What is an Indoor Skydiving Simulator REALLY Like?
"There's no parachute [...] and nothing attaching you to planet Earth." When I first started researching the skydiving experience at iFly, that is the sentence that stuck out as particularly unsettling. My boss had given me this assignment—which would include actually participating in an indoor skydiving simulator—and I was trying to get used to the idea.
After watching few videos of 3-year-olds frolicking in iFly's vertical wind tunnel, I was ready (I would not be outdone by toddlers). Here's what the whole experience was like:
How much does indoor skydiving cost?
Let's get this out of the way: Indoor skydiving prices can be affordable, often costing less than normal, actual-jumping-out-an-airplane skydiving. Depending on how much time you want to spend in the tunnel, you can expect to pay between $40–$70 per person for an indoor skydiving simulator session.
This price often includes a few minutes of flying, plus training, personal instruction from a coach, and a post-flight DVD or tape to show off the experience to your friends.
Before you fly, you get a show:
This was my first sight upon arriving at iFly: a giant vertical wind tunnel stretching two stories up the center of the room. Inside it, the flight instructors were taking turns showing off tricks. They'd spread their arms and legs and float up to the top of the tunnel, and then plunge back down in a controlled nose-dive. They'd do back flips, front flips, and high-speed spins—at one point, even appearing to breakdance. This seemingly effortless display squashed my remaining nerves, and inflated my confidence (I remember thinking: "How hard can it be?").
Then, you get training.
As it turns out, the tricks and flips are plenty hard, and not at all effortless. My group's instructor touched upon this in flight school, which covered both the process and the all-important position for optimal flight: relaxed body, chin up, arms at eye level and bent in at the elbows, and legs bent up at the knee. If that sounds like a simple enough pose, try being mindful of all these requirements when you're facing down 120 mph winds!
Speaking of winds, it's impossible to communicate verbally in a vertical wind tunnel. So, flight school covered the hand signals that the instructor use to guide us during the actual skydiving session: one finger up meant "put your chin up," two fingers bent meant "bend your legs," and the hang loose sign meant "relax."
A bit of advice: When they say relax, seriously—try to do that. I was as tense as a trembling Yorkie, and as a result, my muscles were sore the next day.
You get one intro flight in the air.
After flight school, the group queued up for two turns in the wind tunnel: one introductory flight to get the feel of things, and one high flight, during which the instructor would give us a high-flying spin. Each iFly session lasts 60 seconds, which is actually 15 seconds longer than the typical free fall while jumping out of an airplane. And, like most traditional skydiving experiences for amateurs, you're flying in tandem with the instructor—which helped quell my nervousness about those additional 15 seconds!
The second flight is an out-of-body experience.
It was finally my turn. The instructor pulled me in, and all of the sudden, whoosh!—I was experiencing the full-body version of sticking your head out of a car window. The best part is that it's physically impossible to look down and see how high you are while you're keeping your chin up. And that's when the hand signals come in handy holding the proper position while battling the wind really did take more effort than I was expecting, and those signals kept me afloat.
My second flight—the high flight—was seriously wild. After re-entering the tunnel, the instructor grabbed onto my right arm and right leg, and floated us up to the top. I felt completely weightless, but as soon as I got used to that feeling, we shot back down.
And then back up.
And then back down.
We did four rotations like that, and it was more intense than any roller coaster I've ever ridden. Back on solid ground, I felt like those laughing toddlers from the videos—I wanted nothing more than to go indoor skydiving again.
What do indoor skydiving reviews say?
Here's what customers from some of our top merchants had to say about their experience:
The experience was great! The people that work there were very professional and yet put you at ease when they had you in the wind machine. — from Linda N.'s review of SkyVenture Arizona in Eloy.
I had my reservations about the whole activity, but it was my husband's birthday and something he has really wanted to do. Well, not only was I pleasantly surprised about how fun flying was, but the staff was amazing. — from Camille's review of iFly in Ogden, UT.
This was a surprise for our 10 year old son's birthday. He's always wanted to try the wind tunnel so he can jump out of airplanes like his father. The instructor was amazing! He made him feel special and told him to have fun and live his dream to the fullest. — from Beverley J.'s review of Paraclete XP SkyVenture outside of Fayetteville.
Watch what an indoor skydiving experience looks like:
This article was originally written by staff writer Jess Snively, and has since been slightly modified by our editors.
Photos by Phil Campbell and Jeremy Hayes; video by John Scott