It’s unbelievably common to hear song lyrics and movie references about wanting to fly. I have never found this particularity relatable as I have never felt the need to defy gravity, but when the opportunity arose for me to skydive indoors at iFLY Naperville there was no way I could pass it up.
iFLY provides a skydiving simulator allowing people to experience the same conditions one would feel jumping out of a plane. Anyone 18 years or older can fly, as well as anyone under 18 with the consent of a guardian. An instructor guides newbies in the tunnel while more experienced fliers or professional skydivers can practice tricks on their own.
I have always considered myself to be an adventurous person but I would never go as far as to call myself an adrenaline junkie. New experiences excite me but also go hand in hand with a bundle of nerves.
In the week leading up to my flight I brushed off the unsteady feelings and focused on how much fun the experience looked in videos. The wind tunnel reminded me a little bit of that scene in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” when Charlie and his grandpa couldn’t stop floating towards the ceiling to certain death by fan, but it took standing at the door of the wind tunnel to really give me that feeling of “What am I doing right now? Can someone get me out of here?”
When I arrived at iFLY, it took no time to check in because I had already filled out the flight waiver online. I was directed to the flight deck which had an observation area as well as the wind tunnel, a classroom and a wall equipped with the proper flight attire. I expected the experience to be a bit overwhelming, but at first glance the whole floor felt cozy.
My flight group was complete with seven other student journalists, Courier photographer Lucas Koprowski included. We all got to know each other, which was how I realized that my nerves were much less than those of most of my fellow fliers. We cracked jokes and laughed off how scared we were, and I slowly felt my anxiety melt away. As the group before us left the tunnel, I realized they all seemed to have bonded as well.
We finally took our spot in the classroom where we went over safety instructions and the correct posture for flight. The key was basically to keep your chin up and stomach rounded. It sounded easy enough (spoiler alert: not actually that easy). Four hand signals were all we needed to remember in order to communicate with our flight instructor.
“…it took standing at the door of the wind tunnel to really give me that feeling of ‘What am I doing right now? Can someone get me out of here?'”
The safety session was much shorter than I expected and all eight of us headed to the wall to suit up. Once in our flight suits, goggles, earplugs and helmets, we made our way into the flight tunnel. We were informed that each flier would receive two one-minute sessions in the tunnel. I was up second, which didn’t give me much time to freak out.
As I made my way to the entrance on my first turn, my stomach was in knots. Once I was floating, the amount of wind holding me up was shocking, but the strong gusts of air were surprisingly easy to adjust to. I felt myself flopping around, completely unable to stay still as we had all been previously directed. Luckily, everyone else seemed to have the same problem, so I wasn’t the only one who looked like I was actually trying to fly.
My instructor began to spin me around, and honestly, I had no idea what was going on. I tried my best to follow the positions she told me to take, but when I stepped out of the tunnel, the whole flight was a blur. I took my seat at the end of the bench and noticed my entire body felt incredibly hot and shaky and brushed off the slight sense of nausea that had settled in my stomach. I sat back and realized that although it took me a while to comprehend what had happened, it was something that I wanted to do again.
Watching the other fliers was equally as fun as being the one flying. It made me feel much better knowing that I wasn’t the only one who looked like a fish out of water. It’s definitely not the most glamorous way to be seen, but that’s part of the fun. Watching everyone else helped to calm me down, so by the time my turn came around again I was still a little shaky but ready to go.
The second time was much easier. I felt more in control of my body, maybe because I knew what to expect. I flew higher and spun more, and overall enjoyed the experience. When I stepped out, I felt the adrenaline rush and slight addiction I had been warned about. I didn’t think twice about my shaky hands.
My experience at iFLY was unlike anything else I can imagine. As I said before, I have never felt unsatisfied with my life on the ground, but I would absolutely return to iFLY. The temporary ability to fly is a strange sensation, but it’s a sensation that I think almost anyone would find exhilarating. I would recommend it to anyone of any age. Not only will you experience something completely unordinary, but you might also make some pretty cool friends while sweating nervously awaiting your turn. The way I see it, there’s really no reason not to go for it.