This is a question I get asked all the time. Is indoor skydiving the same as the real thing?
It is a great question and the answer is yes, but there are slight differences especially once you get past basic belly or flat fly skydiving. A modern indoor skydiving wind tunnel can provide the wind speeds, and the feel, of real skydiving but training and flying indoors is slightly different. It also depends on what training or flying you are are doing.
- Are you using the indoor skydiving tunnel to simulate outdoor skydiving
- To improve your basic belly flying ready to try outdoor skydiving or Learn to Skydive AFF training
- Are you a novice or pro outdoor skydiver doing flat fly training
- Are you are an advanced outdoor skydiver doing VFS flying, Head Down flying
- Are you a tunnel flyer doing Dynamic or Freestyle flying.
Flyers will wait in the staging area which has seating and an open door allowing entry into the wind. Most tunnels have a live replay TV in the staging area set on delay so as you exit the wind you can watch your flying and training before getting back into the wind again.
Below on the left Pro Flyers wait to fly and on the right a group of first time flyers wait their turn
There are two staff on duty supervising flyers, an instructor and a driver. The tunnel instructor on the door supervises flyers getting in and out of the wind and will assist flyers to keep things safe. The driver, working with the door instructor, will regulate the wind speed depending on the type of flying and training being done by the flyers. Experienced pro indoor skydives will know their own wind speeds and signal the instructor and driver, novice tunnel flyers and first time outdoor skydivers visiting the tunnel will have the speed set by the tunnel instructor.
The tunnel driver can set the wind speed to simulate outdoor skydiving freefall speeds they can also set the speed lower for first time flyers and novices. This means your flying and your body position will be very different to if you were outdoor skydiving. The driver can also set the speeds higher.
The Driver at the controls regulating the wind speed and monitoring flyers
The door instructor supervises flyers getting in and out of the wind to keep things safe
In order that it accurately simulate outdoor skydiving training you first need the tunnel wind speed set to your comfortable mid range outdoor wind speed meaning you can fly your body and body position as close to possible to what you would be doing in the sky. This means a mid range good relaxed body position rather than a slow speed flat de arched flying position or a maxed out mega arch where you cant then use your arms and legs to effectively control your movements.
All skydivers have a natural fall rate which varies slightly depending on your weight and body position. If you were flying with a group of flyers and everyone was in a neutral arch, everyone would be falling at different speeds and their levels would be different. Each flyer must adjust their body position to keep level with other flyers. In outdoor skydiving teams and group formations skydivers often wear weights to more easily match the fall rate of heavier team members. When belly flyer teams train indoors in wind tunnel they will also often wear weights while training.
So back to the question: Is indoor skydiving the same as the real thing?
Yes, as a first time flyer on a low wind speed setting your experience will be similar to an outdoor skydive and close enough that for all intended purposes you are skydiving just like the real thing.
If you are doing your outdoor skydive student AFF training or thinking of learning to skydive and using the indoor skydiving tunnel to improve your outdoor skills, then you really need to talk to tunnel instructors and get coaching. Your tunnel instructor can make sure you are flying as close to possible to your comfortable speed range (wind speed / fall rate) and that your flying and moving using the correct skills in a good neutral body position so that your indoor skydiving will translate well to match as closely as possible what you will experience in the sky during your outdoor skydive.
You can read some more on learning to skydive using indoor skydiving tunnels to improve your flying skills here: Learn to skydive the modern way
A big difference with indoor skydiving is that you have a lot of visual feedback from the tunnel walls, the driver and instructor, spectators and objects outside the tunnel so you will be aware of the smallest movements, think forward and backward drive, your levels up and down.
Often a first time or novice flyer will demonstrate good basic controlled heading and hover skills in the tunnel but after doing their outdoor AFF training and doing their first outdoor skydive in the sky will be unable to demonstrate the same level of control. In the sky you do not have the close visual reference points for feedback nor the awareness to regulate your fall rate. An indoor flyer going outdoor skydiving for the first time will commonly have a good backslide happening and not be aware of it.
It takes a few outdoor skydives to orientate and get used to the difference. Outdoor skydiving you are also wearing a parachute, monitoring your altitude and focusing on several additional tasks that you don’t have to worry about when indoor skydiving.
Frequent indoor flyers will also generally be very precise and look smooth and fluid in their flying due to training with the proximity of the solid glass walls. When outdoor skydivers first visit an indoor skydiving tunnel it does take them a short time to get used to flying in the confined space and not making big movements.
Indoor Skydiving in Australia as a sport is growing exponentially in the last few years with iFLY Downunder building three vertical wind tunnels in Sydney, Perth and the Gold Coast. Australian skydivers now have access to state of the art indoor skydiving training facilities and the general public can try indoor skydiving with many taking up the new sport.
A good example of the popularity of indoor skydiving is the Australian National Indoor Skydiving Championships held each year in Sydney at the iFLY Downunder tunnel at Penrith. Flyers and Skydivers from around Australia and around the world gather together to compete. One of the great things about indoor skydiving is spectators, teams, judges, the media can all stand up close and watch all the action through the glass. Live streaming HD video of indoor skydiving events is becoming commonplace.
Once flyers get past the basic belly flying skills there is a whole world of new body flight that opens up. I personally love Freestyle and Dynamic flying and there are more and more indoor skydiving wind tunnels opening. There are now even indoor skydiving tunnels on cruise ships.
Below I do some dynamic flying on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Ovation of The Seas while docked at Sydney harbour. You can read more on that story here Flying High on Sydney Harbour – A unique experience Indoor Skydiving on Sydney Harbour
There are plenty of great resources for more information on the sport such as:
If you are looking to go indoor skydiving in Australia checkout the iFLY website. Are you looking to learn to outdoor skydive? A good starting point is to search for your closest skydiving training club at the Australian Parachute Federation website
If you are interested in indoor skydiving , Freestyle flying, dynamic flying or just your first indoor skydive I regularly have articles and info on my website:
See you in the wind soon.
Elise Brown is an indoor skydiving instructor and tunnel athlete passionate about health, lifestyle, fitness and the art of freestyle flight. See more at www.elisebrown.com.au