My teenage son and I did this last summer in the Perris tunnel, just East of Riverside, near Los Angeles, and had an absolute blast. I had heard of it, and since I probably would never have the guts to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, this seemed like a good way to get a big part of the thrill without the terror part. There is just nothing to compare it to – it’s totally wild. It’s a vertical wind tunnel, you know, like the kind in which the aerodynamics of aircraft and cars are tested.
Here’s the deal – there’s a jet engine in the top of a tower, and it sucks air through it which you can “ride” on in the middle of a plexiglass cylinder (diameter of the one in Perris is about 10’). It simulates the freefall portion of skydiving, so you can practice using your body as a human airfoil. The really experienced instructors can do all sorts of maneuvers in there, like near-weightless break dancing with spins, you name it. Check out the video on the Skydive Perris site, and prepare to be amazed!
Your first session is likely to be short (e.g. 2 or 3 minutes), and will consist of the instructor (in the tunnel with you) moving you around a lot to help you find your neutral belly flying position (classic skydiving position), and understand how even the tiniest movements of your arms or legs can change your body’s trajectory through the air. It’s all good stuff that anyone who wants to actually depart a plane in flight would find useful, plus you get a t-shirt and video.
Yeah, it’s expensive, but the memories will last a lifetime. When we went, we shared our tunnel time with a family of 3 generations who came together for the experience. The grandfather was in his 80s, and the youngest was a teenage boy, with mom in the middle. Just one word of caution, loose skin becomes QUITE noticeable in the 120 mph winds! But my hat is off to the patriarch who did this – not everyone would be up for such an adventure.
We did this one day last summer on a road trip to Southern California, and had so much fun we signed up for another session the following day. One of the guys working there was nice enough to video our flights for us using my own camcorder - how cool. When we finished we learned that a facility was being built up near where we live in the