I don’t know anyone who hasn’t had at least a fleeting thought of imagining what it would be like to fly. Sure, we can hop on an airplane and fly from airport to airport, but what would it be like to fly like a superhero or Peter Pan out in the open air? While no human has been able to easily achieve that feat (yet?), I think the closest we can come is skydiving. However, being the height-adverse person I am, I would never entertain the idea of a tandem or solo jump from the cabin of a plane to hurtle to the ground at death-defying speeds. Thank goodness for iFLY Indoor Skydiving.
In celebration of the 65th anniversary of Walt Disney’s Peter Pan (now available on Blu-ray and DVD), I was offered the opportunity to “fly” like the titular character with my very own indoor skydiving experience. I’ve never had any experience skydiving, and the only actual person I know who did go skydiving lasted about thirty seconds on his first tandem jump before he passed out. So I was thrilled to discover that iFLY could offer a similar experience, but in a fun and controlled environment. The best part was I offered the opportunity to bring my daughters along for the fun.
My daughters were split on their feelings about the idea of indoor skydiving. We live a bit of a drive from the iFLY experience in Atlanta, which happens to be located across from the Atlanta Braves new Sun Trust Park, so the long drive and extra traffic from a Braves game gave my girls (9 and 13) a chance to ponder the coming event. One was thrilled; the other was a bit timid. I’ll let you decide which was which.
iFLY is basically structured around one gigantic clear tube which uses forced air to levitate people. Your experience can vary based on the number of times you’ve visited iFLY, but everyone’s first few flights are with an instructor to safely guide you through winds stronger than a hurricane. We had a set check-in time, but there’s actually a planned delay before you actually start your experience, which gave us plenty of opportunity to see how things are done and watch others—some experienced, but most were also newbies like us.
Seeing other folks fly was fun, but at the end of the group’s session, it’s the instructor’s showboating sessions that really wow. It’s obvious that these skilled flight instructors know their stuff and have had plenty of practice time in the wind tunnel. During my trip to iFLY, I got to witness three different instructor shows, and each added a bit of personality to their demos with different aerial acrobatics, with my instructor even imitating Spider-Man slinging webs before being propelled quickly out of our line of sight before returning to the ground with mere inches to spare. It was quite impressive.
Before we knew it, it was our turn go to back for a quick training lesson. We, along with about seven other flyers, watched a brief video introduced by our charming flight instructor. The video was less than 10 minutes, so there’s not too much skill involved in this controlled environment, but we did learn four distinct hand signals so our instructor can communicate with us in the chamber, since you need to wear ear plugs to protect your hearing. After we learned to keep our chins up, bend or straighten our legs, and loosen up, we were off to get fitted for flight!
Now, it was off to the chamber and time to fly. My youngest actually wanted to go first, and she leaned into the wind and took off with absolutely no fear whatsoever. She currently takes gymnastics so her flexibility was instantly put to the test and the force of the wind practically bent her in half, but she was not deterred. The smile on her face told me everything I needed to know. My oldest daughter, despite her initial hesitation, took my advice that she would regret not taking this opportunity, and she too leaned in and had a great experience.
The experience was pretty intense, but in a good way. When you stick your arms up and lean into the tube and begin to levitate, the force of the wind nearly takes your breath away. In mid-flight, I realized that I was unconsciously holding my breath and forced myself to breath. I felt like I did a pretty good job of staying level and not veering off into the sides, but with the force of the wind constantly against your body it was hard to tell if the instructor was helping to guide me more than I thought. Every hand movement and arm and leg position affected your flight path, so it was a very delicate. I think each person was allotted a couple of minutes of flight time before being directed back to the seating area to move to the back of the line and await their next turn.
Because of the number of people in our group, I only had two turns in the chamber, but I saw another group after us with smaller numbers have more turns, so based on the package you purchase your mileage will vary. On our second trip in the tube, our instructor asked if we wanted to go up to the maximum height at the top, and everyone except my oldest took him up on the offer. Other than the changing view, there wasn’t much difference as far as a physical experience, but it sure did feel cool knowing you were doing what you had just witnessed others do that seemed so impossible just an hour before.
At $79.95 per person for two flights, I’m not sure how affordable it would be for repeat visits, but I definitely think this is something that everyone should experience at least once. However, it was obvious from the aerial acrobatics of a couple of other fliers that there are some iFLY junkies, as two guests actually had their own choreographed routine they were practicing in the tunnel together. The venue has the ability to host birthday parties, and I can only imagine how memorable a birthday that would be. With a variety of locations across the country, I’m sure you can find one within reasonable distance to you, so go check it out when you can.
Overall, it was a rush and a thrill. I couldn’t wait to tell my coworkers about my adventure the next day, and I was so happy to get to share that experience with my daughters. I may have grown up, but now I have a little better insight into what it’s like to be Peter Pan, even if just for a day. It’s definitely one I’ll never forget.
Disclaimer: My daughters and I were provided with a free iFLY Indoor Skydiving experience. My opinions are my own.