Have You Ever Wanted to Fly?

By Alan Smithson

If the thrill of skydiving excites you but the thought of jumping out of a perfectly good airplane scares the sh*t out of you, then I have just the thing for you!!  I have always wanted to go skydiving and I figured it must be easy:

1. Strap on Parachute, 2. Jump out of plane, 3. Land perfectly.

It turns out there is a lot more to this.  The subtleties of flying through the air at 150 to 200 km/hr are apparent only once you jump into a giant cylindrical wind tunnel.  Last month, I had the opportunity to check out first hand what all the hype was about at Canada’s only indoor skydiving centre, iFly Toronto located just west of the city on the border of Mississauga/Oakville just off the QEW.

Upon our arrival at the facility, we noticed that the building was huge and purpose built.  We were greeted by a team, waiting to get us signed in using virtual waivers and weigh us (no they don’t show your weight to others).

Once checked in and with our lives signed away, we made our way upstairs to the giant glass chamber for a demonstration by the iFly trainers The aerobatics these guys do is absolutely beautiful.  They make it look so effortless as they fly up and down and do feats normally reserved for Cirque De Soleil.  If only it were that easy…these guys have hundreds of hours of training and spend 8-12 hours per day giving people like us the gift of unassisted human flight.

The facility itself is set up for corporate training, with several lesson rooms and one large conference room. The iFly team can not only entertain and thrill corporate events and meetings, but they are also well equipped to unleash their very own form of team building.  Imagine taking your team on an adventure where everyone is equal and everyone gets to fly for the first time…this is powerful stuff!  The team building system utilizes their Personality Plus system to decipher each team member’s strengths and use these to enhance the overall experience.  Here is a video with more details

 

After we watched the demo, our instructor, Mike took us into a smaller training room where he explained the basics of flight; keep your chin up, look straight ahead, keep relaxed and most importantly, don’t drool (more on this later).  We were treated to the most exciting and entertaining 3 minute training video and once we had completed our training (which only took 20 minutes), we got geared in our official iFly jumpsuits that come in the most fashionable colours Blue, Red and Yellow.  We put in disposable earplugs, put on the official helmet and goggles and then it was time to enter the wind chamber.

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While we looked like dorks, we felt like pros and we entered the chamber ready to take flight.  The wind tunnel is a large glass enclosure with two doors that once closed are sealed to prevent the wind from exiting the chamber causing turbulence.  Contrary to what you would think, the giant wind fans are actually above you pulling and pushing the air down and back up.  This gives a really nice smooth and controllable air flow.  The noise that the tunnel makes is directly proportionate to the wind speed which is shown on a screen with a countdown timer for your session.  There is also a camera mounted in the control room where the operator can take photos of you with your face in various states of contortion.

Finally my turn to jump into the chamber,  I did a face plant into the chamber in a “trust fall” fashion and proceeded to bounce back up!  The wind in the tunnel is so powerful you literally cannot fall down.  Once I was fully in the chamber, the instructor positioned my legs behind me, chin up with my hands in front of my face.  I was flying!

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I can say with all honesty, flying is AWESOME!!  The fact you are flying with nothing but wind around you (and a close instructor to stop you from crashing in the wall) is mind blowing!  I attempted to move around to get a better sense of how my movements would affect my flight.  It was truly shocking to realize how very slight movements of your hands and feet can steer you around the tunnel.  If I brought my right knee up just a bit, I actually turned left.  If I turned my hands to make them streamlined, my head fell downwards.  It was not as easy as the instructors had made it look, but it was every bit as fun. As I turned around the wind tunnel, I smiled a really big smile and in doing so, the wind took all the moisture from inside my mouth and plastered it all over my face…that is why the instructor told me not to drool. You get the picture.

When you are flying, nothing seems to matter.  It was peaceful.  After two minutes of what could probably be described as watching a cat fall out of a tree, I exited the tunnel and sat down in the waiting area.  There is even a TV showing your previous flight on a 1 minute delay so you can see how well (or poorly) you did.    This is vital to improving your skills over time.

 iFly is not a new concept, it was developed by SkyVenture in 1998 and only recently came to Canada.  With 37 venues from LA to Dubai and 15 more opening in the next three years, indoor skydiving is here to stay.   iFly Toronto is also part of the International Bodyflight Association (IBA) and they have a professional education system to help people progress in their skills.  Here is the standard IBA progression:

  • Belly flying
  • Back flying
  • Sit flying
  • Head-down flying

Let’s just say, I only got to try Belly flying and even though I see myself as a fairly athletic person, I was a little stiff after only two 2 minute flights.  I think with a few more lessons and some real flight time, I could probably be ready for back flying fairly quickly.  The team at iFly is also equipped to help people with disabilities take advantage of flight as a rehabilitation service.  They even have an education tract that teaches kids about how wind works and depending on the age, gives students increasing levels of knowledge about flight and the systems that make it possible.

After we had completed our flights we had our debrief with Mike who went over what we did right and how we could improve.  There were three giant video monitors showing the photos of us flying, drool and all.  This was probably the best part of the experience, the fact we could see ourselves flying.  By the time I had arrived home later in the day, all the photos and video were already in my inbox to share with my friends, family and social networks.

 All in all, iFly was an incredible experience.  The only thing I could ever ask for is more flying time.

If you are looking for a new experience that will take your meeting, conference or team building to the next level, I highly recommend the iFly Toronto experience.  I certainly won’t forget my time there.

Alan Smithson is Founder/Director of Business Development for Shok Kreative,  is a collective of digital artists and marketers that bring unique brand concepts to consumers in an authentic and impactful way. Our focus is on using cutting edge technology to tell stories that connect consumers to brands in an existential way. 

Venue Stats 

CORPORATE MEETING/EVENT PACKAGES

  • Conference Room has complete audiovisual set up including a 152cm/60” plasma screen, free wireless internet, catering area and can be configured to suit requirements.
  • Virtual tour of our conference facilities here.  Our basic meeting packages which include the use of the conference room start at $858.70 + taxes for a group of up to 12 people.
  • Break out spaces available to be booked including a party room which overlooks the flight deck.
  • Group packages start for teams as little as 5 people. With a flexible event space that can accommodate up to 150 people
  • Video describing the iFLY Toronto experience and an introduction to Personality Plus team building event.
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