It’s hard to believe that there was a time when you could count the world’s wind tunnels on one hand. However, due to increased popularity of wind tunnel flying, they’re everywhere now. It’s no exaggeration to say that there’s a mighty windytube standing–or planned-for–in every major city.
From the earliest, non-recirculating behemoths in Orlando, Florida, Eloy, Arizona, and Perris, California to the sleek boxes that now saturate Europe and America, the world of the tunnel has changed entirely in the last handful of years. Its community, once tiny, has gained multitudes–and it’s no wonder why. The “crashpipe” has changed the face of airsports in a number of significant ways. It’s here to stay, y’awl…and here’s why.
There’s no getting around it: you can’t compete in skydiving’s freefall disciplines without spending a lot of time (and resources) flying in a wind tunnel. Top competitors spend an eye-popping amount of time in the airflow, trading long crawls to altitude for rotation after rotation doing hyper-precise, variable-controlled routine drills under the watchful eyes of multiple camera angles. Without tunnel time, for better or for worse, you’re doomed to the bottom of the scoreboard.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though–spending loads of time in the tunnel, even if you’re workshopping the same moves, remains toe-curling fun.
Y’know all that aforementioned hyper-precise drilling? Well–as you can imagine, the wind tunnel’s tight dimensions and intense scrutiny have exponentially advanced the art of freefall. Moves that once took months to nail in the sky now take a couple of (intense) days. Routines that weren’t even imaginable have become relatively commonplace. Even flying configurations have changed elementally since the advent of dynamic flight. It’s a brave new world out there, truly.
The toddler fliers of Dubai proved it to the world when they waddled into the 2014 Worlds in Bedford as “Mini Maktoum”: the tunnel is as much a playground as it is a training ground. With freefall no longer barred to comers under legal voting age, kids are learning the fanciest moves before they’ve graduated from lunchtime high chairs. (As it turns out, factory-fresh neurons are very helpful when you’re trying to figure out that outfacing snake.)
There are additional outgrowths of this phenomenon, of course: pizza parties at Chuck E. Cheese are now very passé, and middle-school kids are out-flying their lifer-skydiver parents.
This is all great news, of course! Tunnel flying, with all its proprioceptive turbocharging, its insistence on the magic of autotelia and its gymnastics-plus-cardio-plus-yoga conditioning, is a solidly healthy obsession for anybody, kiddies included.
Skydivers may form the bulk of the wind tunnel community, but parachutes are no longer required to rock impressive bodyflight chops. For people who love the idea of making beautiful shapes in the airflow but shrink from the idea of exits and landings, this is an absolute revelation.
The wind tunnel has also gone far to smooth the path to skydiving. Spending time wind tunnel flying and working on AFF maneuvers without the sound and fury of an aircraft can help soothe nerves and prepare your subconscious mind to execute license requirements much more efficiently. (It also bears mention that the tunnel-practice-first method can actually save money during the AFF process.)
If skydiving was once a place for an elite cadre of “adrenaline junkies” to hang out and pound their chests, the windytube has officially put that in the past. Everybody is welcome in the tunnel community–and everyone has something to gain.
Come and see! Try wind tunnel flying with the experienced team at Paraclete XP in Raeford, NC.
On our way to the US Open we passed the indoor skydiving facility. The next day was my husbands 71st birthday and he decided that's what he wanted to do for his birthday. It was for us to do together...., I was apprehensive but far be it for me to spoil his birthday. I read all your reviews and checked their safety first. What a pleasant surprise. I loved it. It is for all ages and better then jumping out of an airplane.... Just plain fun!!!