Picture skydiving, but without having to take that horrifying step out of a perfectly working plane into the blue. There’s no jumping, no falling, no fear of landing in a tree or on a sharp rock. There’s no parachute to fret over its effectiveness.
It’s just you, flying in the 120-164 mph wind, Carol Danvers style. Oh yeah, with an instructor hanging on to the handle on your back.
Indoor skydiving company iFly has landed at 7840 Lyles Lane N.W. in Concord, and its opening day is Saturday. “It’s a different activity and the area needs it,” said general manager Kati McCallister. “A lot of adrenaline is on this exit, so I kinda feel like we fit in,” she said, referencing NASCAR down the street.
How it works
You show up, sign in, then go into a training session where you watch a video and learn from an instructor how to position your body for optimal flying. More on that in a moment.
Then you suit up. Your flight suit offers the handles that the instructors will use to maneuver you into the wind later. You’ll be inclined to stuff it into your bag after for future trips to space camp or sleepover parties. Don’t do it, though — it’s frowned upon.
Wear sneakers that won’t slip off while you’re in-flight. If you show up in flip flops, they have shoes you can borrow.
You’ll be outfitted with a helmet and earplugs, then you’ll do a few stretches, then you’ll head into a chamber while you sit on a bench until it’s your turn to fly. All that nervous energy will quickly turn into pure fun when you get into the chamber with your instructor, who is there every step of the way — from adjusting your form to taking you to new heights.
You’ve been training your whole life for this
You don’t want to muscle your way into flying, said Willo Ostag, a level 4 trainer. No struggling against the wind or using your biceps needed. Rather, he said to imagine you are laying in a hammock on your stomach, letting the hammock’s edges gently lift your arms and legs.
You’ll practice range of motion, chest openers, filling out the space around you with your body and arching your back into position. If you’re a yogi, this is where your airplane locust practice may come in handy: you’ll have arms at eye level overhead, elbows slightly bent, chin up.
“Once you feel the wind supporting your body, you realize your arms and hands are just extensions,” Ostag said. In fact, Ostag said children often excel at indoor flying — ages 3 and older are welcome. “Kids have an easier time than adults — no one has ever told them they can’t do it before.”
There’s even a weekly flight school for kids.
You also don’t get to claim you’re too old for this: The oldest person to fly at an iFly was 103 years old.
It’s fun to try recreationally or as a birthday party activity or on a date, but it’s also part of a growing sport known as bodyflight — you can take training classes. Additionally, all-abilities nights are offered for those in the special needs community, including wounded warriors, autistic, blind or deaf flyers, and those confined to wheelchairs. Military training is offered within the vertical wind tunnels, as well.
Prices begin at $69 for two flights, with different packages offered. There are more than 60 iFly facilities throughout the world, with the first one opening in Orlando in 1998.
Often, after discovering and practicing bodyflight, Ostag said people are ready for the next step. “This is the gym for the sky,” he said.
Now that you’ve had your gateway into parachuting, that step from the airplane into the ether may feel just a little bit less scary — or maybe not.