April 15, 2024
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April 15, 2024
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Soaring High: My Experience at iFly

High Flight.

Anyone living in Bergen County has inevitably driven on Route 4 at some point, and passed by Paramus’ premiere thrill-seeking attraction, iFly. iFly utilizes a vertical wind tunnel to enable visitors to experience the sensation of flight without planes or parachutes. During Presidents’ Day Weekend, I visited iFly to experience for myself the weightless sensation of flight.

The visionary behind iFly’s groundbreaking technology and the original founder of the company was a man named Bill Kitchen, who today is the CEO and Founder of the U.S. ThrillRides and Thrillcorp. Kitchen began with a background in electrical engineering with a special interest in skydiving and thrill-seeking in the ‘90s. In 1995, he developed the patent for a “Skydiving Trainer Wind Tunnel,’’ and three years later, in 1998, he opened his prototype location in Orlando, Florida, calling it “SkyVenture.” SkyVenture grew immensely popular and was even visited by former President George H.W. Bush. This popularity caught the attention of Alan Metni, a member of the U.S. skydiving team, who began working with Kitchen to expand the business. In 2002, Kitchen sold Metni the rights to SkyVenture, which Metni then rebranded as iFly. Today, there are over 80 iFly locations in the U.S., Canada, Brazil, France, New Zealand, Australia, Great Britain, China and Singapore, as well as on five cruise ships.

I believe I can Fly.

The Paramus location opened in April 2018 and is located right across the street from Ben Porat Yosef.

Booking a reservation on iFly’s website was very simple. I was able to select a time and date, choosing to fly on a Sunday night during off-peak hours, which are 30% less expensive than regular hours, for two regular flights. I also paid extra to upgrade to include two High Flights, in which the instructor takes riders even higher. iFly recommends arriving 20 minutes before your flight time. After driving just eight minutes from my apartment, I was able to easily find a parking spot in iFly’s large parking lot. Walking inside, I felt like I had entered an astronaut training center. In front of me was a glossy white counter with a red wall behind it revealing a large iFly logo. The receptionist confirmed my name and booking and then asked me to sign a few waivers. After these few steps, I was able to enter the main tunnel room.

I was immediately blown away by the room’s impressive layout and the magnificent see-through glass wind tunnel. The room was a giant circle with comfortable couches surrounding the center wind tunnel, offering ample viewing from all angles. Inside the tunnel, I observed an instructor helping a guest fly properly. For new guests, the instructor stayed close by, helping guests navigate their airtime. For more experienced guests, the instructor was very hands-off, instead teaching tricks such as flipping, barrel rolling and how to spin.

Floating on my own with support.

At around 6 p.m., the instructor, Cameron, called everyone in my time slot to follow him to the lockers where we would store all of our belongings. We had to empty our pockets, and I even had to take off my wedding ring and store it in a locker. We were then each given flight suits to put on. The flight suits were extremely light and baggy, which made them conducive to picking up the air and buoyancy. On the back of the suits were two soft rungs which, once we were in the wind tunnel, were used by the instructors to grab the visitors and direct them steadily.

Once our suits were on, Cameron motioned us to a nearby room where we watched a flight training video. The video explained that it gets very loud in the wind tunnel, so it’s important to follow the instructor’s hand gestures during your flight. For example, one signal included spreading out the two fingers like a scissor which means “spread legs out,” another was fingers curled which means “legs bent,” fingers straight means “straightened legs,” and pinky and thumb out means “relax, breathe better.”

Following the tutorial, we were each given earplugs, a thin head sock, and a helmet with a visor to put on. Cameron told us that because of the loud sound inside the tunnel, it’s safer to wear earplugs, which he handed each of us. The helmets were actually very tight and once the visor was down, it locked into place. For a moment, I felt a little claustrophobic after I failed to unlock the visor, but after a few tries, I was able to figure out how to unlock the mechanism. If you get claustrophobic easily, make sure not to lock the visor without the instructor there to show you how to unlock it.

Standing proud after conquering iFly.

At last, with our training complete and our suits on, we were able to enter the flight machine. Outside the wind tunnel, there was an enclosed bench area, reminiscent of a baseball dugout, where we all sat to wait for our turn. As each person entered, everyone slid down a seat to be closer to the tunnel for their turn. This area was sealed off from the outside so that when the door opened and the wind blasted, it remained confined to just the bench waiting area. Meanwhile, all the surrounding walls were see-through, allowing us to watch both the people flying in the wind tunnel and the onlookers. Several participants in my group were small children, so this feature was nice, allowing them to see their parents giving them encouraging smiles and thumbs up. In front of the tunnel, an employee controlled the wind speed, turning it on and off and adjusting the speed for High Flights. Next to that employee was a camera that recorded and took photographs of the flyers. In the waiting room, there was a giant flat-screen television that displayed footage of each flier in the wind tunnel, with a one-minute delay, so that when the person finished flying, they could view how their flight went.

