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Humans Fly Without Planes, Wings, Pixie Dust

Jun 01, 2016 09:37AM ● Published by Tori La Rue

By Tori La Rue | tori@mycityjournals.com

Ogden - Flying is not only for the birds, those in planes and Peter Pan. iFLY Utah in Ogden facilitates human flying with the use of a vertical wind tunnel. 

“You walk into the flight chamber and your instructor says, ‘Trust us and trust the wind. When you lean the wind will pick you up,’” Bill Knopp, first time flyer, said. “You just lean, and then you float, and it is like you are sustained mid-air.” 

It doesn’t feel like a roller coaster or make you sick to your stomach but is a “dream-like” experience that allows you to float, according to Shan Hancock, iFLY manager. 

Vertical wind tunnels were first designed for military and sky diving training but, since that time, have become a type of recreation for those of all ages. iFLY Utah is the only vertical wind tunnel in the state and one of 20 in the nation, according to Hancock. 

“It’s still a pretty rare and unique opportunity,” he said. “Sixty-five to 70 percent of the people who come here are from outside of state, and 50 percent of our guests are professional sky divers from all over the world who want to learn and progress without having to jump out of an air plane.” 

There are 10 levels of flight, so groups of any level can have an enjoyable time, Hancock said. While professional sky divers may fly upside-down on their heads, beginning flyers can simply learn how to roll onto their side while flying. Ski groups, family reunions and field trips are among the groups who frequent the establishment. 

Knopp, sales manager for the Courtyard Marriott hotel in Ogden, said many of his customers have been to iFLY Utah, but he’d never experienced it in the nine years since its opening. When his son, Kyle, came to visit Ogden for his 30th birthday on April 5, Knopp surprised his son with a reservation at iFLY 

When both Knopps arrived at iFLY, they watched an orientation video which told them about the flight experience they would soon have. Because participants can’t hear in the wind tunnel, the video teaches hand signals that instructors will give to fliers to help them fly. After the video, the flight instructor relayed additional information to make sure Knopp and his son felt ready.

“I wasn’t really nervous and the instruction helped,” Knopp said. “I was more excited because I’ve never skydived or base jumped or anything, and I was like, ‘Oh, this is a way to experience some of that, but it’s really safe.’” 

Knopp and his son dressed in flying gear – A flying suit to increase surface area and goggles. Then, they watched others’ flight experiences before participating in their own sessions. As first time flier, Knopp and his son participated in the recommended first time flyer experience, which includes instruction and two personalized one-minute flight sessions for each flyer. 

Only one flyer is allowed in the tunnel with the instructor at a time. Knopp watched as his son flew in the air. 

“The first session you just get the hang of it, but in the second you can shoot up in the tunnel 10 or 15 feet,” Knopp said. “I watched my son do it, and that was really exhilarating. Then I tried it myself.” 

Although two minutes of flight sounds like a short amount of time, Knopp said it was just about right. 

“Sky divers will buy up to 10 minutes at a time, but even they each do a four-minute break in-between” Hancock said. “If first timers do 10 minutes it is hard to walk the next day because they are using different muscles than what they are used to.” 

Knopp said his son, who was scared of heights, is considering going sky diving now because iFLY was a good intermediary and “dispelled his fears.” iFLY is a great activity for any age, according to Knopp, and he said he’s going to recommend it to the groups who come to stay at the hotel because the demographic of people who could enjoy it are so big. Participants at iFLY Utah ranged from 3 to 91.

Hancock’s favorite groups to watch are preschool field trip groups. The first week of April about 170 3- to 5-year-olds came to iFLY with their preschool groups. 

“First, we turn the wind on and pour water in wind and let it float around to help them get a feel for what it will be like in there,” Hancock said. “Then we take in the gung-ho kids in there, and the other kids see that their peers are having so much fun, so they want to get in there. They have big smiles on their faces and their parents are watching. I’m not sure who’s having more fun – the kids or the parents.” 

iFLY Utah is located at 2261 Kiesel Ave, Suite #200 in Ogden. For more information or to schedule an appointment visit http://iFLYutah.com/.   

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