Have you ever wanted to go skydiving, but jumping out of a perfectly good airplane just seems wrong? Enter iFLY, indoor skydiving!
iFLY is an indoor wind tunnel that simulates free fall by generating vertical wind at over 100 mph. Without the dangers of jumping out of airplanes, a much wider range of people can participate. The iFLY website says that people as young as 3 and as old as 103 have tried it out.
In addition to safety, beginners also get a better flying experience than outdoor skydiving can offer. Beginners don’t have to do tandem jumps like traditional skydiving, and no one has to wait for airplane travel and parachute re-packing, etc, before going again. There are also no rain delays or high winds that can mess with a scheduled jump time. This means that anyone can jump right in and experience free fall on their own, then can jump right back in and do it again!
When you arrive at iFLY with a reservation, you will check in and sign the waiver, then go into a room with the wind tunnel in the center. This isn’t a padded room like I’ve seen in some indoor skydiving videos, but instead it is an airtight clear cylinder in the middle of the room, so everyone can watch the people in the tunnel. Friends and family can come along and easily watch even if they aren’t joining in.
Flyers will then go into a side room for an instructional video, where their instructor will also give them directions about what to expect, basic flight position, and what the hand gestures mean. The wind tunnel is very loud, so everything must be communicated visually.
After the instructions, flyers will get their jumpsuit, helmet, goggles and ear plugs. Wear shoes to iFLY, because they are not included as part of the rental.
Once your jump time comes, you will go into the room attached to the wind tunnel. This reminds me of a baseball dugout, with a bench for everyone to sit and a door going into the “playing field.” This “dugout” area is sealed airtight from the rest of the room, so that the air in the tunnel goes straight up, instead of trying to blow out into the room. iFLY has the technical stuff here for anyone who is interested. The wind tunnel only takes a few seconds to get up to speed after everyone enters the “dugout.” Now, it is time to fly.
The instructor will enter the wind tunnel, then help the first person in. Depending on their skill level, they will work on different things. Everyone starts out just learning to be stable in flight. After that, you learn how to turn with your hands, how to turn with your legs, and how to move forward/backward, side to side, and up and down. More advanced flight covers flying on your back (face up), flying vertical (like standing), and changing between the positions.
While in the tunnel, there is a video camera recording the entire time and a SLR camera that will take some high resolution pictures. If the instructor points you at the camera, it is time to smile or give a thumbs up.
After your time, the instructor will bring you over to some computers where you can pick out your favorite picture or pictures. They will email your pictures directly to you, along with a second email that has a link to the video(s) of your flight(s). The videos are about 100 MBs each, so you can download them directly to your computer from the website after you get home.
iFLY is admittedly a little bit pricey, but it isn’t cheap to run a giant wind tunnel with a highly trained staff. If you go early on a weekday, you will have more time for the instructors to explain things. The place is packed on weekends, so of course they won’t have as much time to walk everyone through everything.
If you go and really enjoy it, then you can look into the various specials they run from time to time. My friend is an experienced jumper and was able to take advantage of 2 for 1 standby time (standby in cheaper than normal flight time). Buying 60 minutes of time to use during slow periods, she could go in and use 10 minutes in a day (ten times at 1 minute each), & actually get to spend double the time paid for time in the tunnel. Basically, the first time is more expensive, but as you go more the price can drop drastically.
The people who are really good look like they have strings attached to them, or that they are just CGI. Seriously, check out the end of my video below (at 7:52) to see how good my instructor was. That’s Joey, from the Houston iFLY. Yeah… he’s really good.
I’ve been to iFLY in both Austin and in Houston, and I had a blast each time. Skydiving is something unique, but many people don’t want to risk their lives (no matter how safe it really is, there is still danger). Honestly, I barely remember skydiving because my adrenaline was pumping so hard. Indoor skydiving is less extreme, and that allows many more people to experience the fun.
iFLY is great for people who like to try new things, and they even offer birthday and corporate packages. If you are reading this and can afford to go, then I definitely recommend going to iFLY!