iFly is the place for family fun with a dash of adrenaline
July 17, 2017
By Crystal Lewis Brown
I’m not what you’d call an adrenaline junkie. I pretend that I can’t go on large waterslides or roller coasters because I need to stay behind for my preschooler. I’ve never understood the allure of bungee jumping. And I’ve never, ever wanted to jump out of an airplane.
But when I got an invitation to join a group of writers and bloggers to experience indoor skydiving at iFly, I figured I didn’t have anything to lose. Plus, my kids had watched the videos online and were dying to try it. And although the website says it’s appropriate from ages 3 to 103, I thought it was my duty as a mom to try it out before even thinking of signing up my kids.
Scottsdale’s iFly facility opened in January and is one of many across the country. And you can tell from the moment you step foot inside the facility that they’ve perfected the experience. Before you even get there, you sign up on the website to choose your flight package and the date and time you want to fly. My package included two flights, but there’s also the option for four flights. And if you’re not going alone, you can choose a package with one other person or a family package for up to five people.
Confession time: When I got checked in and realized the actual flight lasted just 60 seconds, I scoffed. One minute? That’s it? Turns out 60 seconds in a wind tunnel is actually a long time. iFly somewhat mimics the free-fall portion of skydiving, which typically lasts about 45 seconds. Plus, the entire experience lasts about an hour and a half.
Once you’re checked in, you get some flight training, in which you learn the hand signals that a trained instructor will use to let you know if you need to change body positions. That’s important because wind tunnels are loud – you’ll actually be fitted with a jumpsuit, helmet and earplugs.
After the training, we lined up to await our turn. I’d be lying if I didn’t say each time another person went into the tunnel, my heart beat a little bit faster. And then, like that, it was my turn.
Heart still thumping, I pushed into the tunnel, stretching out my arms and legs just as I’d seen in the video. From time to time I’d see the instructor make hand motions: straighten your arms, relax your legs, you’re doing just fine.
Here’s how the whole thing works: iFly uses a vertical wind tunnel that moves the air in a column at speeds that keep you floating in one spot. That means you won’t somehow be shot up into the air or lose control. Unless, that is, you want to. During my second flight, I got the option to go higher up in the tunnel for an extra fee. I shook my head “no” when the instructor motioned to me, asking if I wanted to try it. But here’s where my pride got the best of me. I saw a few kids doing it and figured, if they can do it, I certainly can. Plus, I’d have an even cooler story – and video – for my own kids. For those choosing the high-flying option, it’s perfectly safe. Once you’re done with the regular flight, another instructor takes you up a bit higher, spinning you around and then helps you land safely. Pro tip: Don’t forget to breathe! The feeling is similar to hanging your window out a moving car. Just remember to breathe normally.
Here’s where I make another confession: I got so cocky after a good first flight that I figured I’d get a cool photo by flashing the peace sign. Note: Don’t do that. You’ll break the plane you need to keep flight and flip over. And trust me, it doesn’t look – or feel – as cool as it sounds.
My kids are already begging me to take them flying, and I can’t wait to see them earn their own flight wings. But next time, I’ll leave the tricks to the pros.