For the record, I have jumped out of a real plane from 10,000 feet off the ground. Is was an exhilarating (and frightening) experience that I am grateful to have checked of my bucket list at a younger age while naively trying to impress a boy with my fearless nature. But, now being older and hopefully a tad bit wiser, I wanted to experience weightlessness in an safe manner—in an indoor skydiving wind tunnel.
Indoor Skydive Experience:
Weightlessness in a Wind Tunnel
What is Indoor Skydiving?
Indoor skydiving is gaining popularity across the world as a recreational activity because it is a way to beat the forces of gravity in a glass enclosed chamber that has a vertical wind column that pumps air at 120 MPH. These chambers are called wind tunnels and they help in simulating an outdoor skydiving experience–without the need to jump out of a plane! Since air flows upwards inside the wind tunnel at a high speed, it enables you to fly and float mid-air in the chamber equipped with a safety net below.
Unlike outdoor skydiving, it is not dependent on the season or the weather since it is done indoors. Sun, snow or the rain cannot stop you from flying! Plus, almost everyone can try it from beginners to the more experienced, young or old.
Though it is a fairly safe activity for most age ranges, it is essential for participants below 18 years of age to have a parent or legal guardian sign a consent for the activity. At most places, there is a weight restriction, participants typically cannot weigh more than 260 pounds, although in a few places those below 300 pounds may get to fly with some restrictions. The activity is also not recommended for pregnant women and people with major shoulder, neck, heart or back issues.
What to Expect from an Indoor Skydive Experience?
To start, wear comfortable clothing, like a t-shirt, yoga pants and sneakers. Once you are at the facility you can choose from various packages for first time flyers. These packages give you a minimum of a minute and up to five minutes of indoor skydiving time. You can always add on to your time after your first flight, but keep in mind that a couple minutes is actually a really long time in a wind tunnel because it takes a lot of muscle strength. Once you try it, it is pretty likely that you will want to go back in for some more fun, but ask the instructor what they recommend.
My first time I only did two 1-minute sessions, but was still sore the next day from muscle exertion. That may just say something about my fitness level! The next time I was filming a commercial for Chase, which meant I needed to stay in the tunnel for a lot longer so they could get the money shot. After two rounds of about 5-minutes each, all my muscles were burning.
Here’s how the commercial came out (the skydiving portion starts at 1:36):
After you’ve selected your package, you will get your flight gear–a flight suit to wear over your clothes, helmet, ear plugs and goggles. Be warned that this activity does not cater to ones vanity! Simples instructions about body positioning techniques and necessary sign language are also provided before the flight. Plus, most likely before it’s your turn you will be able to watch the other flyers inside the wind tunnel from the observation deck. Then it is time to fly!
After the instructor guided me to the door of the wind tunnel, I just folded my arms across my body, relaxed and leaned in forwards through the door. He held onto me since it took some time to find my balance, but the trick is to arch your body by pushing forward at the hips while raising the head and feet.
In the beginning, just floating in one place was tricky, but soon I was doing spins to the top of the tunnel and down again. With more experience you can go faster and higher, plus learn fun maneuvers—like a barrel roll or a bottom loop. But, don’t expect to be doing triple flips on your first session!
For a complete list of skills see the International Bodyflight Association website.
Where Can You Go Indoor Skydiving?
One of the most popular companies with indoor skydiving facilities is iFLY with locations all over the US and other parts of the world including Europe and Asia. I have flown with them multiple times, and as a beginner to the activity it was a great experience—their facilities and staff were top notch. In your initial sessions, only you and the instructor can skydive in the chamber even if you are accompanied by a group – it is one person at a time. Once you gain sufficient experience, you can also enjoy indoor skydive flights with your family and friends provided they are of the same skill level. The company has provisions for differently-abled participants too. For those who want to take things further, iFly also has bodyflight training programs with a coach to attain competitive levels. Visit their website for more information.
There are some other good indoor skydiving companies in the US with wind tunnel facilities. Paraclete XP located at Raeford, North Carolina is also accessible from other cities and states situated close by. It is one of America’s largest wind tunnels for skydiving and attracts both first timers and skilled participants. As one of America’s first vertical wind tunnels, FlyAway Indoor Skydiving located at Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, is a pioneer of this activity. You can have a great time at the sessions with the trained instructors and each person gets a three-minute flight time. If you have been planning a trip to Vegas, there’s one more great reason to go there: Vegas Indoor Skydiving. Enjoy two minutes of tunnel time per session aided by helpful and qualified instructors. In this case ‘what happens in Vegas, doesn’t stay in Vegas’ as you would definitely want to tell other people about the experience. Those living in California and anyone intending to visit it can drop in at Skydive Perris for indoor skydiving. Come alone or with your family and friends and try the various packages here. For the more adventurous, Perris also hosts outdoor skydiving and has a range of other facilities.
There’s nothing quite like feeling like you can fly, and that’s how I felt after my indoor skydive experience. If you have always wanted to skydive but have a fear of heights or jitters at the thought of free falling in the sky, start with an indoor skydive flight. You never know, maybe it will give you the courage to check a plane jump skydive off your bucket list.
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