Imagine the feeling of skydiving without the daunting task of actually jumping out of an airplane.
That’s what iFLY, Concord’s new indoor skydiving location, can give to thrill seekers of all ages. The wind tunnels and instructors at iFLY can make almost anyone’s dream of flight a reality.
Kati McCallister, general manager of iFLY, said the location near Concord Mills Boulevard is perfect fit with the population and other tourist attractions, such as Concord Mills, Great Wolf Lodge, K1 Speed, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“There are other adrenaline activities that are here, so we kind of felt like it fit right in,” said McCallister. “The next closest one is Atlanta and there is one in Virginia Beach, so it was a good stop. It was a good middle ground.”
A niche group of people
McCallister had flown in a few wind tunnels before accepting the general manager position at iFLY. When she saw the job come available, she applied because she was attracted to the culture, and ready to have fun.
“It’s a group of people I didn’t know existed. I didn’t know there was this whole skydiving community that uses this for practice and training and what not, and truly everybody who works here absolutely loves what they do,” she said. “Everybody has some kind of link to either skydiving or they have worked in tunnels for such a long time. It’s very evident with the passion they display on a daily basis. So it’s a great environment to be in every day.”
One of those instructors is Jake Cormier, who has worked in wind tunnels for about three years. He loves his job and helping people experience flight.
“I love bringing people into the tunnel and seeing the joy and teaching them to fly. A lot of people never really think they are going to fly,” said Cormier. “You dream of flying when you’re a kid and we can bring that dream to a reality here.”
Following the guest flights, the instructors perform an air show; spinning upside down and flying to the top of the tunnel. Cormier began his flight career with real skydiving and then went to a tunnel to practice and enhance these skills.
“I just saw how much fun the instructors were having and was just like, ‘Wow, that’d be a really cool job to get into.’ I think it was about a year later I got a job at iFLY,” he said. “I’m still learning to this day. Every time you get in there you learn something new or figure something out in there.”
He says the feeling you experience in the tunnel is very similar to the sensation skydivers feel when jumping out of a plane. It’s a good first step to working your way to the real thing, or a one-stop-shop to get your flying experience closer to the ground.
“The only difference is actually jumping out of a plane and falling toward Earth, but once you are falling it just kind of feels like you are floating in the sky. It’s super cool,” Cormier said. “There’s no need to be nervous. It’s all air and you are just kind of floating in there. And you have an instructor next to you the whole time keeping you safe.”
The iFLY experience from check-in to check-out lasts about an hour and a half and is equal to one and a half skydives. Each flight within the wind tunnel lasts 60 seconds.
When guests arrive, a certified instructor helps them gear up and reviews training materials, such as proper body positioning and hand signals needed to guide their flight.
The instructor then leads guests into the flight chamber and assists them while they are entering, flying, and exiting.
According to the company’s website, a vertical wind tunnel has fans at the top to draw air through the flight chamber and then push it back down the sides through return air towers. That leads to an inlet contractor that compresses and speeds up the air before it re-enters the flight chamber.
The result is a smooth column of air that enables you to fly.
“We can fly anybody,” McCallister said. “As long as you are 3 or older, we can fly anybody.”
But senior citizens groups were among the first to “fly.”
“There were like 45 of them and the oldest one was 89. For some of them it was more of just a bucket list item and for some of them they were actually asking, ‘How do we come back and do this again?’” McCallister said. “It was a really fun mix of people. It was great to see the energy behind some people who can’t necessarily do everything out there. They all had a great time and are coming back.”
For more information about what to expect and prices, visit iflyworld.com.