iFLY Tunnel Opening in the Heart of London
The legendary O2 Arena will soon house the UK’s newest wind tunnel. It exhibits a growing trend to bring wind tunnels to accessible urban centers.
The United Kingdom is soon to welcome a new wind tunnel, an iFLY that’s opening smack dab in the center of downtown London. Dubbed “iFLY London,” this new indoor skydiving facility launches on December 15, 2022. It will be iFLY’s fourth wind tunnel in the UK—not counting the iFLY-built tunnel at The Bear Grylls Adventure—and the country’s sixth overall wind tunnel.
But unlike other UK wind tunnels, this new indoor skydiving facility will be located in the heart of London, inside the world-famous O2 Arena. Because of this iFLY London, tucked right in the middle of one of the largest and most densely-populated cities on the planet, will easily be the most accessible wind tunnel in the nation, and perhaps the world.
Way Out in the Boonies
It might seem like a strange claim, because there are dozens upon dozens of wind tunnels open around the world now, and iFLY has close to 100 locations alone. But busy urban centers have never traditionally been prime locations for wind tunnels. Take a look at our wind tunnel database, and you’ll find that almost all indoor skydiving facilities are either located a) in skydiving dropzones, out in rural flatlands far from major cities, or b) in suburban strip malls and shopping centers, like most iFLYs.
The former is true because initially, indoor skydiving was merely a training component of outdoor skydiving. Most first-generation wind tunnels, like SkyVenture Arizona and Perris Indoor Skydiving in California, were built as accessories to existing skydiving dropzones. (For more on outdoor skydiving, check out our sister site, Skydiving Source.)
The latter is true because wind tunnels are quite difficult to construct, requiring very specific architectural layouts. Accommodating a 14-foot wide, 20-foot tall glass tunnel—not to mention the accompanying fans, engines, and other components—simply isn’t possible in many pre-existing buildings in dense urban areas. So it’s often far easier (and cheaper) to simply create a new structure from the ground up.
Wind tunnels have sprung up in many (perhaps even most) major cities around the world in the last decade—from the United States to Italy to China. But almost none of those tunnels are located in urban centers, within walking distance of downtown. The closest iFLYs to New York City, for example, aren’t in Manhattan or Brooklyn, but out in the surrounding boroughs of Yonkers and Paramus. The same is true in San Francisco, where the only wind tunnel isn’t on the peninsula, but way out in Fremont, across the bay. It’s a similar story in urban centers across the globe, from Madrid to Tokyo to Sydney. But recently a few exceptions have popped up—like Fööni in downtown Helsinki and now iFLY at the O2—making indoor skydiving more accessible than ever before.
Making It Easy to Fly
It goes without saying that indoor skydiving has long been considered a sport of the privileged. It’s not as expensive as you might think, particularly when flying in tunnels outside of First World countries, like FLY Tornado in Mexico. But it’s safe to say that bodyflight is never going to be as affordable as basketball or soccer.
However, when you buy bulk flight packages or sign up for training camps, the cost of individual flights typically goes down considerably. Working as an instructor at wind tunnels, as well, can be a great way for a budding flyer to get free tunnel time.
The finances are just one barrier, though. With most wind tunnels out in the suburbs or rural areas, you’d need access to a car (and likely need to drive 30 minutes to an hour) to get to a tunnel to train. Between busy school or work schedules, most folks don’t have time for that. A centrally-located tunnel like iFLY London eliminates that problem for hundreds of thousands of Londoners, putting indoor skydiving just a stone’s throw (or a metro ride) away, whether they hope to work at the tunnel as an instructor, train as a regular flyer, or just try it out as a beginner.
iFLY chief executive Simon Ward echoed this sentiment in a press release. “We’re thrilled to be bringing the iFLY experience to the capital,” he said. “iFLY is for everyone, any background, any ability, and any age … opening the experience to Londoners is the next step in our mission to deliver the dream of flight to everyone.”
iFLY London will also feature iFLY’s new virtual reality offering, already released at many locations, such as iFLY Montreal, which we recently profiled in our new column “Tunnel Talk.” iFLY Montreal’s general manager JC Ouimet, a veteran skydiver and tunnel pro, was thrilled with the new VR experience, mentioning that it’s quickly becoming the best part of the wind tunnel experience for new flyers. “Even as a skydiver and tunnel flyer, it was amazing for me to try,” he told ISS. “I can’t even imagine how cool it is for a first-time flyer.”
Stay tuned here at Indoor Skydiving Source for more updates on the new London tunnel, or visit iFLY London’s location page, where you can check out a promo video, book a flight, buy vouchers, and sign up for their mailing list. The tunnel is also looking for staff, and will ultimately employ between 30 and 40 team members. If you’re a local flyer, be sure to check out iFLY’s career page to learn more about that opportunity.
Published: November 30, 2022 | Last Updated: December 2, 2022
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