Originally created for use by professional skydivers and the military, the system is now also designed for the general public to experience the sport of body flight. Children as young as three years of age and up can fly and no previous experience is necessary. It’s a unique opportunity to find out what the world of high adventure skydiving is like without ever having to pack a parachute, pull a ripcord or jump out of a perfectly good airplane.
“It’s taken off like wildfire,” says Lysa Adams, co-owner of iFLY Seattle with her husband Bill. “People of all ages just love it and once they try it, they’re usually hooked on the experience and come back for more.”
Both Lysa and Bill are avid skydivers with a lifelong passion for the sport. They were motivated to open iFLY Seattle after visiting another facility created by parent company SkyVenture.
“The commercial application potential is what drew us,” explains Adams. “We thought it was really unique to be able to offer the public this type of experience, in addition to being a training site for professional skydivers. iFLY Seattle boasts the fastest wind tunnel in the world, reaching a speed of 230 mph, and it also has the only 14 foot recirculating tunnel among all the SkyVenture facilities this side of the Mississippi. “And we are the first to have two airlock chambers,” adds Adams. “Plus, we have the first all-glass chamber.”
Adams says that she gets up to 300 flyers on a weekend day and over 600 spectators. Kids between the ages of six and 13 make up the largest demographic. “We see a lot of moms and pops with their kids,” she comments. “The whole family comes and the kids recognize right away that it’s a sport we offer, not an amusement ride. We are an actual body flight school where we teach people to progress in their skills.”
There are four distinct levels of flight progression, which correspond to body positions: on the belly, on the back, sitting and the most advanced, head down. Everyone progresses at their own rate.
“Progression rate really depends on the type of experience you have with your body,” explains Adams. “Those who have done a lot of sports or who have a real sense of their body will most likely progress at a faster rate than someone who’s less active.”
Beginners fly one at a time and there’s always a certified instructor in the chamber to assist in the process. Beforehand, however, participants must take a brief class to learn what to expect during their experience. At this time, the instructor goes over the hand signals he/she will use in the chamber, as that is the sole form of communication. The next step involves getting the proper attire – jumpsuit, earplugs, goggles and a helmet. “The most important direction the instructor will give you is to relax,” says Adams. “When you relax, you are able to fly stable. Once that happens, you can apply turns via your body. Your arms are wings and your legs are the rotors. You learn that any movement you make has an immediate reaction.”
Adams notes that kids fly the best because they take instruction well. Females also make good flyers for the same reason. For Adams, the most rewarding part of her job is watching the “aha” moment occur in first time flyers. “You can see it in their bodies,” she explains. “They just get it and know to relax and float on the wind. And when they do, they’ll have this huge smile on their face.”
She’s right. I was grinning ear-to-ear during my session and didn’t want it to end. Initially, I was a bit nervous and apprehensive, but once I got accustomed to the sensation of my body moving with the airflow, I was able to relax and “go with the flow!”
I reveled in the thrills and excitement that came from the freedom of flight and I wanted to share my adventure with everyone. It’s an experience, however, that defies description no matter what words you choose. It’s just something you have to do.
iFLY Seattle is located in Tukwila, adjacent to the Westfield Southcenter Mall: (206) 244-4359 or www.iFLYseattle.com.