1. It destroys the holiday doldrums
The second week of the December holidays can be challenging for families: The luster is starting to fade from new toys, dad still hasn’t figured out how to charge the Tiny Tots Toy Taser, and exhaustion is starting to replace the adrenaline rush of Dec. 24 and 25. So what better way to kick-start Week 2 than by being lifted off the ground by hurricane-force winds?
2. It’s great bucket-list prep
I know I’m not alone in wanting to parachute out of an airplane one day. I’m not sure when this will happen — probably once my daughters are financially self-sufficient — but after two minute-long flights with iFly (pictured below) I now know for certain that skydiving is bucket-list material.
3. Just about anyone can do it
It amazes me that children as young as four can take part in the iFly flights; I regret not bringing Grace, 5, along. It actually seemed easier for the three youngsters in our group than it did for the adults, what with their limber extremities and fearlessness. It’s not at effortless activity, with my core and arms having to work quite hard to push back against the rushing wind. But with standard flights lasting just 60 seconds each, my 75-year-old father-in-law, who came to watch (and heckle?), seemed eager to give it a go.
4. It’s simple
The flying itself may not be effortless, but the 30-minute orientation and training session is easy to follow, with the six hand signals — relax, lift your chin, straighten your legs etc. — seeming quite intuitive, especially once you’re airborne.
5. It costs nothing (sort of)
My visit came courtesy of the the Aeroplan loyalty program, which offers “introductory” iFly packages — two minute-long flights with all gear and training — as a 9,500-point reward.
6. The outfits
On one hand, I always enjoy pulling on Super Dave Osborne-style onesies, helmets and goggles. On the other, flyers can't conceal much on their windward sides, and after a week of festive gorging, well, let’s just say the Goodyear logo would have fit right in on my outfit.
7. The show
The lower section of the wind tunnel is encased in glass, with comfortable seating provided for spectators. You can purchase photos from iFly, of course, but friends and family can also take great pix and video.
8. The pro show
After each group finishes their outing, their instructor jumps into the tunnel to demonstrate the eye-popping dives, flips, spins and more that seasoned skydivers can pull off (pictured below). This on its own is worth the price of admission.
9. The ear plugs
The roar of the wind is deafening in the tunnel, so flyers are required to wear disposable ear plugs (hence the hand signals). After a week of fielding festive requests pretty much non-stop, the surreal silence of the flight was strangely soothing.
10. There’s room to grow
Our instructor gave us the option to soar with him “to the top” — right up to the ceiling of the tunnel — for an extra $10. When he first asked, no one in our group accepted the offer, but a couple flyers did during their second flights. I’m not sure why I declined — I guess it was because I was having a good time thumbs-upping my family through the glass — but I’m glad there will be a new experience waiting the next time I fly.