Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Catching Some Air at iFly

Two weekends ago we schlepped out to Gaithersburg for a truly unique experience: indoor skydiving at iFly. Ever since we passed the oddly shaped building a few years ago I'd known I'd be back. Personally, I could do without the experience, but I had a hunch that this would be the perfect activity for the various teens and pre-teens in our life.

We showed up at our 11am time slot with quite the crew: two sleep deprived parents, a high school freshman and senior, as well as a 10 year old. We also had a two week old, but his job was just to chill in the stroller.

In an act of sheer courage, I'm proud to say I didn't opt out of this experience. All 5 of us donned flight suits, took in a how-to-fly briefing and strapped on our safety goggles and helmets. Before we knew it, we were queued up in a staging area right outside the massive, cylindrical wind tunnel.

Up first was 10 year old J. He leaned into the wind as instructed and the guide helped position him for maximal stability. After a few moments, he was doing it; he was flying! A minute later, his turn was completed. Then M and P went, with equal degrees of success. Finally, it was my turn.

I approached the entrance to the wind tunnel and tried to relax as much as possible. On one hand, this was obviously safe: I'd have an instructor literally holding me, and I'd be hovering among a wire-mesh floor at waist level. There wasn't anywhere to actually fall to. Still, a small voice in my brain looked for ways to panic. I did my best to ignore it.

I leaned into the tunnel and whoosh, I was in the thick of it! As instructed, I kept my chin up and and looked straight ahead. Between this head position and the massive amount of wind noise, I really had no idea what was going on. As far as I could tell, I was floating with perfect grace. I pretty quickly relaxed when I realized that the whole experience was going to be pretty smooth. I did do a number of rotations which again, that voice in my head wanted to panic about, but I shushed it and just went with it. Before I knew it, my time was up and I was high-fiving everyone in the tunnel.

I switched places with Shira who was watching the baby so she could have a turn. Like the boys, she totally crushed it.

We had bought a package of 10 flights with the intent that we'd each get two flights. I was fine with a single flight, so the kids worked it out who would take a bonus 3rd flight.

At $34 per minute, the experience is sort of ridiculous. And yet, I have to say I'm quite glad we did it. The experience was wholly unique and was enjoyed by adults, teens and pre-teen alike. And personally, I got to push my adventure comfort zone, challenging an experience I'd normally chicken out of. Given the crazy price tag, I doubt we'll be back any time soon. But man, we all got to fly!

Incidentally, the only negative part of the experience came after the fact. While you're flying, the crew at iFly shoots photos and videos. Last night we finally logged in to access these and I was blown away that they charge for the content. You're telling me after I've payed hundreds of dollars for the privilege of 10 minutes of flying time, I need to pay another $30 ~ $60 to get zero-cost-to-you media? Media, by the way, which I'm going to turn around and share with friends and family and will serve as an advertisement for iFly. That just strikes me as sleazy.

With that complaint lodged, I will say that the package we bought did entitle us to 5 free videos and 2 photos. So yes, I was able to get a video of each of us flying without paying anything extra.

So here it is, proof that we really did go indoor skydiving:

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