Glide above the Swiss Alps—or dive down to Dubai—all from right here in Texas. It may too sound too good to be true—but read on!
Yes, iFly is creating a “virtual reality” feel for flyers by offering new, virtual reality (VR) flights. During the VR flights, you’ll experience scenic landscapes without ever setting foot on an airplane. Options include bucket list places like the Swiss Alps, Dubai, Southern California and Hawaii. The new VR feature, coupled with iFly’s vertical wind tunnel technology, makes you feel you are literally floating in the air, with the wind against your face, while watching views from actual skydives. The simulation creates an experience like no other.
The snowy Swiss Alps-themed jump was my flight of choice. iFly did a great job at making it look realistic. You can turn your head to see other views and the free fall sensation from the wind tunnel helps make the experience feel more lifelike.
iFly, which has locations in Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, Houston and San Antonio, is great for groups or parties. As part of my flight prep, I was grouped with a brother and sister team, who were also flying for the first time. We watched a safety video first, then suited up in the iFly’s mandatory jumpsuits, before taking turns flying in the wind tunnel. “It was very exciting,” said Jeff Joseph, who was visiting from California. “My favorite is a mix between the high fly and the VR. I really liked the high fly.”
To prepare for the VR, our group did two flights ahead of time. The first flight was basically an intro to get us used to the tunnel. An instructor guides you into the tunnel and assists as you float toward the bottom of the tunnel. After that – the next flight, the “high fly” (which was also my favorite) is a little more exciting, with the instructor guiding you higher into tunnel and spinning you around, up and down about three times.
After you’ve completed your second flight – strap on a virtual reality headset and get ready for some scenic views. One of iFly’s team members completed and filmed all the jumps for the virtual reality – and you can see other flyers who jumped with you person in the VR video. Another flyer on my team, Barbara Algere, did the Hawaii flight. “I thought it was pretty cool. It was also pretty funny to see the other flyers,” she said.
Reaching speeds up to 125 miles per hour, vertical wind tunnel technology is what fuels flyers through the iFly tunnels. Basically, it’s a machine that moves air in a vertical column at speeds high enough to keep people safely afloat. Instead of jumping out of a plane, you’ll feel like you are floating on a cushion of air.
Having never been skydiving, after trying iFly I can definitely see how the simulation could help prepare someone for a real tandem skydive. Plus, the process seems very safe. Specially-trained flight instructors assist during each flight. More than nine million people have flown safely since iFly first opened in Orlando in 1998. Here in Austin, our flight instructor for the evening, Danny, told us he coaches about 50 people per day.
iFly is friendly for almost any age, with children as young as 3-years-old flying. The company also regularly hosts “All Abilities Nights,” geared toward helping people with varying physical and cognitive special needs realize the dream of flight.
Flights are available in a variety of combinations at iFly, with packages starting at $69.95. Tickets can be booked online.