Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Culture Dose: iFLY

catching wind of indoor skydiving.

This is the stuff dreams are made of—literally. In Tukwila, iFLY allows visitors to experience the exhilarating, weightless sensation of skydiving, yet no nerves of steel or leaps from great heights are required here. First-time flyers enjoy packages that include a training session, equipment rental and one-on-one assistance from a friendly, entertaining guide throughout the flight(s). Hooked returnees receive special discounts to practice perfecting their hang-time moves.

Even if you’re initially unsure about getting swooped up by the guide on a grand finale “high flight,” chances are, you’ll leap for such treats by the session’s end. We recently chatted with Lysa Adams, the marketing director of iFLY Seattle, about the ins and out (and highs and lows) of this unique local attraction.

Lysa with husband Bill Adams, CEO of iFLY Seattle. (Courtesy iFLY Seattle)

Lysa with husband Bill Adams, CEO of iFLY Seattle. (Courtesy iFLY Seattle)

Seattleite: Can you please break down for us how the wind tunnel actually works? 

Lysa Adams: Our wind tunnel has four turbo fans located at the top of the building, two facing one direction and the other two the opposite direction. This creates two air-flows that come together and meet in the middle. There is an inlet contractor that condenses and compresses the air, which creates that nice, clean air column in which we put individuals inside to fly.

S: How would you describe the experience to a newcomer, and what’s the most important thing to keep in mind as a first-time flyer?

LA: The hardest part first-time flyers experience is relaxing and staying still. The thing to keep in mind is that whatever you are thinking in your head before you get in the tunnel will change as soon as you get inside. It’s much easier and technically more difficult than anyone can imagine, but it’s super fun too! The only way to understand how it works is to experience it firsthand. There is nowhere else in Washington that you can go fly your body like this.

S: How do you reassure non-adrenaline junkies that this is an activity that most anyone can safely master and thoroughly enjoy? (What about those with a fear of heights?)

LA: Our youngest flyer at iFLY Seattle was two years old and our oldest was 103 in Orlando, Florida. If they can do it, anybody can do it. If flying was that unsafe or scary, we wouldn’t let two-year-olds in there. What people need to realize is that there are no heights involved. Inside the tunnel, you’re flying about 5 feet off the ground, there’s a net right there and an instructor with you at all times. You can’t fall when you have wind supporting you; you will be flying. Think of it more as lying down in calm air.

(Training room by Corinne Whiting.)

(Training room by Corinne Whiting)

S: What type of training do the spotters have to go through to work at iFLY?

LA: They do what’s call a FITP program, which is four rigorous weeks of training. We throw every possible scenario at them, such as if someone curls up in a ball, someone rolls over, someone decides to stand up, someone decides to do a flip. Our instructors are there for the flyer’s safety, so they need to control the situation, teach that individual to fly, make corrections and help make things happen. The great thing about our instructors is that, just like flying, the training never ceases. They are forever continuing to grow and learn as teachers. Every experience helps them grow. The same way our flyers progress, our instructors are constantly progressing as well. This is a sport and job where you never stop learning and training.

S: What’s the most challenging part of working at iFLY? The most rewarding?

LA: The most challenging part is leaving your ego at your door. Nobody learns at the same speed, and sometimes it can be hard to watch people pass you by with levels of technique. Some people come right in and learn faster and get ahead of you. Sometimes it’s not even a matter of training, but athleticism. That’s the most challenging—keeping from being jealous of others.

The most exciting and rewarding part of our jobs is that we get to fly every day. We definitely bump Disneyland off the “happiest place to work” list. Where else can you go to fly like Superman or Peter Pan every day?  We work here; we get to do that. One of the things I like to point out is, if you check out our reviews, there’s a reason why people say the staff is so happy. We are passionate about what we do; we love what we do. Having the privilege of sharing that passion and love with others, well it doesn’t get more rewarding than that.

S: Can you remember one or two of the most memorable flyers you’ve ever welcomed to the Tukwila venue? I heard you’ve hosted Seahawks and other celebrities.

LA: For me, the most memorable flyer was the first time we flew Jarrett Martin, a former skydiver who is now paraplegic. The way this tunnel was built, Jarrett had minimal assistance in getting ready for his flight. He was able to ride up to the chamber on his own in our elevator, get his jumpsuit on with minimal assistance, enter our air lock with his chair all on his own. Then, with the help of our instructors, he was able to take flight.

He came back to test a harness built at Skyventure Montreal by David Étienne Lacroix . This harness is a prototype and is being refined to eventually fly more people with physical challenges.

It’s exciting to be a part of moments like this, being able to fly individuals who are either physically or mentally challenged. We have some wonderful partners we work with all year—Pushing Boundaries, Wounded Warriors and Sound Mental Health. For me, the individuals we’ve flown from those organizations are the most memorable and provide the most rewarding experiences for everyone involved.

(Courtesy iFLY Seattle)

(Courtesy iFLY Seattle)

About Corinne Whiting

Corinne, an east coast native who relocated here from the other Washington in 2011, was bit by the travel bug early on. She lived in Strasbourg, France (during her junior year at Georgetown University) and in Edinburgh, Scotland, where she got a masters degree in Cultural Studies. She feels very grateful to have explored incredible spots on our globe ranging from Bolivia and Egypt to Turkey and China, but there are passport pages yet to fill (and travel tales yet to be written!). After serving as associate editor at Where magazine in D.C. for five years, Corinne has embarked on a new adventure here in the PNW as a freelance writer and photographer, contributing to publications like National Geographic Traveler, the Alaska Airlines in-flight magazine, Amtrak's OnTrak, 1889 Washington, 1859 Oregon, Visit Seattle and so on. She loves exploring this incredible corner of the country while debunking the rain myths, upping her coffee quotient, hearing heaps of live music and finding her Zen near the water as often as possible.
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