As much as I’d like to be a thrill-seeking adventurer, I’m unfortunately a wee bit of a chicken. What I didn’t realize is that this is a good reason why iFLY is a perfect fit for me! As the company describes their concept: “indoor skydiving is the simulation of true freefall conditions in a vertical wind tunnel. It’s where the dream of flight becomes a reality”.
I am fully aware that there is no chance that I will ever skydive in this lifetime… and I am completely okay with that. However, it’s nice to know that an option exists for people like me to still get an understanding of the experience. iFLY makes that possible with a vertical wind tunnel technology that really is quite fascinating! Learn more about it here. The science behind the concept provides a great basis for STEM learning, which makes for unique and engaging educational programs as well. Learning a bit about how it works before I went set me at ease a bit, but I soon pondered a new concern I hadn’t realized until I arrived.
iFLY’s Orlando location recently moved from the Kirkman – International Drive area to the Pointe Orlando zone of International Drive. With the move came a full makeover, and a very open wind tunnel. By open, I mean that your flight is on public display for passersby on I-Drive. Considering what a clumsy, bumbling goof I am when I attempt to do most anything, I was a little worried about the potential for my widespread embarrassment in this scenario. I may be convinced that this isn’t a dangerous activity now, but certain peril in the areas of my pride and dignity still hang in the balance here!
There are two wind tunnels at the Orlando iFLY location. One is more “internal”, while the other is at the entry point. Both have great space for family and friends to get prime viewing – or to stake out a spot to take photos and video of your experience. In-between the two tunnels, you’ll find the check-in area, lockers, and a very subtle merchandise selection. I love the fact that there isn’t an array of cheesy souvenirs strewn about the location. This yields a cleaner feel, and the impression that the attraction really is just that – the attraction!
The check-in process was a breeze. I had a reservation prior to arrival, but I did have to sign a waiver when I arrived (there is an option to do this on the website in advance). Check-in and waiver signing took just a moment, and it was all completed on one of the docked touchscreens located at the front counter. Easy process, friendly staff, and now a flight demonstration while I wait for my training class! (That’s right – aside from other “students” taking flight, instructors show off their skills in brief demonstrations between groups of guests!)
Each first-time flyer is required to take the training class. Don’t worry – it’s brief, and painless… but there is a bit of a “quiz” at the end. Your flight instructor will make sure that you understand the basic steps you need to follow in your flight process, including a few hand signals you will use to communicate with your instructor. Vocal communication isn’t really possible in the wind tunnel, so you want to make sure you’re paying attention to this!
After your class, you’ll gear-up in your flight suit, helmet, goggles, and ear plugs. (Okay, it’s not the most fashionable thing… and you can’t dress it up with jewelry and a fancy hairdo… but sometimes, it’s worth it to sacrifice glam for a rush. Personally, I think I kinda rocked this look.) You will then make your way to the wind tunnel with your instructor and the other flyers in your group.
One at a time, student flyers join instructors in the tunnel for 60-second intervals of flight time. While that doesn’t sound like a long time, it feels much longer in the tunnel. I took note of a number of guests and observers mentioning the same. First-time flyers can buy blocks of two or four flights. You also have the option to add in a “high flight”, where you spend the last portion of your second flight in a sort of tandem flight with your instructor at a greater height than your solo flight. There are a variety of package options for first-timers, return flyers, pros, and groups.
Sometimes, these little “out-of-my-comfort-zone” experiences prove to find me living up to my standard level of cheesiness, but this was not one of those times. With all my nervousness and all my klutziness… I did great! I even felt confident enough to opt for the high flight, and I am so glad that I did. I completely understand the return value in this attraction because it is so easy to get hooked! While I don’t believe that I’m quite capable of mastering the skills necessary to dazzle the masses like the flight instructors do, I would love to try a stunt or two… and the iFLY experience is empowering enough to make me believe I probably can. My instructor Nick was absolutely fabulous – encouraging and fun. I watched a few sessions with different instructors, and all seemed to be having a great time and making great connections with their students – but I would personally be inclined to request flight time with Nick again next time around. I guess there’s some sort of trusting connection you build when you let someone maneuver you around in mid-air!
It will be a while before I stop kicking myself for waiting so long to try this one out, so I strongly recommend you don’t do the same! iFLY locations are abundant across the country (and International), so even if Orlando isn’t on your radar soon enough, consider finding a location near you. For more information on iFLY, follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram – OR, keep it local with iFLY Orlando on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!