Melanie Anzidei, reporter for Northjersey.com and The Record, tries indoor skydiving for her first time at the newly-opened iFLY in Paramus, NJ. Danielle Parhizkaran/Northjersey.com
Ever jump out of a plane? Me, neither.
But I know how it feels to free-fall. Free-fall indoors, that is.
The long-awaited opening of iFly Paramus, which sits at the site of the old Forum Diner on Route 4, is here. It opened ahead of schedule last week and is currently taking its first flights.
On Tuesday morning, I was one of nearly a dozen reporters invited to test-fly the company’s indoor skydiving mechanism: a vertical wind tunnel that circulates air through a flight chamber and two air towers. The winds, which can go up to 120 miles per hour, simulate a feeling of free-falling.
Indoor skydiving: What’s it like?
For those wondering: The flight is quick. I’d estimate I was in the tunnel for about one or two minutes. But if you’re like me — someone doing this for the first time — that’s all the time you need.
Why? Because it isn’t as easy as it looks. Trust me.
Our lead instructor, Mike Torres, made it look easy. He was spinning upside-down and zooming through the flight chamber flawlessly. Another regular, 11-year-old Ryan Casserly of Rockland County, New York, was doing flips and tricks. (She told me she aspires to do this professionally.)
The one-minute flight, though quick, can be overwhelming. On its website, iFly lists a bunch of concerns that potential indoor sky-divers may have: Is it hard to breathe? What should I wear? Is it scary? Is it safe?
I made sure to go through all the frequently asked questions, but you don’t have to.
What to expect
Before you fly, you must sign a waiver. Then, employees suit you up in your gear: a flight suit, goggles, ear plugs and a helmet. You’re then ushered into a small “pre-flight” room, where you watch an instructional video about how to fly. (I recommend paying attention. One of the things I found most important: keeping your chin up. It helps with breathing, and being able to breathe properly lets you focus on the actual flight.)
Once that’s done, you’re ushered toward the flight chamber, a large wind tunnel in the middle of the room. You’re seated on a bench next to other fliers. When it’s your turn, your instructor signals you toward the chamber’s entrance. You follow obediently — and you’re off.
When you enter the flight chamber you feel an immediate rush of wind pushing you up. The fans are loud. While trying to figure out how to breathe, you have an instructor signaling to you, because neither of you can speak. My instincts were telling me to curl up, but my instructor was telling me to extend and loosen up. By the time I felt comfortable in my movements, I could feel myself floating in a more controlled way.
As soon as I stepped back into the real world, I felt lighter. It was a good feeling.
I opted to fly only once. Others flew multiple times and ended up higher in the flight chamber with their instructor. The more you do it, the easier it gets.
I made it up about 5 feet off the ground. But regardless, I flew. And it was awesome.
Who is eligible to fly?
According to iFly’s website, anyone from age 3 to 103 is eligible to take flight. But there are some exceptions. The weight limit is 300 pounds, and pregnant women are discouraged from participating. People with back, neck or heart problems are asked to consult a doctor before flying, and those with prior shoulder dislocations are strictly prohibited.
Is indoor skydiving expensive?
Flights vary in pricing from $89.95 for two flights for one person to $168.95 for five flights for one person, the website says. The flights last 60 seconds. The cost also covers lessons on the ground.
What else can I do at iFly?
Other programs include: flight school for children ages 4 to 16; a place for military or professional skydivers to train; a venue for STEM field trips; virtual reality; and an “All Abilities Night” for the special needs community to fly.
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