Wind tunnels are great fun. Pitched as “indoor skydiving simulators”, they offer skydivers and non-skydivers an opportunity to try body flight in a different environment, and have been popping up across the UK since 2005, most recently at the Bear Grylls Adventure in Birmingham.
While we believe that no experience can ever come even close to that of a real life skydive, we do recognise that skydivers can benefit from time spent in the wind tunnel to refine their skills and improve their freefall abilities. Here are our tips to help you get the most benefit out of your wind tunnel time, including our ‘value ratings’ to help you decide whether an investment in tunnel time is right for you.
Wind tunnels for first timers
Value rating: OK – but why not just go straight to tandem and experience it for real?!
Wind tunnels are great for simulating freefall and allowing skydivers to refine their freefall body position. But if you’ve never jumped before, you’re going to struggle to get a sense of what it’s like to jump out of a plane without just doing it.
Of course, there are some scenarios where wind tunnel might be better, such as if you are too young (under 16) to jump or have a medical reason not to. But on the whole, we recommend coming and giving it a go – find out more about tandem skydiving here.
Wind tunnels for AFF / Static Line students
Value rating: High – a great place to refine your body position and improve your in air skills
Wind tunnels are fantastic for people who are just embarking on or part way through their skydiving journey to A license. If you’re just starting out, or a few jumps in, you might be finding that your freefall body position needs refinement. Perhaps you’re struggling a little with maintaining your arch. Maybe your DRP position isn’t quite there. You might be struggling a bit with your turns and need a bit of help.
That’s where wind tunnel is a great tool. By spending as little as 10 minutes flying with one of Langar’s instructors – who are frequently available at iFly in Birmingham or Bodyflight at Bedford – you can hone your freefall skills and return to the sky better equipped to nail that next level.
Even if you’re not struggling, the tunnel provides clear reference points, namely the walls and net, that will enable you to tweak and improve, enhancing your skills now and for the future.
Wind tunnels for 4 way skydivers
Value rating: High – but structure your tunnel time depending on where you’re at in your season
The tunnel is a really valuable tool for 4 way FS teams in particular – but should be used with a note of caution.
In Chimera, we have traditionally structured our season around two main parts, the first being where we learn and improve, and the second being a phase of tweaking and muscle memory.
That means in the early part of our season, we use the tunnel to learn the techniques. Let’s say we were changing the way we spin a 1, or trying a translation rather that rotation on a 21. We’ll use the tunnel reference points – the walls and the net – to support our training by saying that, for example, James needs to aim for the window, or Will needs to push through to the other wall, and so on. We’ll also typically align this phase with indoor skydiving competitions like the Wind Games and World Challenge, by using techniques that do reference the walls etc and practicing things like launches into the tunnel.
In the second part of our season, we will use the tunnel to tweak and drill where necessary, and to build muscle memory. We love the phase practice makes permanent and it’s on this basis that we use the tunnel to repeat the things we’re happy with and build them into our muscle memory. We will also use the tunnel to tweak things, say something isn’t working quite right in the sky, we’ll bring it to the tunnel and just do something like 13 – M, to drill the 13 move. We will do the tweaking without rigs on, but the practice and muscle memory with our rigs (and rig covers) on.
However you choose to use the tunnel, it’s valuable to think of it as a tool, rather than just doing as much time as you can. Quality over quantity.
Wind tunnels for skills development
Value: High – when you have the right coach to help
We know all about the many qualifications available in skydiving and we celebrate achieving new stickers. The wind tunnel is a great place to build the skills you need for those new stickers, such as FS1 or FF1 – but that’s not where the story ends.
Skills development happens all the time. The wonderful thing about our sport is that there’s always something new to learn, so there’s really no need to stop learning as soon as you land the sticker.
Say you just got your FS1 – that’s awesome! Want to continue to develop in FS? Getting the jumps in will definitely help (and skydiving is always better than tunnel, right?) but heading to the tunnel for 20 minutes of 1 on 1 coached time can help refine your body position, improve your turns, make you more agile and create a much snappier, much more precise way of flying that’ll serve you well on your next jump. We regularly coach qualified skydivers to enhance their FS skills.
The same is true of other disciplines such as FF, where time with a coach can supercharge your progression.
And that’s it! Our tips for making the most of the tunnel as a tool for skydivers. Of course, this isn’t to say you shouldn’t just go to the tunnel for fun, as it is a lot of fun, but if you’re making the investment, it’s worth structuring your training to maximise the benefit.