When I was in my twenties, I thought I’d love to go skydiving. I wasn’t sure I could actually jump out of a plane, but I thought I’d like plummeting through the air until I yanked my ripcord and blissfully floated to the ground courtesy of a parachute.
I don’t know who I thought I was kidding. I’m scared to death of heights, and from what I hear, no one was allowed to actually push me out of the plane. I would have been a crybaby suctioned to the side of the plane for fear I’d fall out. The desire to try skydiving passed.
I participated in a Corporate Open House at Cincinnati’s new iFly. After donning flight suits, goggles and helmets we got instructions. Chris, our flight instructor, showed us some hand signals he’d use since the wind would be too loud to talk to each other. He showed us the correct positions, how to enter and exit the tunnel, and what to expect.
Then we filed into the waiting area and started our one-minute flights into the tunnel with Chris.
The Wind Tunnel
iFly invented the recirculating wind tunnel for bodyflight. The engineering that went into creating these flight chambers is not only experienced there, but taught. iFly hosts programs for STEM programs to come in and learn about the aerodynamics of it all. Understanding the math and psychics behind the technology has got to make flying in the chamber even more fun.
I wanted to learn more about team-building events. Sure, it would be fun to go and watch your coworkers twirl inside the tunnel, but there are other activities they can design, too. For instance, with the wind force at a lower speed, they showed us a team competition that could be played with different colored balls. The wind force wouldn’t be enough to get you off the ground, so it takes a little bit of physics to figure out a strategy.
What is it like to do Indoor Skydiving?
iFly’s motto is: You are the pilot. You are the plane. iFLY makes the dream of flight a reality.
Unlike outdoor skydiving, you’re not jumping. You don’t start from the top, you start from the bottom. Your first flight experience will be short, and with an instructor. You step on the edge of the doorway in a similar position to being screened with your hands above your head at the airport.
Then you lean into the wind and go. Chris was ready to grab ahold of us as we enter the space until he could be sure we were holding steady in the correct position.
It isn’t easy!
The wind resistance pushes you so much that without your arms, legs and head in the right position, you could really hurt yourself. People with back problems or anyone who’s had shoulder surgery should not do this.
For some reason, I couldn’t get it right. Chris kept giving me the hand and arm signals we learned in our briefing, but I didn’t have it quite right. My arms were being blown back harder than I imagined, and I had little sense of where Chris was, though I’d watch enough other people in the tunnel to see how Chris was getting each of us to adjust.
That in no way diminished the thrill of flying on top of the current. We spun in slow circles and went to the top of the Plexiglass section as part of the high dive I requested.
In one minute, it was all over and I was grabbing the sides of the doorway while Chris guided me in.
How did indoor skydiving feel?
I was dizzy, but exhilarated. I could tell that my shoulder had been pushed back — not unlike sleeping on it wrong. Nothing major. But now, several hours later, I can feel some muscle tightness across my shoulders, back and core. It’s amazing to think of how muscular the young men and women who work there must be! Now that I’ve witnessed how strong you need to be to float against the air resistance, let alone how strong you’d have to be to do acrobatics against this force, I have a whole new appreciation for how talented these experienced flight crew are.
Indoor Skydiving as a Sport
A quick, horizontal introductory flight is fun. But indoor skydiving is actually a competitive sport. There are solo speed competitions and freestyle competitions, as well as 2- and 4-man dynamics. iFly hosts competitions at their locations, but the larger SoCal Games is the big draw.
I’ll probably never advance beyond the simple flying I did for a minute today. But I flew! It was exhilarating and I’d love to do it again. This is a much more accessible activity than skydiving, I think. And I didn’t need a push to feel the rush of wind beneath me.
Have you, or would you like to try indoor skydiving?