The modern industry of indoor skydiving is sweeping the nation. Vertical wind tunnels have enable people to simulate skydiving without having to jump from a plane. Skydivers understand the idea because of the close relation to the sport. However to most of the population, the concept of flying your body in a wind tunnel is foreign.
How does indoor skydiving compare to jumping out of an airplane? Simply stated, indoor skydiving is simulating the freefall portion of a skydive. Participants learn to fly their bodies on a column of air which is synthetically produced inside a confined area. There are a number of similarities and differences between traditional skydiving and indoor skydiving. This article is geared towards answering a fundamental question, “what’s the difference?”
“Does it feel like the real thing?”. The answer is both yes and no, indoor skydiving feels like the free fall portion of a traditional skydive and the body control is the same. The thrill of jumping from an airplane, however, can’t be experienced without actually doing it! A traditional free fall portion of a skydive typical lasts between 45 and 60 seconds. Skydiving simulators have developed a way to take that same sensation and incorporate it into an indoor setting – without the time constraints. Just as skydiving, indoor facilities produce high wind speeds that allow participants to safely fly on a column of air.
Altitude: Conventional skydives usually exit an aircraft from 10K-13K feet high. Indoor skydiving eliminates that height. When indoor skydiving, participants simply enter into the wind through a door usually located on the side of the flight chamber by simply leaning forward and laying on the wind.
Canopy: Another difference between the two is that wind tunnels do not offer the canopy portion of a skydive. Outdoor skydiving includes a canopy ride to the ground. As you become experienced in the world of skydiving, you will learn the different canopy controls and maneuvers. On the contrary, skydiving simulators solely focus on the body flight aspect of the activity.
Age: Indoor facilities cater to nearly all ages – some offering packages for participants as young as 3 years old. Traditional skydiving in the US requires each participant to be at least 18 years old while other countries allow ages as young as 15 to engage in this activity.
Weather: Skydiving depends on the weather. Skydiving dropzones have weather regulations based on winds, clouds, and temperature that can postpone/cancel skydiving operations for the day or extended periods of time. Indoor facilities rarely have to rely on the weather conditions, they can operate year round.
Many outdoor skydiving facilities require that your first jump is tandem with an experienced instructor. This involves the instructor connecting his harness to the student’s harness. During free fall, the student is riding on the front of the instructor and inevitably, the instructor is doing most of the work in terms of flying. Indoor skydiving eliminates the need for tandem flights. Even first timers can experience what it is like to fly their own body. Even if you have jumped from an airplane before, the indoor experience is unlike any other. It is more challenging to learn how to fly your own body.
Indoor Skydiving Influence on Skydiving
Indoor skydiving has revolutionized the sport of (outdoor) skydiving. As stated above, traditional freefall typically lasts anywhere from 45-60 seconds (this number can increase and decrease depending on the altitude in which the jumpers are exiting, and the chosen body orientation- see progression article for more information on avenues of flight). Tunnels now allow skydivers to focus on their flying skills in a smaller area for longer periods of time. Now what used to take jumpers tens of thousands of jumps and years of experience, can be learned in a fraction of that time. Skydivers are no longer limited to 60-second intervals/working time, they are able to fly for 10 minutes, 30 minutes, or even hours in one day! Each minute flown is equivalent to 1 skydive, you do the math! This is has been a phenomenal addition to the progression and future of this sport. Teams can now train for skydiving competitions and records for a fraction of the cost it would be to train in the sky. While wind tunnels significantly increase the talent of skydiver’s body flight – it does not train them to be more aware in the sky. Nor does it teach certain fundamental necessities that are required to be a safe skydiver such as canopy skills. Outdoor skydiving schools are still very much needed to train students on certain aspects of traditional skydiving.
Indoor Skydiving as a Sport
The sport of indoor skydiving is very much its own entity. You can learn how to be an amazingly talented flyer without ever stepping foot out of an airplane. Competitions allow indoor flyers to show off their skills and compete against the most talented flyers in the world. Because there essentially isn’t an age minimum, children of all ages are quickly becoming some of the most talented flyers which makes the future of this sport extremely bright.
The introduction of indoor skydiving is changing the world of body flight. While there are numerous differences between the two sports, they are one in the same in the sense that they both share the freedom of flying. Maybe jumping from an airplane is not for you, and you are looking for an alternative. Maybe you are a skydiver who is looking to enhance their development in the sport. Maybe you love both for different reasons. Whichever it may be, indoor skydiving has opened up a whole new world for participants across the world.