I do not have a fear of flying. I have a fear of falling. I have a fear of not knowing what to do when I’m in the sky, because what if it all goes so fast and I freeze? That’s essentially eliminated when you go into an air tunnel and let 130 mph hour winds take you away. Long used as a practice space for professional skydivers, the wind tunnels provide an alternative for the more cautious types. And iFly, an indoor skydiving chain that just arrived in King of Prussia, provides a chance to have a shindig, a date or a family outing with quick flights.

Individuals can go on their own, like I did. I filled out a waiver that stops me from suing them over a dive and confirms that I’m under 250 pounds and not preggo. For those who really take a liking to it, iFly offers classes to learn how to do tricks, like spins and flips, and to earn certificates as you advance. (I didn’t know indoor skydiving was a sport. It is, and can send one down a YouTube rabbit hole.)

As Manda Mazzuca, sales manager at the iFly KOP location explains, the whole place is built to spec. If a party wants a bar, they can set up the bar. If a group wants seating arranged around the tunnel so everyone can watch as they sip before they fly, it can be so. They do birthday parties, corporate gatherings, bachelors/bachelorettes and so on. “It’s not a ride. People think you come in, you fly and you leave. This is an event venue,” says Mazzuca. “Even if you come in [just to] fly you’re going to be in here for a minimum of two hours.”

YouTube video

You better believe there’s training before getting into the tunnel. In the tube, you can’t hear, so they’ve got to teach hand signals, explain the proper body position, give reminders to just relax. The teachers are International Bodyflight Association-certified, and my instructor, Sam Carrasco, has completed some 1,500 (outdoor) skydives and has roughly 250 hours in the tube. “You can’t beat the view real skydiving,” he says, but “you can fly longer in the tunnel.”

Flyers who’ve earned their stripes can buy time blocks, five minutes, 10, 15 or 30. But the basic deal gets first-timers two flights, each a minute long, which is roughly the time a skydiver would be in the air if he or she had hopped off a plane. This option is $69.95. It becomes $54.95 for your second or third time at it. Party deals start around $600. As with all heftily priced-things, to state the obvious, it’s a question of how much you want it. I want to go again, mostly out of an urge to know what it would be like when I actually know what I’m doing.

When I first entered the tunnel and got into my flight pose, the rush of air hit my nose so hard it had a similar feeling to being thrust, then submerged in a pool. My lips felt like they were flapping all over the place. My face looked like a skull with just a bit of skin on it. That’s how strong the winds are.

Me, mid-flight, with Carrasco’s help.
Me, mid-flight, with Carrasco’s help.

Carrasco warned me that the sensation of that much wind power would take getting used to. By my second flight, I was getting accustomed. My head started to have a little more room, enough to enjoy it. Enough to remember what I thought free-falling might feel like as teenager versus that moment, feeling all this resistance, but still floating. Carrasco gently repositioned me and lead me up and down. I wasn’t really savoring the height, because I was focusing on keeping my chin up and looking ahead, not looking at everyone and everything below. Before I knew it, my time was up.

The facility, which opened two weeks ago, is the only iFly location in the state. Mazzuca says things have been “nonstop” since they opened: “Literally, we’ve been taking reservations since January.” Right now due to the demand, she advises, individuals should aim to make reservations a week ahead of time. Groups should plan for four to six weeks.

Cassie Owens is a reporter/curator for BillyPenn.com. She was assistant editor at Next City and has contributed to Philadelphia City Paper, Metro, the Jewish Daily Forward, The Islamic Monthly and Spoke,...