Last week, Seb learnt how to fly.
Actually I learnt how to fly too, but only theoretically. He got to give it a go in practice.
I picked him up from school, got him into some comfortable clothing, and then we headed up the M1 to Milton Keynes to arrive at iFly, just one of many Red Letter Days destinations for a fun filled, unforgettable experience. At least, so we hoped.
Seb didn’t stop hoping. He was full of questions.
What is indoor skydiving?
‘How do you fly? How big is the fan? How does the fan blow you up? How do you not fall on the fan when you stop? Do you jump from the top or start at the bottom? How do you not fly away up into the sky?…’
Some of these questions I could answer, and others I really couldn’t – I have never been skydiving in any way myself (although my sister has, and that involved jumping out of a tiny plane and landing with a parachute, which is totally different to how you get going and land when you are indoor skydiving…well, at least that’s what I assumed).
So once we got there – and saw and heard exactly how massive the fan actually is – I was glad that Ted, our instructor, was able to fill us in on exactly how it all works.
Seb got changed into his flight suit, stuck on his goggles and grabbed a helmet, and then we went into the briefing room to learn all about successful levitation. A video tutorial explained how everything works – an instructor will hold onto you at all times until you are competent, and will guide you in and out of the flying area – which has a big wire net as a floor so you can’t fall on the fan, and you don’t have to jump from height to start flying either. Seb was very happy to hear all of these things. The video also explained the different hand signals the instructor would use to help Seb achieve the optimum stable indoor skydiving position – because it is VERY LOUD and there is no way talking can be heard…
Ted then went through the hand signals to check everyone understood. And then it was time to fly!
Being the youngest of the group by far at 7 years old (indoor skydiving at iFly is suitable for age 4 upwards), Seb was given the privilege of choosing whether he would like to go first, or wait and see someone else give it a go before him. He was so excited and impatient to get going that of course he chose to start the group off… and also a bit nervous once he was lying on the net floor waiting for the fans to start. Ted was great at reassuring him and making sure he had the best possible time.
Which, judging by the big grin on his face (distorted as it was by the wind wiggling his cheeks) he really, really did.
The High Fly
Each person in the group got to have two turns – with each turn lasting a minute. Given that a skydive of the jumping out of a plane variety lasts around 45 seconds, that’s quite a long time to levitate. For the second go, if they were feeling confident, each indoor skydiving participant was given the option of having a ‘High Fly’, something which costs an extra £6 and involves the instructor twirling alongside the skydiver and – as the name suggests – helping them to fly up high, rather than at only a metre or two above the net.
Of course, Seb very much wanted to give that a go – and once again he thought it was absolutely fantastic.
At the end of the experience, once he’d reluctantly handed back his flight suit, goggles and helmet, Seb was given a certificate which detailed his indoor skydiving achievements. A lovely reminder of his experience, and also very useful should he return, as it is a record for the instructor to build on.
Whether or not we will return is apparently not something that is in any doubt – when Seb heard that iFly birthday parties are on offer he immediately started planning his next one, and is looking forward to introducing all his friends to indoor skydiving too.
If skydiving is something you’ve always wanted to try, then this is an excellent (and reasonably cheap) way to give it a try before you fling yourself out of a plane. And it’s also something to be enjoyed in it’s own right – as demonstrated by Ted, who gave us an amazing demonstration of exactly how you could end up swooping, diving, spinning and flying fast and fluidly.
Seb immediately started enthusing about how he himself could progress to be just like Ted. And continued to discuss it, pretty much all the way back down the M1.
Who knows, maybe one day he will!
And if you want to learn more, Red Letter Days have created their own blog post all about the event too, with a whole other selection of brilliant photos of people flying 🙂