Today I tried iFly indoor sky diving. Basically, a big fan blows air up from below at anywhere from 120 to 170 miles per hour, while you surf the updraft, suspended above a net at an altitude of anything from two feet to about thirty five feet.

I loved it! And it made an interesting comparison to real skydiving.

The real thing is much wilder during free fall — you don’t have control over temperature or wind speed, since you are literally falling through the sky after having dropped out of an airplane.

Compared to that, the iFly experience is a bit like skydiving in your living room. Which is not necessarily a bad thing.

While you are “flying”, there are people all around the glass enclosure watching you. I had a great time waving at them, giving the thumbs up, and occasionally making a funny face.

The wonderful science fiction short story “The Menace from Earth” by Robert Heinlein describes a similar enterprise on a moon colony. Only on the moon they are able to make the whole thing a lot bigger, having only have 1/6 earth gravity to contend with.

I would imagine the experience Heinlein describes, with lots of room to swoop and glide, would be a lot closer to real flying. I guess we’re not going to find out until moon colonies have recreational facilities.

After the iFly experience, I found myself thinking “wouldn’t it be great to have one of these for my very own!” Imagine “flying” in one of these while wearing a wireless Oculus Rift. Now that could make for one cool video game experience.

Alas, the price for even the smallest and least expensive “vertical wind tunnel” starts at about $250K, and goes up rapidly from there into the millions.

On the other hand, suppose I were to design one from scratch…

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