For many people, the thought of skydiving sends a shiver down their spine. The idea of intentionally jumping out of a plane to fall at 120MPH seems totally crazy. That might be because of a fear of heights, the perceived risk or a whole host of other possibilities. With all that though, they may still have the urge to experience the feeling of flying, and this article looks at how you can do that.
Indoor skydiving is the alternative to a full skydive, providing the opportunity to experience the feeling of freefall without the need to jump out of a plane. It’s the perfect substitute for anyone who isn’t yet ready to do an entire skydive, or anyone looking at a cheaper way to get into the sport.
What is indoor skydiving?
Indoor skydiving is the act of “free falling” inside a large wind tunnel. It enables you to experience some of the feelings of skydiving without the need to get in a plane at all. It’s also a simpler and cheaper way to experience free fall, enabling people new to the sport to give it a try. It’s not just used by people who have never been before, it’s also a training aid for experienced skydivers to be able to practice their skills. It enables them to maximise their time when completing full skydives in the sky.
The big positive with indoor skydiving is that it significantly reduces both the physical and psychological barriers. On your first flight, the instructor will keep things nice and simple and low down in the tunnel. This removes any of the feeling of height or falling and opens this experience up to many more people.
How does indoor skydiving work?
Indoor skydiving works by using a series of large fans at the top of a big tunnel that pulls air upwards with enough power to hold you off the floor. That is when you’re in the traditional skydiving pose with your belly towards the floor. The diagram below shows a simplified view of the tunnel itself and the blue line in the middle is a net that goes fully across the tunnel and is strong enough to stand on which provides a platform for your instructor to stand on and help you stay nice and stable during your flight.
Does it feel the same as Skydiving?
In a simple answer yes. However, that doesn’t fully answer the question. It does imitate the feeling of freefall but a full skydive is more than just that, if you’re interested to find out more read one of my other articles here which covers all the other stages of a full Skydive.
What indoor skydiving gives you that a full skydive can’t is the ability to “freefall” solo on your first visit. No matter what route you decide to try skydiving, whether through a Tandem jump or a full Accelerated Freefall Course (AFF), when you complete your first jump you will have contact with your instructor throughout. When indoor skydiving, if you pick up the stable skydiving position of belly to Earth quickly, your instructor will let go and allow you to fly on your own whilst being close enough to help should things change. This means you get more of an insight into controlling a solo skydive and learning what it feels like than you would through a Tandem jump.
What happens on my first flight?
This is a really important time and it’s key that you give yourself enough time to be able to prepare and maximise your tunnel experience. It’s likely you will be advised to arrive between 1 and 1.5 hrs before your flight time and when you arrive one of the first things you’ll be asked to do is to read and sign the waiver.
This will be followed by a briefing which will describe the flight itself and also teach you some hand signals that your instructor will use in the tunnel. The hand signals are used to communicate with you when you’re in flight because when the wind tunnel is on it’s almost impossible to hear anyone else inside. The signals are used to improve your position in the air to help keep you nice and stable.
Finally, you’ll be given some kit which will include a flight suit, helmet and goggles. The flight suit helps to optimise the airflow around your body, stopping it from catching in any loose clothing and so helps keep you stable. The goggles protect your eyes from the strong wind of the tunnel and the helmet is precautionary as the wind tunnel itself has solid sides.
To start the flight you’ll stand in the doorway of the tunnel with your arms up and with the help of your instructor, you’ll lean forwards into the airflow. This will feel strange and you may feel like you want to put your arms forwards as you would if you were falling, but it’s important to keep them nice and high and push your hips forwards.
Once your face down, the instructor will guide you to the middle of the tunnel and will start giving you hand signals to improve your body position. Some examples of what the hand signals mean are; bending/straightening your knees more and doing a bigger arch (pushing your hips further forwards). When doing any of these movements it’s best to do them smoothly rather than doing them too quickly. Changing how the air flows over your body too fast can cause you to become unstable, so don’t rush your movements.
It’s likely that this first flight is going to go really quickly but will last around 90 seconds. When you consider that during a full skydive the freefall time is between 50 seconds and a minute you can see the time and cost-benefit of indoor skydiving.
Most deals will be for 2 flights which means once you’ve completed your first flight you’ll have the opportunity to have a second go and try to improve. Use the time in between your flights to think about the signals the instructor gave you and how you can improve on those next but also watch others in the tunnel. You’ll be able to see how they are doing and what signals the instructors give them and see how it improves their flight.
Once you’ve completed your second flight, there may be the opportunity to complete further flights the same day if there is availability at a discounted rate. If you decide to call it a day, you’ll hand your equipment back in and if you’ve paid for a photo package they will be available from reception to collect.
Hopefully, your first feeling of freefall will have hooked you into the sport and may even have given you the confidence to try a full skydive.