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Indoor Skydiving December 10, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in Other.
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This weekend I took my son to a birthday party that was held at SkyVenture in Nashua, New Hampshire. It’s just a short ride north from our house, so it sort-of surprised me that the owners advertise it as the only indoor skydiving place in New England. (I checked the blogosphere and notice that they have places like this in Orlando, Las Vegas, somewhere in Colorado and in Greater L.A.) The kind people who staged this birthday party offered to let parents take their turn at the fun, so I jumped at the chance.

It was an interesting activity, although a little disappointing. I only got two 90-second stints in the vertical wind tunnel. And my first one was cut short, because during my first flight the spotter noticed that my goggles looked a little loose, and they took me out of the chamber, fearing that the goggles would come off my head and fly into one of the fans at 120 mph.

In just 90 seconds it is a little difficult to get the hang of something new like that. It is surprisingly difficult to think clearly while bobbing up and down in a roaring vertical hurricane. They tell you that the key is to relax, but your body is sending an alarming number of nerve impulses to your brain. For me, at least, it takes time to process and sort it all out. The spotter is also constantly communicating to you through hand signals. He kept telling me to bend my legs, for example. They are long legs, and when fully extended they apparently grab considerable air, which has to be balanced out by my arms. Another guy was telling me to smile for the camera. I didn’t even know that my legs were extended. I had no idea what facial expression I was wearing. Apparently it was not a smile.

I have to say that what impressed me most about the place was the staff and the service. This place charges quite a bit, of course, because they can. People were in that morning, I heard, from the Royal Air Force, training for sky dives. When we got there there were at least 20 people up from West Point, doing the same thing (not quite sure how flying in this thing translates into actual skydiving experience, by the way. I knew a guy in graduate school who was a paratrooper. He was a big guy, and they always made him carry the heavy stuff. None of these Army people had so much as a backpack on. They were all wearing special spandex suits with little fins on the knees.) It must be expensive to run the fans and all that. But, even so, this was the best service I have experienced in several years.

And I don’t mean just the expertise at helping people learning to sky dive. The guy who trained this group of ten-year-olds was fabulous. And he spotted for our group, making sure that nobody ran into a wall, or went to high and into the fans, or slammed into the grate below. He was amazing and kind, focused and sharp.

It impressed me still more that when we were all preparing to enter the tunnel the pizza was delivered. It was early, and the hosts were jumping too. Both of them had taken everything out of their pockets, so they couldn’t just step out and pay. But the guy who was taking pictures simply stepped up and explained the situation (hard to do, since everybody was wearing earplugs) and asked the hosts how much to tip.

The hosts also had a young daughter who didn’t want to go within 20 feet of the tunnel. She holed up in the party room, and one of the staff went over and kept her busy. Nobody asked her to do it. She just stepped in and took care of it, so the parents could jump.

I’m not sure I can recommend the experience itself. I am glad I tried it, but it is far out of my price range to make a hobby out of this sort of thing. But I can enthusiastically recommend the place.

Comments»

1. prairieflounder - December 10, 2007

I watched the video on their website and it reminded me of when I was a kid. I used to put bees into a mayonnaise jar just to watch them fly around. I bet bees in a mayonnaise jar don’t know if they are smiling or not either.
-pf

2. caveblogem - December 11, 2007

pf: Yeah, it’s a little like the bees, at least it felt like it. I wasn’t bouncing off the glass, but it wasn’t because I knew how to avoid the glass.

Also it was a little like when a dog sticks its head out of the window of a car. Is it smiling? Or is it baring its teeth? Or is it just the wind? And does it really matter which?

3. writinggb - December 13, 2007

LOL!! I doubt this hobby is for me, but it sounds kinda neat. Not exactly your run of the mill every day sort of birthday party :-)

4. SVNH regular - January 12, 2008

Welcome to bodyflight, the most addictive new sport on the planet. Glad you had a good time!
Yes, it is expensive; but you wouldn’t believe how much electricity it takes to run the motors. I would not want to pay the bill!
Curious about one thing though: why were you surprised that it was advertised as the only vertical wind tunnel in New England? It is!

5. caveblogem - January 13, 2008

SVNH regular,

I didn’t mean the statement about the expense as a criticism, really, although I can see how it could easily be interpreted as such. I’m sure that it takes a lot of power to run the fans. And the price of power these days just keeps increasing.

The same goes for my comment about being surprised that it is the only one in New England. I only meant that New England has a large and comparatively affluent population, so it seems surprising that, given the obvious demand, nobody has built another one yet.

6. Laurie - February 2, 2008

Glad to hear that you had a good time. My husband ( the photo guy ), the staff and I work hard to provide the best experience possible. We hope that you will come back and fly with us again. You do get a repeat flyer rate if you return.

You asked why there is no other tunnel in New England. The reason is that we don’t feel that New England economy can support another tunnel. New England is our territory and we have no desire to build another one here. You may see some upcoming changes at SVNH as we are looking to expand our building and build another attraction.

The other tunnels that you found all have different owners.

You had mentioned that you didn’t know how real skydiving and flying in the tunnel translates. Well… the feeling is the same and that is why it is such a valuable tool. West Point does train here along with other military groups. Actually about 50% of our business is skydivers training for the real thing. The tunnel can’t teach them how to fly a parachute… but it sure can give them top notch freefall skills.
Wind tunnels are changing the sport of skydiving and they have now created a whole new sport of bodyflight! The best part of all is that bodyflight is for all ages….3 to 103!

We hope that you will come back and fly with us again in the future!
Blue Skies!

7. Leona - August 10, 2010

Why doesn’t the company work on being the first solar paneled indoor wind tunnel. It would definitely attract a lot of people knowing that it uses solar power!


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