Indoor skydiving and bodyflying
'Indoor skydiving' has created a real buzz, also known as ‘body flying’ has evolved from skydiving over the last ten years and has become a sport in its own right. This article about indoor skydiving is for you if you are stiill too young due to local laws to make an actual skydive but don't want to wait, or perhaps you have anxiety or medical problems restricting you from making a live jump. Maybe you feel a little too old but don't want to miss out on the buzz. If you're thinking about making your first skydive and would like to get prerpared for the main event, this article will be helpful or maybe you simply want to take the family or friends all together for a sky diving indoor event they'll never forget. Maybe you're simply looking for some of the best indoor skydiving deals on the market (who isn't?).
Where did sky diving indoor come from?
We all know that commercial airline pilots spend regular check-out sessions in simulators to practice their flight emergency procedures without the need to use expensive time in real aircraft and the result has undoubtedly saved lives in many situations. A nice off-shoot has been that many home computers now have smaller commercial off-the-shelf software packages that let normal people 'play' at being pilots. So we know that simulators are a good thing. In the same way, military special forces personnel, whose job it is to skydive into all kinds of locations under various conditions have to practice their procedures and make sure they are ready for anything at short notice perhaps testing specific requirements for each mission using a skydiving tunnel. Similar to Olympic athletes, there are other professional and semi professional skydivers who compete in world class competitions and use a skydiving tunnel to improve their performance in their chosen events. These two groups were the first to see the opportunities to get the equivalent of thirty skydives in one session, in a skydiving tunnel without being delayed by weather or air traffic restrictions and without the need to pack a parachute after each dive. Of course the cost issue is also important, especially when you are a public servant or perhaps you're paying for your own competition training from your own pocket. The next people to see the opportunity were the accelerated free fall instructors who have been training students for many years and wanted to improve their own services to their clients.
Skydiving for everyone
Less than 2% of the poulation ever get around to making a skydive for various reasons, so if there is a way to give the other 98% the benefit of this experience without the fear, without the risk and at a fraction of the cost, its got to be a winner. Of course it is a winner because from the first prototype in Orlando, developed by Bill Kitchen in the late 90s the first two UK skydive tunnels went live in 2004. Worldwide there are now thirty three and the numbers are growing fast.
Many people who outwardly appear to be excellent skydivers in a windtunnel, doing tricks and moves have actually never been under a deployed canopy (parachute). Some of the most amazing ones are children, who take to bodyflying like ducks to water.
What's the bodyflying buzz all about?
Well, for starters bodyflying is tremendous fun! Its a real personal challenge to learn to control your body in the way a pilot uses ailerons, elevators and rudder to control direction and movement, you can be taught the basics in a very short period of time and do some good flying, getting very good at it however, takes a little longer and some practice. A few years ago the term ‘skydiving without the fear’ was coined and it still seems to be true today.
So if its part of your preparation for a full skydiving course, or perhaps a ‘warm up’ to get you ready to go and book that one-off Tandem skydive, its something which almost anyone can do. There is really no lower age limit, all the child needs to do is be able to make their own choice, and we've already seen four year olds wanting to follow Mummy or Daddy into the slipstream and doing a great job at it! Don't worry though, because there is a professional instructor in the tunnel with them making sure they are safe and happy. The biggest problem I found with my own kids (at 6 and 8 first time) was getting them to come OUT of the thing.
Skydiving without the fear
Indoor skydiving is clearly the mass market version of the real thing – but is it easier than actual skydiving? Well no, not ‘easier’ but there are less variables to consider. According to BPA (British Parachute Association) statistics, less than 2% of the UK population make a skydive each year (actually closer to 1.6%) therefore the math says that 98% don’t! So why don’t they? It’s a combination of factors really and it mostly boils down to money, age, fear, and medical.
Skydiving outdoors is an expensive game
With skydiving courses starting from special deals at about $ 155, (pounds or dollars is similar due to the 'hamburger rule') but realistically priced at $230 skydiving for real can be an expensive game and with aviation fuel prices increasing and aircraft maintenance compliance becoming more complex these are unlikely to decrease. So then you see a chance to try indoor skydiving in UK for less than £50 and sometimes two for one deals, its compelling and much more affordable. There are similar deals in US cities and these make excellent presents for all the family. You get all the fun although maybe not quite so much adrenaline as the real thing and once you've flown, you start to wonder about making a skydive for real. Hmmm, that could be the start of an expensive addiction so watch out.
