Real Sky Diving is not allowed in Scouting. And probably that’s a good thing. There is something unScoutly about pushing a hysterical boy out of an airplane at 10,000 feet. (No matter how fun it is for the adults to watch.) Probably couldn’t get the parent’s permission anyway. No matter.
The next best thing is IFLY in Union City. This indoor wind tunnel cost more than $8 million to build according to their web site and it’s so authentic that professional sky divers go there to practice their moves. IFLY provides all the excitement, adrenaline, and adventure of the real thing, without the screaming Scouts. Our Troop decided to give it a try.
We arrived at our appointed time, checked in on the computers, and then walked upstairs to the viewing area. The group ahead of us was in the wind tunnel being guided by the IFLY instructor who was standing up, trying to maintain his balance. Adults were floating in the air, buoyed by 100+ mile an hour wind coming straight up from the floor. The instructor worked expertly with the last “sky diver,” helped her through the exit, and then he turned to the control booth. Waving a big thumbs up, he jumped forward and then whoosh he disappeared from our sight. Moving faster than our eyes could track him, he flew straight up into the top of the tunnel. Then, whoosh he suddenly reappeared right in front of his, falling directly into our line of sight from hidden chambers above. Then just as suddenly he was gone again. It was exciting and scary at the same time.
“Are you gonna do it?” asked a nervous boy. The Scout next to him shook his head yes. That’s settled then. Everyone was going to fly. No way out now. Time to get started.
We marched quietly into the training room to watch a video about safety. Not much can go wrong if you follow the rules. Try to stay horizontal. Keep your legs stretched out and separated. Arms forward and bent at the elbows. The instructor uses hand signals to help us remember: Two fingers means legs out; Bend the fingers means bend your legs slightly; Pointing up means raise your chin. After a last minute warning to empty our pockets (the fan in the wind tunnel will grind a cell phone into powder in about 2 seconds) the Scouts made a pile of dollar bills, phones, and coins on the counter for the adults to hold.
Next up is the dressing room. Everyone gets fitted for a jumpsuit with handles on the back so the instructor can grab hold of you safely. Helmets. Goggles. Earplugs. Last minute adjustments. Ready to enter the wind tunnel and get in line. Are you afraid? Yes, a little.
The first Scout stands up, walks to the doorway, and then falls forward with armed crossed against his chest. In a split second he is floating in the air! The instructor grabs onto his jumpsuit and moves him around to keep him stable. Wow. Flying is like nothing you have ever experienced! The wind is blowing your mouth open (it’s impossible to smile), your body is being lifted up, and it’s great fun. More like flying than falling. After a minute, it’s time for the next boy in line.
We worked through our group, then start the second round of “jumps.” Longer this time (two minutes) and more adventurous. Scouts who have mastered the basics of staying in the air are treated to an extra bonus. The instructor grabs them, goes horizontal himself, and they both explode upwards into the dark top of the tunnel. And then fall back down to the viewing area. Then back up again. Fanfrickentastic! It is all over too soon.
After we leave the wind tunnel and our legs have stopped shaking, we change back into our civilian clothes and head downstairs. Scouts receive a personal flight certificate. Our group collects the video that was included in our package deal. Everyone also has a chance to buy pictures of themselves; plus hats, shirts, and other souvenirs.
Costs for IFLY vary according to the size of the group. Budget $40-60 dollars per Scout. There is no age or weight requirement (if you weigh under 250 pounds). As an added bonus, there is an In-and-Out Burger across the parking lot for a quick snack before heading home. IFLY also has a special overnight program that includes the wind tunnel, sky diving movies, and science experiments. You will need reservations for groups of five or more. Contact them at [email protected] and ask for special Scout pricing.
Watch the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h5q_zh3qTB0