What is indoor skydiving - history - 2022-01-23
A vertical wind tunnel is a windtunnel that moves air up in a vertical column. Unlike standard wind tunnels, which have test sections that are oriented horizontally, as experienced in level flight, a vertical orientation enables gravity to be countered by drag instead of lift, as experienced in an aircraft spin or by a skydiver at terminal velocity.
Although vertical wind tunnels have been built for aerodynamic research, the most high-profile are those used as recreational wind tunnels, frequently advertised as indoor skydiving or bodyflying for childeren from the youngest age, which have also become a popular training tool for skydivers to train.
A recreational wind tunnel enables human beings to experience the sensation of flight without planes or parachutes, through the force of wind being generated vertically. Air moves upwards at approximately 195 km/h, the terminal velocity of a falling human body belly-downwards. A vertical wind tunnel is frequently called 'indoor skydiving' due to the popularity of vertical wind tunnels among skydivers, who report that the sensation is extremely similar to skydiving. The human body 'floats' in midair in a vertical wind tunnel, replicating the physics of 'bodyflight' experienced during freefall
The first human to fly in a vertical wind tunnel was Jack Tiffany in 1964 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base located in Greene and Montgomery County, Ohio.
In 1982 Jean St-Germain, an inventor from Drummondville, Quebec, sold a vertical wind tunnel concept to both Les Thompson and Marvin Kratter, both of whom went on to build their own wind tunnels. Soon after, St Germain sold the franchising rights to Kratter. Originally known as the "Aérodium", it was patented as the "Levitationarium" by Jean St. Germain in the USA in 1984 and 1994.
The first reference, in print, to a Vertical Wind Tunnel specifically for parachuting was published in CANPARA (the Canadian Sport Parachuting Magazine) in 1979. St. Germain then helped build two wind tunnels in America. The first vertical wind tunnel built intended purely for commercial use opened in the summer of 1982 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Later that same year, a second wind tunnel opened in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Both facilities opened and operated under the name of Flyaway Indoor Skydiving. In 2005 the 15-year Flyaway Manager Keith Fields purchased the Las Vegas facility and later renamed it "Vegas Indoor Skydiving".
In the 1990s William Kitchen, an inventor living in Orlando, FL filed patents for a vertical wind tunnel and founded the US Company "Sky Venture" in July 1998. This tunnel is specifically designed to simulate the free fall skydiving experience. Popularity grew quickly and the Orlando, FL site was visited by former U.S. President George H.W. Bush. After the initial location continued to rise in popularity, the rights were sold to Alan Metni, who divided the company into a manufacturing and distribution company (Sky Venture) and public experience company (iFly) which now operates or has licensed tunnels to over 80 locations around the world, including 5 cruise ships, with more in the works.
Another milestone in vertical wind tunnel history was 'Wind Machine' at the closing ceremonies of the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics. This was a custom-built unit by Aerodium (Latvia/Canada) for the closing ceremony. Many people had never seen a vertical wind tunnel before, and were fascinated by the flying humans with no wires.
Safety and market appeal
Indoor skydiving also appeals to the mass market audience that are afraid of heights, since in a vertical wind tunnel, one only floats a few meters above trampoline-type netting. Indoor vertical wind tunnels contain the person within a chamber through the use of walls. While wind tunnel flying is considered a low impact activity, it does exert some strain on the flier's back, neck, and shoulders. Therefore, people with shoulder dislocations or back/neck problems should check with a doctor first. While actual skydiving out of an aircraft is subject to age limitations which vary from country to country, bodyflying has no set lower or upper limits.
It is also in Orlando that LUXFLY founders Steve Braff and Magali Folkner Braff learned to fly. This wind tunnel was an open system, which does not exist today. The world of indoor skydiving has grown tremendously over the years and has clearly taken its notice in the daily life of every skydiver, professional and recreational. Every year several competitions are organized in the wind tunnel, this sport is recognized by the FAI. Everyone can therefore try this activity or learn the techniques to practice it as a sport.
Indoor Skydiving is the simulation of true freefall conditions in a Vertical Wind Tunnel. It’s where the dream of human flight becomes a reality in a 100% safe environment. The number of Wind Tunnels around the world is 243 and it’s growing every day with LUXFLY definitely as the best in terms of air quality, professional instructors, highest and quietest infrastructure. Definitely worth a visit for the curious person or the professional skydiver.