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May 21, 2010 > Indoor skydiving vs outdoor skydiving

Indoor skydiving vs outdoor skydiving

By Richard Medugno
Photos By Alicia Rodriguez

Recently, I had the opportunity to try indoor skydiving and compare the experience to parachuting out of an airplane at 3,000 feet, which I did many years ago when I was a younger and braver man. I can tell you that hands down indoor skydiving was considerably better for someone of my age and temperament.

The iFly SF Bay facility on Alvarado-Niles Road in Union City has a vertical wind tunnel that enables "almost anyone" to experience the free fall of skydiving - without the need for an plane to get you up or a parachute to get you down safely. I've been intrigued with the idea of indoor skydiving since I heard about it.

When the opportunity for my first indoor "flight" came and I jumped on it (pun intended). My friend and I arrived for our appointment and were directed upstairs to a class room where we spent about 15 minutes learning about the correct body positioning for successfully soaring inside the cylinder above the huge fan below.

Our group of first-time flyers was about 15 (made up of a even mix of males and females, ranging in age from 7 to around 60). Our instructor was a thin, young man, who had each of us get on a padded table and assume the proper positioning for flying in the flight chamber. Because hearing inside the wind tunnel is difficult, he also taught us several hand signals that we would need to know in order to correct our position.

Then we filed out of the training room and gathered next to lockers and benches near the equipment room. Our instructor passed out flight suits that were basically nylon jumpers with padded elbows and knees that we put over our street clothing. Then we each got helmets, goggles and ear plugs.

When everyone was ready, we sat on a bench that surrounded one half of the wind tunnel.

The flight instructor went inside the chamber, stood on the metal net and the first brave soul stood in the doorway as the fan operator in a booth attached to the tunnel cranked it up to 100 miles per hour. The first, first-time flyer leaned into the wind and then instantly she was horizontal and floating.

For the next 60 seconds, the first-time flyer flew around inside the tube with flight instructor holding on to her suit and guiding her around. When she was stable enough, the instructor let her fly alone. Then the fan slowed down and the instructor guided her to the tube's exit doorway.

I was a little nervous when it was my turn, but as soon as I dropped face down into the wind and felt my body being supported, I knew it was going to be a cool ride. There is no better feeling than weightlessness and sense of flying that comes with freefalling, which is probably why so many people dream of the experience or pursue skydiving as a hobby in their waking life.

What makes indoor skydiving better than real skydiving, is that: one, it's significantly cheaper than real skydiving; two, it's safer and you don't need a parachute or a plane; and three, the freefalling feeling is longer than most real skydives.

The only downside in comparison is that you don't get the panoramic views you do when you're outside falling and then floating through the air. I highly recommend giving indoor skydiving a try. Visit iFly SF's website at and check out for discounted tickets.

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