us and said "I have the best daddy ever!" before scampering away. It was actually rather heartwarming.

Physically, one thing that I noticed afterwards was that I was extremely sore in certain muscles, specifically the back muscles by the spine as well as the triceps. My arms were sore because it was actually quite a challenge to keep my arms close enough together in front of my body; the wind was always trying to pull them farther apart, back down by my sides. But, I'd wager a guess that if I actually used my muscles from time to time I wouldn't have been sore.

All in all, I don't really have any complaints. Like I've said a few times already, I had a great time. 120 seconds isn't a super long time considering how high the price probably was, but for what it is, it's probably worth the cost at least once for the experience. Now I want to go skydiving out of an airplane though. I'll have to do that sometime...


  1. Though this is safe, most likely skydiving outside is still a lot of fun.