At NoVA's Only Indoor Skydiving Spot, You Really Can Freefall a Few Feet Off the Ground (2024)

Indoor skydiving is gaining more popularity in the U.S., both as its own sport and for those looking to have a skydiving experience, but aren’t ready to take the leap out of an aircraft. I personally have always had skydiving on my bucket list — a friend and I even pinky-promised to go together one day — but wanted to get a feel for the sensation before I eventually hurtle toward the ground. And for those around me who have reservations on my behalf about jumping out of a plane, getting the basics down in an indoor session seemed like a way to calm their nerves in addition to experiencing something most people don’t get to every day.

Currently, the only place to try it out for yourself in Northern Virginia is iFLY (they have over 40 locations across the U.S.). iFLY allows for beginners to learn basic skills or for skydivers to practice their moves. It also provides flyers a place to practice for indoor skydiving competitions, like the upcoming FAI World Cup of Indoor Skydiving, which is just in its fourth year of existence.

At iFLY Loudoun, adults and children alike whirl around in the wind tunnel as an instructor grabs ahold of their flight suit to direct them. Located in Ashburn, iFLY is an indoor experience sure to have your stomach doing exciting flips.

Prices vary depending on how many flights you choose and people attend, but the 2 Flights Super Saver deal, valid Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m.-4 p.m., is $69.99 per person. The prices begin to jump when more flights are in the mix, and flyers ages 3-103 are welcome. All packages include the flight gear rental, training, and one-on-one instruction.

Upon checking in at the front desk — post flight waiver — patrons go upstairs to get situated. With lockers to place belongings, it’s required that certain jewelry items, like necklaces or watches, are taken off (earrings are typically okay, I flew with all of mine and none managed to escape my ears). The wind fans are located at the top of the tunnel, and the air circulates to the bottom and back up to push patrons up, replicating freefall.

Brock Uhlman, an instructor at iFLY Loudoun, said that certain things, like hair ties, do often end up flying around in the wind tunnel — but that a bracelet or watch would survive a worse fate than other things whipping around.

Uhlman has taken plenty of journeys from sea to sky (or nowadays, wind tunnel). He coached water sports before this, teaching wakeboarding, before making the jump to skydiving.

“I got my skydiving license the year before I started instructing, and I was actually living in New Zealand at the time … but you can’t fun jump [skydive without an open parachute],” where he lived, he explained. “I wanted to get my own fixing, so I went to the iFLY to just try it out and then kind of fell in love with the flying.” He notes that a lot of people come in to iFLY to work on their accelerated freefall license, or AFF.

Those participating in the indoor skydiving experience are also required to suit up in flight gear. It can look a bit like you’re a character in Top Gun, but certainly makes you feel like the real deal. The look is completed with a head scarf and helmet with an attached visor.

After checking out the tunnel before our own flight experience, my group dispersed into the training room, where we watched a video detailing what to expect during our trips in the tube. Uhlman, who led my particular flight experience, taught us the proper form to both enter the tunnel and hold while actually flying, and showed the hand signals he would use to indicate if we needed to change anything.

“Two things: one, they usually move around a lot … the other thing that a lot of people do is hold their breath,” Uhlman says of the mistakes he commonly sees patrons make in the tunnel.

Once the training was complete and the initial group finished their descents, it was time to go. No one in my session raised their hand to fly first, so I was ultimately chosen. Along with two adults and two preteens, I entered the tunnel ready to fly.

Hands up, hips forward, and not really that nervous, I leaned in to let myself fall into the tunnel as the training explained. While I’m sure it wasn’t elegant, I tried keeping my legs mostly straight, chin up, and arms bent at a right angle in front of me. Eventually I had the form down enough to turn left and right, and move forward/backward and up/down. Not to brag, but my flight certificate (which you could say shows that iFLEW) notes this — I wasn’t quite able to check off “flying a variety of controlled multiple movements” from the list of accomplishments, but what can you do?

In total, I went up three times for a minute and 20 seconds each (with the four-flight deal I got, it is usually recommended that you fly three times for a longer period, rather than four times at only a minute), with two of those trips in the tube, including high flights. High flights made the experience, though I did wish we could travel farther up the tunnel, as the peak of the high flight happened at the tube’s midpoint. The 90 MPH winds were the most exhilarating on the way down from that point — where Uhlman held onto flyers and spun us around.

For those seeking the most adrenaline from the indoor skydiving experience, high flights induced more stomach-turns than the typical flight; though I’ve never actually jumped from the sky, in those moments I felt like I was flying. In the regular position, it was still a unique sensation, but mostly just felt like a bunch of wind was coming at me at once. iFLY is certainly something I am happy to have done once — but I’m not sure if I’d pay to go again.

Uhlman says that the iFLY experience is a great precursor to outdoor skydiving — and he would know; though he calls himself a “baby” in the skydiving world, he’s completed around 40 jumps. The main difference between indoor and outdoor skydiving, he says, is the mentality. But if you enjoy iFLY, he says, you should certainly try it from the sky.

“You’re either gonna love it and you’re gonna want to keep doing it, or you’re gonna love it and you’re never gonna want to do it again, but either way you love the first time,” he notes of the outdoor jump.