Skydiving for kids
Since my kids were old enough to talk and walk they've wanted to do what Daddy does - skydive! Of course I'm delighted to help them follow in my footsteps (hmm, well some of them anyway). The only thing stopping them are the laws of the land. It depends on where you live as to what the laws are and there is a separate article covering this matter. Generally it depends on the legal system and how litigeous your environment is. In US, some states lower limit to make a live skydive is 16 while for others its 18. In Uk and many European countries the lower limit is 16 while in Australia and New Zealand its almost compulsory to skydive as soon as you're born. Ok, slight exageration but the reality is that there are some many 'kids' in USA and UK who love adrenalin sports and they want to skydive as soon as possible. Whats the option if you want to skydive and you are under the age of consent? Try indoor skydiving and don't sweat the parachute ride, after all you can do that part on a paraglider, which isn't so tightly constrained.
Fear of heights/fear of flying
Let's not knock people for being afraid to skydive! It turns out that fear (in moderation) is a healthy thing and it has ensured the survival and evolution of the human race so far. Even so, some people feel that they still want to exercise their adrenal glands, in case they whither away, or perhaps simply because they can! So they go and skydive and climb and run with bulls and do other things. Of course it’s a stressful environment and even the most adventurous may find their development of skills hampered by excessive anxiety when they are still learning to control their bodies in freefall. If we can significantly reduce any irrational fears or anxieties by de-sensitising you to the different parts of the skydive, then the fear factor decreases and you can achieve some real progress. Combined with this, you have the benefit of a tunnel instructor right there in the tunnel next to you, with her feet planted squarely (well, usually) in the floor (actually its a mesh net) and if you 'wobble' a little too much, he can sort you out with physical contact (a hold onto your jumpsuit grips or a reassuring arm around the back) then use a hand signal to communicate to ‘relax and reset’ you and the skydiving show goes on. So, if you're afraid of heights or afraid of flying there is nothing to stop you making an indoor skydive.
Medical reasons for not skydiving
You’ll see on the skydiving pages that before you make a skydive you have to fill out a medical declaration and possibly even get a signature from a medical doctor. Its a similar thing for indoor skydiving and you still need to complete a disclaimer form (a legal requirement). However, because you don’t have a parachute landing to make, and there is no rapid deceleration as your parachute opens and because there is no exit from an aeroplane (don’t laugh but people have been known to injure themselves stepping out of a ‘jump ship’ even on the ground) the medical requirements for indoor skydiving are much less stringent and the pictures of President Bush senior flying in a windtunnel have raised a few funny comments, but it does get the message across that you only need a very basic level of fitness to make an Indoor skydive. So if you have some medical problems or disabilities and you want to skydive, indoor skydiving might be just right for you.
Skydiving for all the family
One of the reasons why people say they won’t skydive is because of their family (“what shall I do with the kids”….. “what would happen to the kids if I got hurt”….”I try to spend as much spare time with my family as possible”….) These are all very valid and good reasons and have contributed to the development of the human race…etc etc. So lets consider how can the sky-dive be de-risked and packaged for the consumption of ‘normal people’.
Before and after you make your Indoor skydive, you can stay and watch others doing their Indoor skydive and believe me, this can be almost as much fun as doing it yourself. Sure, it's worth watching the next bunch of ‘newbies’ and their faces and how excited they get, and of course that brings a whole new perspective. Then try to watch the instructors doing their indoor skydiving ‘party pieces’. Usually ithese instructor demonstrations are an aspect of skydiving called ‘free fly’. You will be amazed at the speed, agility and grace they can demonstrate and although I’ve seen it many times I still enjoy ‘the show’. I especially like watching four way formation skydiving teams training in the windtunnel, particularly the girls teams (hmmm). Well, my other favourite performance is ‘spiderman’ (I haven’t seen a spidergirl yet….) and I won’t spoil it, but ask the staff at the windtunnel if any of the instructors or flyers do the spiderman routine I first saw Marco do this at Orlando and I… well, let 's just see if I can find a video somewhere of it to post here.