Before my first flight, I was honestly quite nervous. I was afraid that I would not be able to hear anything from Cameron, so I was relying on only hand motions. The flight experience, too, was intimidating in this large tube with dozens of people watching. I noticed that the smaller guests, such as the children, seemed to fly the best due to their lighter weight and their ability to go higher. Other guests were struggling to fly well and were not able to partake in the High Flight segment. When it was my turn, Cameron motioned for me to dive as if I were diving into a pool. Instinctively, I followed his instructions and was hit with a blast of wind that propelled me upwards. I was flying!

The feeling of flying was not something I had ever experienced. It wasn’t as smooth as a bird flying, as I had hoped it would be—I clearly felt a ton of wind blowing at my body, keeping me suspended. Nonetheless, the experience of being airborne and detached from the ground was exhilarating. I tried going in a Superman pose with my legs straight and arms out, but I’ll admit, my nerves kept my body shaking. The whole time, I was no more than a couple of feet off the ground, and Cameron was by my side, preventing me from bumping into walls.

Outside iFly.

After a minute or so, Cameron took me out of the vacuum chamber and removed his helmet so that I could hear him. He then shared advice, noting that I wasn’t breathing consistently and suggesting that I should ensure my legs weren’t wobbly. We then went back into the tunnel where I tried flying again, this time with some more success. After a few seconds, Cameron then also kicked his own legs upward for the High Flight segment. Suddenly, we were both floating up much higher, over 15 feet up! A couple of times Cameron spun us down and then back up very high. This was by far my favorite part of the whole experience and felt the most “real,” as if I were actually flying.

Once I finished, I returned to the waiting room and took a seat at the end of the bench, awaiting my turn for the second flight. After approximately 15 minutes, when everyone else had completed their second turn, I was able to go for my second flight, which would be higher. This time around, I felt much calmer and flew much better. There were a few occasions when I soared a few feet too high, prompting Cameron to pull me down due to my increased buoyancy. This time, I also focused on posing for the camera better and smiling for photos. Then, Cameron once again took me up for the High Flight, which was awesome.

After everyone had experienced their flights, Cameron told us that he would be performing some nifty stunts. Cameron went into the tunnel, and the panelist who controlled the wind increased the power to a very high speed. Cameron soared well over 30 feet in the air, performing flips and barrel rolls, and surfing along the walls. It was very impressive and numerous kids asked if they could become staff to learn how to fly like that too. Unfortunately, you need to be 18 years or older to work there, so they’ll need to wait a few years. At the end of the experience, there was a 50% off offer to pay for a $75 voucher for four future flight lessons to get more advanced and be able to learn some tricks.

In order to ride at iFly you need to be at least 3 years old. Flyers must undergo an evaluation by an iFLY staff member upon check-in to determine if they can be accommodated and whether additional restrictions will apply. Anyone above 300 pounds, pregnant or with prior shoulder dislocation is prohibited from flying. iFly suggests wearing comfortable clothing and gym shoes for the experience.

Overall, iFly was certainly a very fun experience and something I had never been able to do before. However, I didn’t like how most of the riders were rushed out with anywhere from seven to 15 seconds left on the clock. It’s an expensive experience and each flight only lasted around a minute, so there was anywhere from 10-25% of each session in which the instructor didn’t allow flight time in order to get the next person in quicker. When it’s such a short ride, every second counts, so I didn’t appreciate that we didn’t get our fully allotted time.

Surprisingly, I would recommend iFly more for younger aviators. It’s very safe, and the children in my group seemed to love it. For thrill-seekers, it’s nothing too crazy, so don’t overhype it. It’s fun, but it didn’t give me a crazy rush.

iFly is a great local attraction to check out if you are curious and have ever wanted to experience a flying sensation. Prepare to be blown away!

Admission: Regular price for two people is $99.99 for two flights. Can vary by group size.

Deals: 2 Flights Super Saver Weekdays 11 a.m.—4 p.m. (not on peak times) and Sunday night is $69.99.

Hours: Wednesday – Friday 10 a.m. – 6:30 p.m., extended to 8 p.m. on weekends, closed

Monday and Tuesday.

Address: 211 E State Route 4, Paramus, NJ 07652-5102

Phone: (201) 733-4359

Website: www.iflyworld.com/paramus

Zachary Greenberg is a consultant at Semler Brossy and the TABC track coach. In 2015, Zack won a game of “line-up” as part of the halftime show at an FDU basketball game. Zack also recently watched the movie “Madame Web” in theaters. If you have any recommendations of fun places for him to cover, email [email protected].

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