iFLY Colorado Springs Sets the Pace to Popularize Indoor Skydiving
Indoor skydiving is gaining popularity globally, opening doors to a new generation of athletes, according to the 2022 skydiving industry report. Traditionally, the United States and Europe have held large industry shares with many tunnels dotted across the continents. However, experts point to a rise in tunnel openings in South America, Asia, and the Middle East, signaling renewed interest in the sport.
Although COVID and supply chain issues have contributed to a slow recovery by various sectors, players in the industry believe that indoor skydiving has a bright future and the potential to become an official Olympic sport. “Indoor skydiving is a meticulously well-structured competitive sport at all levels. Competition rules for national and world-level championships have been in place for many years,” said Korky von Kessel, Co-owner of iFLY Colorado Springs. “The greater sport of indoor skydiving covers several specific disciplines that are thrilling to watch and perfectly adaptable to an Olympic format.”
The French Parachuting Federation applied to the Olympic Games Organizing Committee and proposed the inclusion of indoor skydiving in the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. While there is no decision yet, von Kessel is still optimistic. He hopes that one day, indoor skydiving Olympic competitions will take place at iFLY Colorado Springs. “What better place to hold future Olympic competitions than at iFLY Colorado Springs in the heart of Olympic City USA?” poses von Kessel.
Colorado Springs’ thriving military, recreation, and tourism industries influenced three retired Air Force Colonels to start HiFlyght LLC, doing business as iFLY Colorado Springs, in 1998 to cater to the growing need for indoor skydiving and provide an alternative to jumping from an airplane or operating a parachute, in a more controlled environment.
The tallest wind Tunnel in the United States
Opened in 2021 at Polaris Pointe, iFLY Colorado Springs is the newest, tallest, and fastest wind tunnel in the United States. Measuring 40 feet tall, the facility provides safe, instructor-driven flying lessons to new and experienced flyers to learn and improve their skills. The tunnel also serves as a training tool for the Air Force Academy’s core jump programs, Fort Carson’s 10th Special Forces Group, and the U.S. Air Force Academy’s Wings of Blue Parachute Team, tasked with running the U.S. Air Force Academy’s Basic Freefall Parachuting Course. “The wind tunnel allows cadets to maintain proficiency during poor weather. And the proximity to the Academy allows them to flex their operations on short notice based on real-time weather,” said Omar Bradley, Co-owner of iFLY Colorado Springs. “The ability to regularly use a vertical freefall simulator greatly enhances safety for all jump cadets, allowing them to perfect their body flight position before actually jumping from an airplane.”
iFLY Colorado Springs also provides experiential learning classes for students pursuing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). The training curriculum comprises interactive lectures, physics demonstrations, and flight experiences. “By merging education with exhilaration, we aim to inspire the next generation of innovators and thinkers, making STEM subjects an unforgettable adventure,” said Catherine Moore, Sales and Marketing Manager for HiFlyght.
Growing popularity of indoor skydiving
The higher costs often associated with the industry impact the ability to make indoor skydiving a popular sport. Danielle O’Neill, General Manager for HiFlyght believes costs can decrease if industry partners work together. “Working to create more efficient tunnels and communicating with local electricity providers is the key to lowering the cost barrier and making indoor skydiving accessible to more people,” said O’Neill. “Sponsorship, from professional flyers all the way down to entry-level athletes, is another avenue to help open the sport up to a wider range of participants.”
The return of indoor skydiving as a competitive sport, post-pandemic, helps make the sport more popular, given the many world competitions that continue to bring media attention to the industry. In 2022, iFLY Colorado Springs hosted the 2022 National Indoor Skydiving competition, bringing together over 150 competitors across the United States. The winners advanced to the World Indoor Skydiving competition in Slovakia. Bradley noted a growing demand from the military to utilize the wind tunnel time for safety training and mission training requirements.
With 217 operational tunnels and 20 under construction globally in 2022, Indoor skydiving continues to experience rapid growth. Chris Frayer, Lead instructor for iFly Colorado Springs, envisions an evolution of advanced flying experience, new sporting categories, and more complex routines in the future. Indoor Skydiving will also become more desirable due to advanced technology that enables higher quality and professional viewing experiences for fans at sporting arenas and viewers at home.