There are not many places to get the stimulation of free-falling, which perhaps is why iFly is different. Eager to experience the thrill of skydiving, I recently visited the Cumberland location to try the indoor sport.
After entering and confirming your reservation on a touch screen, you are asked to step on a scale to make sure you do not exceed iFly’s maximum weight of 300 pounds. A friendly crew member then places a wristband on your arm and asks you to wait at the flight deck viewing area until a flight instructor finds you.
As you turn the corner, the first thing you see is a massive tunnel with people inside. One by one, people enter the flight chamber and become suspended in air while a flight instructor gently maneuvers them around.
Indoor free-falling is a lot harder than skydiving, flight instructor Gilberto Guevara said, because you have miles and miles in the sky to make mistakes. Because the wind tunnel is a controlled environment, instructors and first-time fliers must work on what they are doing.
But before you enter the flight chamber, you are required to take pre-flight training.
My flight instructor guided me to a small room alongside other customers for a tutorial.
We watched a short video about the proper body position and correct hand signals when entering the flight chamber, then had a quick review with our instructor. The most important thing to remember, Guevara said, is to relax and have fun.
Once we completed our training, it was time to gear up. We each received a suit, helmet, goggles and ear plugs, then lined up inside the tunnel. Excitement and anticipation filled me as I awaited my turn. I was nervous but also eager to fly.
I watched several people go before me, and I was ready to enjoy the thrill of free-falling.
But nothing prepares you, except perhaps skydiving itself, for the 100-mph winds that instantly hit you as you lean into the chamber with your hips.
As heavy gusts of wind slam your stomach, arms, legs and face, you feel as if the pressure is too much for you to bear, and you are so busy concentrating on the proper hand gestures and body position that you forget you are suspended.
The two-minute flight lasts longer than you expect but leaves you feeling shaken. Some fliers experience a hot sensation and post-flight tingles in their body. As an extra precaution, I recommend tying long hair in a ponytail or braids to avoid getting it tangled.
My second time into the flight chamber was much better. I am not sure whether my body got accustomed to the wind, but I felt more comfortable maneuvering around while suspended in midair. I felt as if I was flying and had that sense reinforced as my teammates cheered and clapped from the other side of the chamber.
To add to the thrill of flying, our flight instructor spun each of us around the chamber while we rose to the top of the tunnel and back down. But just as I felt I was getting the hang of things, my time was up.
I am not sure whether I will return for another flight — the throbbing pain on my right leg says no — but I haven’t turned it down.
There are five levels you can master at iFly, which teaches skills such as turning 360 degrees and side sliding before getting to flips and other tricks at Level 5.
Two flights start at $79 for first-time fliers, rising to $101.95 for three flights and $149.95 for five.
I am happy to have had the experience and am somewhat eager to try indoor flying again soon — but not too soon.