To me, skydiving is reserved for when staying on the plane would prove far more dangerous. I’ve watched Wile E. Coyote plunge great distances too many times to ignore the possible result — a me-shaped hole in the ground, and confused people in China when I’ve hit hard enough. I don’t want that.

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But there is a great appeal to skydiving. It’s not that you’re weightless while you’re doing it — far from it, in fact — but that total freedom of movement must feel like the cat’s pajamas. Some of the sport’s enthusiasts boast having taken thousands of jumps, and they’re just not doing it for the little packet of peanuts they get on the flight up. That’s why I’m glad iFLY opened in Minnetonka a year ago. It’s as near as you can get to skydiving without any worry of becoming two dimensional.

iFly is centered around a giant, plexiglass tube, with fans that are capable of blowing air up through it at over 100 miles per hour. In practice the machine works no differently than if you were to suspend a ping-pong ball using a hairdryer, but at its scale it’s able to simulate freefalling for anyone that weighs less than 300 pounds. The floor is simply a springy mesh, and the tube itself is dozens of feet high to permit acrobatics.

There’s a great buildup to the action. You are given a jumpsuit and a helmet to protect your sensitive bits, and then ushered into a theater where you learn the basics of posture and the meanings of the hand gestures the instructor will use to communicate while the whir of giant fans renders conversation impossible. My group was paired with Sam, a sunny lady who had as good a way with the kids as she did my dense self.

As I waited for my turn, I watched Sam position and stabilize kids into airborne objects. They all came out of the tube grinning like idjits, just as happy as could be. To accommodate my aforementioned density, the man in the control booth cranked the fan up, and away I went. At first I had trouble fighting my urge to stiffen as I was propelled, but with Sam’s help I soon turned into an absolute kite.

I felt like Charlie Bucket after he’d stolen Fizzy Lifting Drink, or a hamster glad to be at the mercy of a toddler with a central vacuum cleaner. Along with Sam I even managed to shoot far up into the tube’s heights. Once back out, I noticed my stomach was doing the things it does when it has been steeped in adrenaline. I could only imagine what the experience must have felt like to the kids wearing optional VR goggles. We have come a long way from the View-Master.

Sam then demonstrated to us what regular practice at iFLY enables you to do — backflips, frontflips, pirouettes, and maneuvers which I haven’t got names for. She looked like the plastic bag from American Beauty that makes you believe in a higher power. Sam’s exhibition proved that iFLY is not necessarily a one-time novelty. Were you to opt into their Flight School (taught by International Bodyflight Association certified instructors, no less), you could very well learn moves that would make Superman jealous.

Have your kid’s birthday party there, and it’ll be the one that other parents feel obliged to beat. Take your employees to iFLY and they’ll bond over a singular shared experience. And because iFLY is so entertaining an exhibition of physics at work, it makes a brilliant STEM field trip for students of all ages. Science is always far more engaging when it’s blasting you up into the air.

Whether you sign up to become an iFLY master, incorporate their tube into a social occasion, or even try it only once to satisfy your curiosity about freefalling, you’re never going to forget the time you spent there. Visit iflyworld.com/minneapolis to learn more!

 

By David Scheller