Every parent should feel like a superhero sometimes, but have you ever wanted to truly experience what it feels like to fly? At iFly Westchester, an indoor skydiving facility in Yonkers’ Ridge Hill, you get to spread your wings and do just that--fly. I recently checked it out with my 4-year-old daughter, Brooklyn, and my boyfriend, Monte.
At iFly, we didn't have to jump out of a plane or bungee jump off a crane. We stood on the ground and then took flight, just like Superman. If you're at all curious about skydiving or flying, this brand-new wind-tunnel is for you.
No one in my party had prior experience with indoor flying. I've tried skydiving once and Monte, as it happens, is a certified skydiver. Brooklyn, hadn't tried anything quite like this, so we were curious to see if her enthusiasm would match the reality of actually doing it. Here's how the day went:
We each opted for two one-minute flights, the second of which was a “high” flight, for a small extra fee. (See below for pricing information. In full disclosure, iFly graciously comped us our flights for this review.)
Learning to Skydive
Once you’ve chosen and paid for your flights, signed the necessary waivers, and checked in, you can take a seat in the main part of the facility, which has the wind chamber in the center. The tunnel itself is enclosed in glass, so you can watch other people fly while waiting for your class to start. A group of professional skydivers happened to be practicing tricks while we waited. They looked like astronauts floating around in space, doing flips, spinning, and just having a really good time. Their absolute control was comforting—though of course most of us who visit iFly won’t do anything like what they were demonstrating.
We didn't wait long until we were called into our class. There were about seven people in ours, and the maximum class size is 12. We met in a room just off the lobby and watched a five-minute introductory video. This was followed by instructions from our flight instructor for another five minutes.
The basic takeaway from the class is that body position is key. It's important to keep your chin up, arms reached in front with elbows bent, and legs extended back with knees slightly bent. You also learn hand signals so the instructor can communicate with you to bend, straighten, or put your chin up while you're in the chamber. It's so loud in the wind tunnel that you can't hear anything so it's important to get familiar with the signals before you begin your flight.
Once class wraps up, you get your jumpsuit, goggles, earplugs, and helmets. iFly also provides free lockers for your belonging.
The Experience of Indoor Skydiving
At this point I was very excited for myself, but a little worried about how a 4-year-old would handle the giant blast of air that was about to hit her. When our instructor asked who wanted to go first, Brooklyn jumped right up and volunteered. The instructor stepped into the tunnel first and held her hands as he led her into the chamber. Her face lit up with a gigantic smile when the wind carried her body up, and the smile stayed there until we left the facility. She loved it. The instructor had firm control of her and guided her body so she could enjoy the experience. He helped her regain control of her flapping limbs and ensured she stayed safe and always within his reach.
The one-minute flight felt like a surprisingly long time. When she came out, she volunteered me next.
I stepped into the wind tunnel and the instructor took care of me the same way. I was immediately surprised at how different it felt to breathe in such a forceful tunnel of wind. It’s like sticking your head out of a car window going 80+ miles an hour. It didn't quite take my breath away, but I had to make a conscious effort to breath normally. I adjusted quickly and remembered the proper body position. It was an easy and comfortable flight. It's a strong sensation of wind, but the goggles keep your eyes protected. I did notice slight pressure in my lower back. It wasn't bad, but the body position does stress different parts of your body. If you have any back issues or have ever had a dislocated shoulder, this experience is not recommended.
As I stepped out, I greeted my boyfriend with a huge smile then he took off. Monte is experienced at skydiving, so he confidently had control of his body and enjoyed soaring through the tunnel and experimenting a little. The instructor joined him throughout his flight but allowed him a little more freedom than Brooklyn or I had, since Monte is licensed.
After everyone had one turn, it was time for our high flights. This was amazing. My daughter and I each squealed in delight as we soared much higher than our first flights and whirled around, spinning up to the top of the tunnel and then back down. The whole time our arms were linked to our instructor. It was invigorating and fun. Afterwards we unsuited and took a look at the photos their crew took of each of us. We got the photo and video packages and talked about when we could go next.
My boyfriend Monte and I were both a little sore the next day, as if we had a good work out. Going into the experience, two 60-second flights didn’t sound like enough. Now, looking back, I realize it is sufficient. I'd be much sorer if I spent more time in the wind tunnel. It's quite a work out. You use muscles not often utilized. When you go skydiving out of a plane, the real time to free fall is less than a minute, so by doing two flights we were actually doubling what we'd get if we did jump out of a plane--with way less anxiety.
Tips for Indoor Skydiving
- You can do this as young as 3 and they’ve had someone as old as 103. Our 4-year-old loved it.
- Wear shoes with laces. If you forget, the facility can provide to some people, as it did to two people in our group who didn't wear them.
- Do not wear a collared shirt, as the collar will whip your neck.
- If you have long hair, wear it in a ponytail, braid, or pinned back.
- Stretch a little before you get in the tunnel, as it truly is an exercise.
- Call and make a reservation; don't just show up and expect to fly. Monday to Thursday there is a lot of availability. Weekends are stacked.
- Fill in the waivers online before going to save time.
iFly: Prices & Details
For those of you wondering if it's the same as skydiving--it's really a lot like it. It's different because you're not jumping out of a plane and there is no parachute, but the feeling of flight is very similar.
There are many different price plans. The popular ones are:
- Spread your Wings for 2 package: $151.17, which is for 2 flyers. This includes two flights of one minute each for each flyer and two videos.
- Family Flight package: $339.95, for 3-5 flyers, which includes 10 flights of one minute each and five videos.
If your package does not include any videos, they are $8.66 each and photos are $4.30 each, to be sent by email. Adding high flights are $9.95 per flyer. This is an optional choice to add on, which is usually offered upon making reservations by phone or at check-in.