So before and after your indoor skydiving, you could go and do the retail thing if that’s what does it for you, take the family to lunch at McDonalds or Pitza Hut or maybe pick up on one of the specials which your windtunnel operator will have set up with your local fooderies. If you’re feeling generous, maybe you could also book an hours skiing at the Snozone which is just a few metres away from the door in Milton Keynes. Alternatively if you are in Bedford, you could go and do some more fun rides. They have a terrific wave surfing simulator, a pool with jacuzi, a gym and nice cafe.
Learning to skydive indoors
As a training aid for skydiving there are three technology factors which have moved the sport forward in leaps and jumps – windtunnels, camcorders and freeze frame video repeat. Combine these three intelligently and you start to realise by those people who take up skydiving today can advance much more rapidly than those who came before them (I’m not jealous really, well maybe just a little…). The best thing (in Europe anyway) is that training in a simulator isn’t directly affected by the weather. Here's a list of windtunnels in Europe, Russia and the Gulf. If we miss any, please feel free to drop me an email and let me know. We'll get a list of US locations together soon.
How does bodyflying help improve skydiving skills?
If you're thinking about using the wind tunnel to help you prepare for a full accelerated free fall course it might help to think about your training in this way.
A skydive can be broken down into 5 parts; the aircraft exit, the freefall, the canopy ride (parachute), the landing and the ‘what to do if xyz happens’ (emergency drills). So by focussing on just the freefall part in the windtunnel, you can ‘repare yourself before going on a real skydive and make that the actual thing is much more successful by having first used indoor skydiving to prepare your body position and control. If you are planning to do an accelerated freefall course, you’ll definitely perform better if you’ve done a windtunnel indoor skydiving course first. You’ll feel more confident that you can control your body in freefall and you’ll remove one of the variables, which of course will act to remove anxiety and which will help you to learn faster – it’s a virtuous circle! I advise each and every one of my accelerated freefall students to do some time indoor skydiving if they possibly can. I’ve taken many of them along to the windtunnel myself and worked with them. It doesn’t make me any more money, in fact it reduces the number of re-jumps they make and you could argue that indoor skydiving should actually reduce my income. In fact the world is a strange place and it turns out that cosmic law applies!
Less re-jumps = faster progression and graduation = happier student
Happier student buy more skydiving instruction services (I can coach them in formation skydiving skills too if they want) and they tell more friends. Those friends come along and want to skydive with me.
Sky diving indoor as part of a personal fitness plan
Did I say that you only need a basic level of fitness for indoor skydiving? Well, that’s true at least for the short introduction/taster course (usually a one hour experience and two flights in the windtunnel). If you decide to go on and do an accelerated freefall course and you are learning to Indoor skydive as preparation for that, then you’d better start thinking like a licensed skydiver, and that means getting fitter for your sport! Doing a session of 10, or multiples to 20 or 30 in the windtunnel are physically demanding and I don’t care who you are, you’ll feel your back, leg, arm and chest muscles aching the day after a long indoor skydiving session. Just imagine that you are pressing your muscles against a 120 mph wind stream for minutes at a time in varying attitudes. This is a real freefall workout and you’ll encounter the same stresses that you feel in the freefall aspect of skydiving and it really takes it out of you physically.
If you have some questions or would like to share your thoughts with us? Either about making an indoor skydive or any other aspects of skydiving. You'd be very welcome to register on acceleratedfreefall.com and use our free 'dive doctor' service from qualified and experienced skydiving instructors to answer any questions you may have. You could even blog your views on this site. You'll see the registration form on the left of this page. It's free and we promise to respect your privacy.
Or if you've thought about this and you're still ready to go for the real thing, tandem skydiving or Perhaps you'd be interested in reading about accelerated free fall ? here on our site
Indoor skydiving is fun, great for fitness and skills and you can do it with your friends, family and colleagues in corporate team building sessions. So I strongly advise you to try it! You won’t regret it, the only thing is, you may end up wanting to go an make a skydive as a result and your next step may possibly be a tandem skydive.
1. Aerodiums are first-generation skydiving simulators which are usually found outdoors. They are either un-enclosed or have a net around the outside. There is no documented training system, standards or certifications for the staff who operate these. Because I haven't been able to validate them for use in AFF student training I can't list them here. Nor can I say whether they are safe to use.