By Michelle Colesanti

The exhilaration of flying is too keen, the pleasure too great, for it to be neglected as a sport. — Orville Wright.

Who hasn’t dreamed of being able to fly? While skydiving may be a great option for some, there are many others who would like to experience the feel of flying, but prefer staying closer to the ground.

Indoor skydiving simulates freefall in a vertical wind tunnel, which moves air in a vertical column at speeds high enough to keep you safely floating.

iFLY Tampa offers this experience for all ages, and most anyone can participate. If you are already an experienced skydiver, this is the place to safely practice and improve your maneuvers.

This new Tampa location is the 26th one in the U.S. with over 60 worldwide.

“Our mission is to deliver the dream of flight to everybody, whether you’re age three or 103,” said Matt Ryan, iFLY President and COO.

Since the new iFLY Tampa recently opened, the Osprey Observer team wanted to put that dream of flight to the test. Eleven staff members visited the new facility for some team building. This was an opportunity to ‘fly’ out of our comfort zone.

After checking in, we joined our instructor Ryan Bolohan for a training class. Bolohan has been working at iFLY for almost two years recently transferring here from the Chicago location.
“Instructing is awesome, every day I get to work my dream job. I get to share the passion I have for flying with everyone. I think it is really special to see the look on people’s faces when they experience flight,” he commented.

We watched a short video and received information we’d need regarding proper body position. Because it is loud inside the wind tunnel, you also need to rely on hand signals. After completion, we were ready to suit up in our gear, which included a flight suit, goggles and helmet. We were now ready to fly.

Everyone had the opportunity to fly for two one minute sequences. Staff members ranged from excited to extremely nervous, but in the end, everyone flew twice and felt the exhilaration of flying and more importantly, a great feeling of accomplishment. Staff cheered and clapped and encouraged each participant as they took their turns. On our second flight, we all experienced the high fly, which takes you about 15-20 ft. up with your instructor. This experience offered a different feel to the basic flying package. I felt as if I were floating on air – a little bit like Peter Pan. This can be experienced for an additional fee.

Billing Manager Terry Vassalotti approached the tunnel with apprehension. “I was nervous, but I felt completely safe in that environment, which put me at ease.”

Our flight instructor had something to do with that.

“Ryan was a true pro. He was so patient with us and made sure we were safe and comfortable. High flight was exhilarating, and I can’t wait to bring my sons to enjoy the experience of iFLY,” said Multimedia News Editor Cyndi Cisneros.

This is one of the best team building experiences we have experienced as a team.
iFLY also offers a Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) Education program using iFLY’s unique vertical wind tunnel facility to make it exciting, relevant, and accessible to all students. The curriculum has been designed by teachers and STEM professionals to support STEM learning in the classroom.

How does it compare to an actual sky dive experience? We asked Bolohan that question since he is also a skydive instructor with about 1500 jumps under his belt, and holds two world records. “The iFLY experience is different from a sky dive because of the most obvious. No plane ride and no parachute at the end. But the way the wind on your body feels and the way you control your movements are identical. Freefall is always freefall.”

Graphics Manager Denise Graf had the time of her life. “It gave me the opportunity to experience something I would never have enough nerve to do at 13,000 or more feet off the ground.”

There are many flight packages to choose from. For one person to fly two one minute flights, the cost is $59.95. All packages include training, flight gear, and flight time with an International Bodyflight Association (IBA) certified instructor.

Would we do it again? Advertising Rep Trisha Becker said, “This was the most fun I’ve had in a long time. There isn’t another theme park ride that could compare.” Most of the staff agreed that we’d not only do it again, but share the experience with family and friends.

iFLY is located at 10654 Palm River Rd. in Tampa. It is open Monday-Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m.-10 p.m. iFLY’s flight packages and prices and to book your flight time at iFLY Tampa, visit https://www.iflyworld.com/tampa/ or call 773-4359.

Ribbon Cutting Will Be Held at iFLY Tampa to Celebrate Opening

Join in for a ribbon cutting celebrating the opening of iFLY Tampa on Tuesday, January 17 at 11:30 a.m. Refreshments will be served. There will be demonstrations and more. We are asking that everyone bring a gift card to donate the Foundation angel program.

iFLY Tampa is located at 10654 Palm River Rd. in Tampa. For more information, call 773-4359 or visit https://www.iflyworld.com/tampa/.