When it comes to celebrating my wedding anniversary, I set the bar high with that trip to Iceland last year. Probably too high. It’s hard to top Iceland. (Amiright, England? Ooh, SOCCER BURN.) Nevertheless, you only live once and all that, so we decided this year to try indoor skydiving.
Yep. Skydiving. Indoor skydiving. In layman’s terms, you hover over a jet engine that’s pointed up. I researched it a bit before a trip to Vegas some years ago but couldn’t fit it into my itinerary—David Copperfield and all-you-can-eat buffets came first, obviously. But when a branch of international indoor skydiving chain iFly opened near us, I had my helper hippo make the booking.
Phase 1: Travel and Registration
iFly recommends that you arrive an hour before your reservation time to allow for prep time. The DC location of iFly also happens to be located an hour from civilization. Simple math tells you that this involved leaving home Quite Early on flying day. It’s all good, though; I’m sure any paratrooper would agree that the best skydiving is done when you’re a leetle groggy.
Once you arrive at iFly, you sign-in at a kiosk, resist (or don’t) the staffer’s attempts to up-sell you, and sign a number of waivers. After all this has been completed, you get an approved-to-fly wristband and realize you’re feeling a little queasy. Hoo boy.
Phase 2: The Flight Deck
You’re sent up to “the flight deck” at this point. That’s where the main attraction is: the wind tunnel. It’s enclosed in acrylic so that everyone in the vicinity can watch the action. Since we were about 45 minutes before our reservation time at this point, a staffer told us to sit, watch, and enjoy the group currently flying. (If you haven’t noticed, iFly does a good job of slowly and repeatedly exposing you to what’s about to happen.) It appeared to be a family grouping—three to four adults and several kids—and they displayed various levels of excitement and ability. Main takeaway: Anyone can do this. Hoo boy.
Phase 3: Instruction
After 15 or so minutes of observation, we were called into the training room by our instructor. (If you think I wasn’t treating this like my very own real-life Top Gun, you’d be wrong.) We watched a short video that showed us what was going to happen, and then our instructor reviewed the hand signals he’d be using to communicate with us in the tunnel.
For the rest of my life, I'll never know whether I'm getting the peace sign or the legs straight sign.
So after approximately 10 minutes of training, we were apparently fully-qualified to enter the tunnel. Hoo boy.
Phase 4: Gear
iFly provides a flight suit, helmet, goggles, and earplugs. You’re about as sealed and protected as possible, short of inserting yourself into a body bag. Once I was all suited up, my glasses immediately started to fog. Delightful.
We nervously milled about while waiting for the group before ours to finish their flights. Hoo boy.
Phase 5: It’s Tunnel Time
10 o’clock rolled around and it was GO TIME. We had eight in our group, and I ended up in eighth position. As a result, I got to watch six randos and TheBoy go through their turns before me. The only really notable bit was when person number one’s helmet FLEW OFF towards the end of her flight. (She was fine, if a bit shaken.)
But enough about other people. How did MY flight go?
I enjoyed it, while unconsciously channeling my inner crouching tiger.