On The First Day Of Fall 2011, iFELL, Er I Mean iFLEW At iFLY Seattle!

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With a little (okay, a lot) of help from iFLY Instructor John, Scott Schaefer flew on the first day of fall.

Story & Videos by Scott Schaefer
Photos by Michael Brunk

It seemed only fitting that on the first day of Fall 2011 that I would find a way to, well…fall.

Luckily for me, my ‘falling’ was actually flying – I got the opportunity to do some indoor skydiving at iFLY Seattle, which had its grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday afternoon, Sept. 23rd.

iFLY is located in that big weird red metallic building down by Southcenter Mall in Tukwila, and somehow they let me get in a jumpsuit and jump (okay, it was more of a fall) into a powerful wind tunnel that also serves as a flight trainer.

Along with about nine other rookies, I got a chance to fly in iFLY’s 14-foot diameter flight chamber with four powerful fans that create a wall-to-wall airflow that’s strong enough to make you fly – for beginners, that was a sustained wind of around 104mph (others with more experience get it cranked up – one time I saw it hit 154mph). The wind tunnel provides a simulated sky-diving experience, but fear not – we had an expert Instructor named John who guided us.

After signing a waiver, our flight Instructor showed us a video that explained how the tunnel worked, what we should do (or at least try to do) with emphasis on four different, important hand signals since it’s nearly impossible to hear while falling flying:

  1. Chin up
  2. Legs bent
  3. Legs straight
  4. Relax!

Then it was ‘Top Gun’ time – we got into our jumpsuits, stuck in earplugs, strapped on goggles and a helmet, then were let into a waiting zone just outside the tunnel where we all sat like nice, excited yet polite kids on a school bench that just happens to be a few feet from a 100+ mph wind tunnel.

"Look at me, I'm freakin' flyin' ova here!"

Next thing you know, John was standing at the door, motioning to me – somehow they picked me to go first! “Great,” I thought, “I don’t even get a chance to watch someone else flail and fail and learn from seeing their mistakes – I get to be Guinea Pig #1!” So in I went, falling gently as the video instructed, my hands in fists near by chin. As I leaned into the wind, I could feel its incredible power pushing me up. As instructed, I opened my fists up, extended my arms,bent my legs and soon I was actually floating on air! John held onto strategically-placed straps on my jumpsuit and made some motions to me. “Chin up!” I remembered. “Legs bent!” got it! Soon I could feel his grip loosen and soon I was, gulp…I was FLYING!

Freakin’ flying ladies and gentleman!

I’ve never skydived before, and the closest I ever got to any real kind of flight was when, at age five, I fell off my back porch into a coffee can and ended up with six stitches behind my right ear.

Now look at me…I’m FLYING! Or at least…trying (note to self: next time an Instructor moves your hands, leave them where he moved them!) [for best viewing experience, switch to 720p and watch at full-screen]:

Okay, John’s helping me a lot but I can see (and feel) why – it takes practice to learn how to stay symmetrical, all while being “relaxed” enough to just float in the hurricane-force wind.

The second flight was a little easier and better, and I think that John actually let go of me at least once:

I’d like to thank the good folks at iFLY Seattle for giving me this opportunity, and I encourage all our Readers to give this sport a try. It’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and it doesn’t require any real athleticism (trust me, I didn’t even break a sweat, but maybe that’s because of the fans…). All you have to do is be able to adjust your body to your Instructor’s commands, and once you get the hang of it you can actually fly (learn more from their FAQ here). From what I hear, it can become a rather addictive activity, since each time you do it you get better and are able to try new things (some folks can actually fly upside down on their heads!).

Just remember – chin up, bend your legs and relax!

iFly Seattle is located at 349 Tukwila Parkway in Tukwila; phone: (206) 244-iFLY; website: http://iflyseattle.com/ifly-indoor-skydiving

Here’s more from their website:

What is iFLY?
iFLY Seattle is a vertical wind tunnel with fans at the top with the purpose of drawing the air up past you in the flight chamber. You will experience a controlled environment providing you the just the right amount of air flow for the utmost flight enjoyment. Comprised of a 14-foot diameter circular glass flight chamber with four powerful fans creating wall-to-wall airflow, the iFLY wind tunnel provides a simulated sky-diving experience with the ability to adapt to age and ability levels. This scalable technology implemented under the guidance of a certified instructor offers an exciting adventure for children ages three and up, while challenging experienced adrenaline junkies.

Is it scary?
Generally it is not considered scary; there is no jumping, no falling and no experience is needed. You simply float on a column of air. There is no sensation of falling or anything that would make you feel motion sickness.

On average, an actual sky-diving freefall lasts 45 seconds and costs several hundred dollars. The introductory iFLY indoor skydiving fight package lasts almost three times as long and only costs $59.95. iFLY Seattle is one of 22 SkyVenture wind tunnel locations worldwide. Additional iFLY sites are located in Orlando, Hollywood, San Francisco Bay Area, Singapore, Dubai and beyond.

Who can fly?
Flyers may be as young as three years of age. There is no upper age limit. All flyers must be in good health and physical condition. Those less than 6 feet tall must weigh less than 230 pounds, and those over 6 feet must weigh less than 250 pounds. Children under 18 years of age need to have a parent or guardian to sign their waiver. If you have a prior shoulder dislocation or back or neck problems you should not fly. Management reserves the right to refuse service to anyone at any time.

iFLY Seattle
iFLY Seattle is an indoor skydiving center that offers the thrill of freefall in a safe, controlled environment. It’s safe for kids, challenging for adults, exciting for teens and realistic for skydivers. iFLY also offers group and party packages for birthdays, company outings or simply a family night out. Located at 349 Tukwila Parkway in Tukwila, just outside of Seattle. Open Monday – Friday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Saturday – Sunday from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. For more information or to make a reservation, please visit www.iflyseattle.com or call 206-244-iFLY (4359).

About SkyVenture
SkyVenture is the world’s largest and most advanced manufacturer of vertical wind tunnels. Twenty-two SkyVenture tunnels currently operate in nine countries around the world, under the brand names SkyVenture, iFLY, Airkix and Freezone. SkyVenture’s unique designs and innovative technologies are patented in over 138 countries.

Oh, and just in case you don’t believe I really fell flew – I even got a certificate proclaiming that I “reached terminal velocity”:

Here are some photos of Friday’s event shot by Michael Brunk:

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3 Responses to “On The First Day Of Fall 2011, iFELL, Er I Mean iFLEW At iFLY Seattle!”
  1. M-on-a-bike says:

    Way to fly, Scott! It must be a primal desire to want to fly. How fun! Congrats.

  2. Rainycity says:

    Seems a little spendy, I remember my first jump from 1800 feet was $50.00.

  3. Christine says:

    Husband tried this a couple of weeks ago. It is pricey but it was also fantastic fun! You can go upstairs and watch before you decide if you want to give it a try. Hope they make it…seems iffy for something so expensive in this economy. It was very crowded though and I hope it stays that way!

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