We were lucky enough to be invited recently to try out the indoor skydiving experience iFly, near Manchester’s Trafford Centre.
We kept it a secret from the kids, and they were beside themselves as we parked up next to the iFly centre. We were advised to arrive an hour before our 7.30pm flight time, so that we had enough time to fill in each person’s insurance declaration form, and get kitted up. We didn’t really need an hour, as we had about a 30 minute wait in the cafe and viewing area before we went through to get our flying gear on, but we enjoyed watching people having their turns before us in the viewing area.
At 7.30pm, we were called through to a closed off area behind the viewing section, and met with our instructor, Rob. As well as the 5 of us, there were about another 7 or 8 people in our slot. We watched a short training film about how to position our heads, legs and arms, and teaching us various hand signals that Rob would make during our flight to indicate that we needed to straighten or bend our legs or arms, or relax. We then put on flying suits, helmets, ear plugs and goggles and we were ready to fly! Rob climbed into the wind tunnel in what looked like Mr Incredible’s red suit, and we each took turns climbing through the slot, at which point we had to fold our arms across our chests and lean forward.
As soon as you lean forward, the 90mph wind sucks you in and buoys you up so that you’re flying. There are handles on the back of the flying suits and Rob held on to us until he was sure we were in the right position not to flip over, with our chins up and relaxed. He then let us go and we floated around in the tunnel. I’ve done a real life skydive before, and it really is very like the real thing (with the great benefit of not actually having to climb out onto the wing of a moving plane and let go!). Each flight lasts about a minute, and I thought it would all feel like a bit of an anticlimax, but it seems like a lot longer when you’re in there. In fact, you get such a dry mouth from the force of the wind (and the fact you’re trying to smile for the camera so as not to look any more ridiculous than you already do) that I was actually quite relieved when Rob led me to the door and I was catapulted back to non-windy land.
A family flight involves 2 flights each, and on the second flight you get to choose whether to fly up to the top of the wind tunnel (about 30 or 40 feet up) in tandem with the instructor, or just fly near the ground like the first flight. We all chose to go up, and it was totally amazing!!! No idea how the science works, but somehow Rob managed to spin us around and fly us up to the top of the tunnel with him (without smashing us into the sides), and then back down again (which felt like going down an incredibly fast rollercoaster). We noticed that the wind speed and gone up to about 120mph for the upward flights, which we all found pretty exciting.
We had two ‘swoops’ up and down, and we could have carried on all evening it was such brilliant fun! Charlie decided that he’s going to become a flight instructor so he could do it all day. When we’d all had our second flight, Rob and one of the other instructors did an amazing choreographed acrobatic show in the tunnel for us (in wind speeds of more than 135mph!), flying up and down and narrowly missing each other as they did somersaults and dives. We had a little debrief afterwards when we’d all got back into our normal clothes, and Rob explained that we would get discounts on future flights, and that now that we’d got our ‘white wings’, we could learn other skills and move on to more technical flights on future visits. The children have been asking when we can do it again ever since, and we all highly recommend the experience for a special treat!
NB Jane and her family were given tickets for iFly but all views and opinions are their own.