"I am not going to jump out of an airplane and don't even think about taking the grand kids!!!!" was the loud and forceful response I got when I asked "while we're in Austin, let's go skydiving" and then she stomped out of the room. I meekly followed and stated that "this is indoor skydiving in Austin with in a vertical wind tunnel, it's one of the best attractions in Austin. and it's perfectly safe for all ages from 3 to 93 - let's do it!" When she finally agreed, I booked a flight with the new iFly in Austin, called the grand kids to say we were going sky diving and immediately got "let's do it!"
iFly has several locations in the US and opened in Austin in early 2013 and they will be opening a new location in the Dallas area. As you may know, first time sky diving works something like this: you jump out of an airplane at 10,000 feet attached to a guy you don't know and have no idea how many times he's done this or if he was sober when he packed his chute; you fall through the sky at 150 miles an hour screaming all the way; and then you hope that your chute opens, you land where you're supposed to and not in a tree or on someone's roof, and that you don't break your ankle on the landing. Oh, and because you're so scared you missed the scenery because your eyes were closed until your instructor violently knocked on you helmet and told you to open your eyes for the landing! But you know what, you had so much fun bragging about your skydiving experience, you signed up to do it again! That skydiving experience is a lot different than indoor skydiving at iFly, which has got to be one of the best attractions in Austin.
At iFly you put on a silly flight suit and then jump into a vertical wind tunnel and if you listened closely to your instructions, you'll have a blast learning how to skydive! What a fun adventure. Here's how it works - there are 4 powerful fans that generate 1600 horsepower at the top of a vertical tunnel that's 45 feet tall. The fans create a wall to wall cushion of air at controllable wind speeds of between 130 to 175 miles an hour, which if you have the correct skydiving form will keep you suspended in the air and able to do some simple first time flying maneuvers like go higher, turn left or right, or go forward. Wrong position and you're resting on the floor of the tunnel waiting for your instructor to lift you up or give you some hand signals on what to do correctly. Wind speed in the tunnel is based on the flyer's weight and skill level - I figured I would need a turbo booster on the fan to get me going. The flight chamber is 22 feet in diameter and has a trampoline floor made of aircraft quality stainless steel (same thing at the top of the chamber) and the tunnel operator controls the wind speed. It's really very easy for all ages and a lot of fun - you'll get some laughs watching your friends fly and you'll want to show all your neighbors the video of you skydiving!
Our indoor skydiving experience started with us being locked in a small room (did they know one of our party might chicken out and try to go home?) with an iFly instructor for 10 minutes to get some basic instructions, learn some hand signals, and watch a short video. Looked easy - just keep your body a little arched, chin up, arms bent in a "L" shape, palms flat, and the knees slightly bent, or something like that. If you don't pay attention to the instructions, you'll be grounded which really means your belly is resting on the floor of the wind tunnel. Couple my lack of ability to focus on simple instructions plus my weight and fat belly, I'm now starting to worry if I'll be able to get off the ground.
Our instructor was great and we were ready to go to the next step which is put on a body suit, goggles, skydiving shoes and helmet, and try to get the ear plugs to stay in your ear - I'm trying to remember the hand signals cuz I'm sure not going to hear my instructor.
Now that we look pretty silly, we head to the bench seats which wind around one side of the perimeter of the wind tunnel and I'm hoping someone else in our group volunteers to go first - which no one did so it became age before beauty.
With a leap of faith and some encouragement from our instructor I tucked my hands under my chin as instructed and fell head first into the wind tunnel hoping that the girl that controls the wind speed had the fans on full blast. And to my surprise, I not only remembered the hand signals (are you ok, bend the knees, keep the chin up, looking good, etc.) but I was suspended in the air flying left and right and up and down with a huge grin on my face! By the way, the pictures aren't of me - these flyers looked much better!
I tried to wave to the grand kids and immediately sank 5 feet to the trampoline floor and I quickly figured out why our jump suits have some handles on them when the instructor grabbed me and lifted me back to a flying position and shook his head "no!" and got me back into the proper flying position.
All too soon my flight was over and the instructor pointed toward the exit door, pushed me through it, and waited for the next flyer to jump in . I was still ear-to-ear grins and high-fived the wife, daughter, and her two kids who are 5 and 8 with wide nervous looking eyes as they waited their turn. But when it was their turn, with no hesitation at all, the grand kids jumped in the wind tunnel and started flying - they did fantastic and absolutely loved it!!! And they seemed very proud of their skydiving certificate.
Each flyer gets two turns of about 3 minutes each and on the second turn I'm really feeling competent and this time the instructor tells me to jump in, instead of gently falling in. I took a big leap of faith, jumped with everything I had and promptly fell to the bottom because I forgot my flying position - I hoped that they didn't capture that on video! The instructor lifted me up and I was flying again with that same huge grin! On your second turn, the instructor grabs both of the handles on your jump suit, gets in his flying position and up we go in circles about as high as the wind tunnel will take us and then back down and up again - wow, that was outstanding and I'm ready to do it again! That flight to the top and doing circles had to be the highlight and after that its easy to understand how sky diving can get addictive and iFly is the best place to learn and practice the sport.
After we all take our turns, the instructors get a turn to show us what we could look like with a few more lessons. Four of them at once did all sorts of tricks that defy gravity - they flew upside down, did flips off the wall, zoomed to the top and back down again, did summersaults, flew in formation, and more amazing stuff. It was worth the price of admission just to watch them doing these tricks and having so much fun.
What a fantastic experience that we are still talking about. Both grandparents and the grand kids loved it. iFly gives you the option to buy a CD of your flight which our entire neighborhood has seen, twice! iFly has flying packages for first timers, return flyers, parties and groups, as well as experienced sky divers who want to practice some maneuvers. Add this experience to your bucket list.