Fly Guys

Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s… your kid!

The list of things that I intend to never, ever do includes 1. Ice-climbing. 2. All day Caillou marathon party! 3. Skydiving.

I know, I know. It’s an adrenaline rush, people love it, YOLO, blah, blah, blah. What can I say? That kind of extreme adventuring just isn’t my cup of tea.

So when my kids had the chance to check out Portland’s new palace of indoor skydiving, iFLY PDX in Tigard, a stone’s throw from Washington Square Mall, I happily signed them up, but decided I’d be an interested, camera phone-wielding bystander.

Right upfront, it must be said that iFLY is a special occasion, perfect for a birthday party or a congrats-on-your-awesome-report-card kind of a place, but maybe not for your average Tuesday playdate, given the cost. Pro tip: We bought our tickets through Costco, which has tickets for two one-minute flights per person for $48.99. (The face value price per person is $69.95.)

Before heading out there, I showed my kids the video on the iFLY website, to whet their appetites. My daughter’s eyes got big, while her twin brother applied his new favorite word: “That looks EPIC, Mom.” FYI, kids as young as 3 can fly; grown-ups who want to try it out need to be under 250 pounds for safety reasons.

Following iFLY’s instructions, we arrived an hour before our scheduled flight time, which might be more necessary on a crowded Saturday when you’ve got to wait in line for your boarding pass, so to speak. We went on a relatively calm weekday, and so we had some extra time to watch other groups of flyers try it out. Essentially, flyers are placed into a gigantic, vertical wind tunnel, with what my son termed “the world’s biggest air conditioner” blasting up enough air to keep you floating. A certified flight instructor is inside the wind tunnel with you at all times, and kept a protective hand hovering on or near my kids during their flight.

About half an hour before it’s time to fly, you’re called over to change into your protective flight suit, helmet, goggles and given disposable earplugs. (Because wind blowing at 100 miles an hour, it turns out, is rather loud.) The kids and the two other women in our group were then ushered into a nearby room to watch a safety video, where they were taught the hand signals that the instructor would flash at them during their flight. (Because, again, conversation is impossible in the wind tunnel.) Basically it boiled down to: “Chin up. Eyes up. Relax! Open your arms and lean into the wind. Keep your legs apart and slightly bent. Relax!”

I was impressed with our sweet young instructor, who took some extra time to make my obviously nervous daughter feel comfortable, double-checking the fit on her flight suit, high-fiving her and promising that she could stick her hand into the tunnel first to feel the wind speed before launching her whole body in.

My son volunteered to go first when it came time to fly, and grinned like a maniac the entire time as he swooped around the wind tunnel, partly with some assistance from his instructor and for a few brief, stomach-churning seconds, suspended entirely on his own. Watching from the outside, it felt like both the longest minute of my life and as though it was over far too soon. My daughter lost her look of apprehension after the first 10 seconds and then looked as though she were suspended in a dream.

Braver for his second go-round, my son wanted to do a “high-fly” — for an extra $10 the instructor will grasp onto you tightly and take you soaring up to the tippety-top of the air tunnel, about 40 feet. Carried away, I nodded “yes” and watched as he flew so high I needed to crane my neck to capture it on video. (See the clip at pdxparent.com/video-flying-at-ifly/). Afterwards when I went to pay for it, our instructor told me not to worry about it, saying he was happy to do it for small, light kids. I left an extra-big tip to recognize his generosity.

The show doesn’t end there, either. When your flight turns are up, the instructors will put on a show, somersaulting and Spiderman-walking their way around the tunnel. My kids pressed their noses against the glass and watched, riveted.

After the kids de-suited and received their “flight certificate” I was braced for a hard sell on the photo/video packages, but it never came. (And I had managed to get some good images with my smartphone.) On the drive home, I tried to get the kids to describe their experience, and realized that I felt like I had missed out. So, maybe next time. After all, YOLO, right?

iFly Portland Indoor Skydiving: 10645 SW Greenburg Road, Tigard.
Call for hours, 971-804-4359 or check iflyworld.com/portland. 

Julia Silverman

Julia Silverman

Julia is a former Associated Press Oregon education and politics reporter, who has also worked as a web editor at Oregon Public Broadcasting. She likes reading, cooking, hiking, swimming, and being left alone at the end of the day to watch some pretty bad TV. Her twins, Ben and Elly, like making trouble.
Julia Silverman

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