U.S. Air Force Academy Visitor’s Center iFLY Tunnel Set to Open in Late 2021
The new 14-foot iFLY tunnel will become the second wind tunnel in Colorado and is part of a massive building project to rejuvenate the USAFA Visitor’s Center
The new 14-foot iFLY tunnel will become the second wind tunnel in Colorado and is part of a massive building project to rejuvenate the USAFA Visitor’s Center.
Groundbreaking for a new iFLY center in Colorado Springs, USA took place at the end of last month and construction is currently underway, with the tunnel set to open to the public later this year. When completed, the 14-foot (4.3 m) Gen 9 tunnel will become the state’s second wind tunnel, after the 12-foot (3.7 m) recirculating iFLY location in Lone Tree, Denver.
This new iFLY tunnel is part of a massive renovation project involving the creation of a new visitor’s center for the prestigious U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA), which has served as a landmark in Colorado Springs since its founding in 1954. Once one of Colorado’s top tourist destinations, with over 700,000 annual visitors, the USAFA’s numbers shrunk after the September 11th terrorist attacks, largely because of increased restrictions imposed due to safety concerns. This academy and the city hope this new visitor’s center will change that.
The facility will span 32,000 square feet and include 7,800 square feet of exhibit space, along with a 250-seat theater, VR and AR systems for tourists, retail and restaurant offerings, and the 14-foot iFLY tunnel. The central structure features a unique architectural design, sporting a quartet of wing-like roofs, strung together in steadily rising formation to give the appearance that the building is taking flight.
The facility sits just across the I-25 from the USAFA. will be owned and operated through HiFLYght LLC, a partnership of three retired Air Force colonels, Joel Maynard, Omar Bradley, and Korky von Kessel. The trio graduated from the Air Force Academy together in 1979. They now all live and work locally, and have been working together on the project since 2017.
The wind tunnel facility will be both used for military training exercises and open to the general public. “We plan to use this as an educational tool and team-building opportunity,” Maynard told the Colorado Springs Gazette. “We hope the training will give the public a better understanding about what’s going on out there.”
“HiFLYght LLC recognizes the inherent benefits of providing a hands-on training facility located near the Academy reservation as a chance to complement the Academy’s mission of ‘developing leaders of character,’” iFLY announced. “Likewise, the facility will serve to educate and inform the general public about the Air Force Academy and their premier airmanship programs.”
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