While getting to fly yourself is the whole point of the iFLY experience, getting to see the pros do their jumps and flips was enthralling. Watching the instructors do their demos is reminiscent of watching your favorite action film. Uhlman spun around mid-air (or mid-tunnel, if you will) and essentially floated from the bottom netting all the way to the top. His exit through the opening of the tunnel was smooth and honestly, wild. Glancing at the screen that displayed the timer and wind speed, Uhlman was flying around in winds that reached about 142 MPH.

Other than getting to fly himself, Uhlman loves to teach the little kids that come to the facility, noting that it is often the first time they experience something adventurous like iFLY. “Teaching the kids is awesome,” he says.

While I’m not sure when I’ll make my way to the sky, I can say that the wind tunnel provided a fun activity to do while temperatures outside remain a bit unpredictable.

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At NoVA's Only Indoor Skydiving Spot, You Really Can Freefall a Few Feet Off the Ground (2024)

FAQs

How many feet do you free fall when skydiving? ›

As the term suggests, freefall is the portion of your skydive that takes place between exiting the plane and opening your parachute. Once you and your tandem instructor leap into the big blue, gravity takes you on the ride of your life as you fall belly to earth at an average of 61 meters (200 feet) every second.

Why is indoor skydiving so short? ›

Indoor skydiving is not much different. Each flight is only a minute because it is physically taxing! Your body is not used to what you will be requesting from it, and so, it is best to start slow. In the tunnel, you will be flying your body lying flat on your belly.

How high is skydiving from ground? ›

The average skydiving height (exit altitude) throughout the world is 10,000 feet. This altitude is usually determined by the aircraft type used, the terrain's starting field elevation, or as mandated by FAA flight restrictions.

How do indoor skydivers stay in the air? ›

Each indoor skydiving facility is designed to push or pull heavy gusts of wind through a vertical flight chamber. When you are “flying”, you are actually being held up by the wind, floating in mid-air, much like the experience of actual outdoor skydiving freefall.

How long are you in the air for indoor skydiving? ›

So each flight is around 60 seconds, often a bit longer but never shorter than 50 seconds. A double flight is about 120 seconds long.

How long does it take to free fall 8000 feet? ›

Here, let's break down the average freefall times from different altitudes: 8,000 feet: About 30 seconds of freefall time. 13,000 feet: 45 to 60 seconds of freefall time. 15,000 feet: 60 to 70 seconds of freefall time.

How realistic is indoor skydiving? ›

The short answer is… no. While often, skydivers will utilize the indoor wind tunnel to fine-tune skills and techniques, the sky, and all the freedom it offers, cannot be found in the confines of a windy tube.

Is Ifly really like skydiving? ›

Not exactly. There are certainly quite a few similarities between indoor skydiving in a wind tunnel and outdoor skydiving, but indoor skydiving replicates just one portion of the skydiving experience: freefall. The benefit of indoor skydiving is a freefall time of two minutes and up.

Does indoor skydiving feel like falling? ›

Does indoor skydiving feel like the real thing? The indoor skydiving experience is designed to simulate the freefall portion of a real skydive and avid skydivers regularly utilize the wind tunnel to practice, so yes! Two minutes of indoor skydiving equates to about two freefalls in real life.

How high risk is skydiving? ›

Injuries were most commonly reported during the landing sequence. With modern equipment and training methods, fatalities occur in less than 1 per 100,000 cases, and serious injuries requiring hospitalization in less than 2 per 10,000 cases. This puts the assessment of skydiving as a high-risk sport into perspective.

How hard do you hit the ground when skydiving? ›

Well, you may be surprised to learn that it's different for everyone and is dependent upon a few different factors. However, a rough average for skydiving freefall speed on your belly is 120mph. Let's jump into the technicalities of skydiving speed!

Can you be too tall to skydive? ›

Can you skydive if you're 6'5”? You sure can! It's rare for an individual to be too tall to skydive. Although, taller individuals may find that they are close to the weight limit simply because of their height.

How often do people pee themselves skydiving? ›

Involuntary urination during skydiving is rare. The vast majority of tandem instructors will tell you that they have never experienced this issue with their students before.

Does your stomach drop on indoor skydiving? ›

Here's the deal: Your stomach won't drop like when you're on a rollercoaster. You won't feel any kind of fall. In fact, you won't even feel the 120 mph speed. Instead, you'll feel the air underneath you for the entire freefall, supporting every surface of your body.

What happens if the power goes out while indoor skydiving? ›

As safety is our highest priority, tunnels designed by iFLY utilize proprietary technology that provides safe descent in the event of a power failure. In fact, we test every tunnel during commissioning where we simulate a full power failure with a flyer at the top of the tunnel.

How fast do you fall from 15000 feet? ›

How long does it take to skydive from 15,000 feet? About 60 seconds – a whole minute of freedom! For a licensed skydiver falling head down, the body is more aerodynamic, so they fall faster and can reach speeds upwards of 150 mph – making for a shorter freefall time.

How long is the freefall at the 20000 ft skydive? ›

With your tandem skydive instructor by your side, be simply in awe of the mountains, glaciers, lakes and rivers that surround you during your 75 second free fall.

How long does it take to fall from 35,000 feet? ›

At this altitude, you've got roughly 2 minutes until impact.

How long does it take to fall 200 feet? ›

Answer and Explanation: 200 = 16 t 2 ⟹ t 2 = 200 16 = 12.5 ⟹ t = 12.5 = 3.53 . It will take the rock 3.53 seconds to reach the ground.

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