Adventure: Indoor Skydiving
When I returned home with my son — Henry, age 11 — from an outing at SkyVenture New Hampshire, my wife greeted us at the door. “Did they let you do the jump with the thunderstorms and all that rain?” she wondered.
I looked at Patty closely: “You thought I was going to take Henry jumping out of an airplane? You were going to let me?”
It occurred to me that after years of living with all the strange adventures I pursue, she either trusted me profoundly or had been desensitized to a worrying degree. There may well be companies that for a minimal amount of fuss will take you into a small twin-propeller airplane, fly you and your young family to approximately 10,000 feet, and let you jump out. Thankfully, SkyVenture isn’t one of them.
SkyVenture offers the experience of a jump (what it calls “the sport of body flight”) in a controlled environment — a recirculating vertical wind tunnel, humming loudly at 160 mph. It’s state-of-the-art, safe, and minus skydiving’s most anxiety-producing element: that little thing called terminal velocity. Not that there aren’t hazards.
“Why is it so important to keep your chin up?” asked a fellow student during our 20-minute preflight training class.
“There are technical reasons that have to do with body mechanics, but I’m not going to get into them,” said our flight guide, Nick, a pleasant Aussie. “But mostly it’s so you can see the walls before you hit them.”
Because there’s an art to flight — not to mention those hard walls — Nick took us through several important training points. “When you’re flying, you’re pushing air around,” he began. “The important thing to remember is that big, fast movements have big, fast consequences.”
We practiced the baby-step introductory flying form called the “arch.” In this modified “Superman” position, your belly’s out, your legs are spread wide, and your arms are bent overhead as though you’ve been told to surrender. Nick emphasized that he’d be with us in the tunnel, offering signals such as wringing his hands (relax) and bending two fingers (bend your legs).
Just before we put on our flight garb (elbow and knee pads, one-piece flight suit, helmet, goggles, ear plugs), he gave us perhaps his most reassuring tip: “The air is lighter up higher, and the tunnel has a diffuser, so don’t worry. You’re not going to go shooting up through the roof.”