Adrenaline is a fabulous thing isn’t it? The heart pounds, palms sweat, breathing hitches and suddenly the cheesiest grin is plastered all over your face. I’ve always been dared to try sky diving but was put off by my fear of heights and falling, as just the thought of it sends me into a tizz. I suppose it’s the lack of certainty as you plummet towards the ground knowing that if something were to go wrong then any minute could truly be your last. So in an attempt to quash my fears I’m giving indoor sky diving a go with AirKix in Milton Keynes as an absolute beginner. It’s safe to say the closest I’ve ever come to a wind tunnel is blow-drying my hair on the boost setting by mistake. Eek!
AirKix opened in Milton Keynes Xscape in 2005, with over five million people having now flown inside these manufactured tunnels worldwide, moving around 1.2 million cubic feet of air every minute. Wind tunnels were first invented to study the lift and drag forces acting on aircraft surfaces under controlled test conditions, allowing stability and control to be measured precisely for which modern aircrafts and Formula One cars use to test their aerodynamics. The wind tunnel essentially works by blowing or pulling air out of a pipe and can be as small as a tabletop or as big as several buildings in size, so I’m rather confident that I’ll meet the height and size requirements.
Around 200 people fly at each AirKix destination every weekend, along with disabled charities, ex-serivcemen and celebrities; with the youngest flyer being a cherubic 4yrs and the eldest so far an awe-inspiring 95yrs. As I’m a first time flyer I chose the KixStart experience providing me with two minute-long flights with an instructor where I was taught to enter and exit the tunnel, maintain neutral belly flying, turn left, right, up and down, before being flung up into the top of the tunnel with the instructor spinning me around. And it was the most exhilarating and incredible experience ever. I started my experience by checking in an hour before my flight and completing a safety questionnaire on the computer screen, which allowed me to watch a training video, speak to my instructor and ask any questions, stow my bags, remove all jewellery, and make a trip to toilet before changing into my flight gear. Naturally I chose a Superman suit with ear plugs, goggles and a helmet, and there’s also a Batman suit as well as helmets with fun little teddies attached for adults and children to dress up. As the shoes I was wearing didn’t fit me that tight I was advised to change into a lace up pair of plimsoles from the kiosk, as if anything flies off in the wind tunnel it won’t be coming back.
Stepping into the wind tunnel you’re immediately lifted up into the air from the force of the fans, which you can see through a steel grate on the floor far below ground level, and it’s open a couple of storeys above. The wind tunnel has reinforced glass walls so that you people can watch you flying and you can wave and give have signals too. My instructor was Brian Jackson who was very professional, reassuring and gave me the confidence and ability to conquer the air as a first time flyer. As the tunnel is incredibly loud we communicated with a series of hand signals shown in the training video so that Brian could tell me to straighten or bend my legs, relax or raise my chin. I felt like a dolphin, only swimming through air instead of water. The force was immense sending me effortlessly soaring as my face rippled merrily in the wind. It was fascinating to fly unaided, and so insightful to understand how aerodynamics work on the body, as dropping your hips sends you downward, tightening your stomach takes you up, bending one leg spins you round and straightening both legs takes you forwards. Brian asked if I’d like to be taken to the top of the tunnel which I simply couldn’t resist, and as the wind speed is increased her took hold of my arm and leg, span me round and we both shot up in a whirlwind spinning to the top. It made me realise the sheer scale of the tunnel as I looked down several storeys to the fans below and whooped and squealed with the buzz, soaring up and down like a tiny maple helicopter seed in a tornado. I truly have the flying bug now and hope that I may take to the skies this summer for my first outdoor skydive. It just goes to show that fears can certainly be conquered, and testing boundaries in life is what shows you just how capable you are!
The staff at Milton Keynes Airkix were incredibly helpful, polite and informative throughout, making my visit so exciting and memorable. After I’d changed out of my Superman suit I returned to reception where I was able to purchase a DVD of my flight as well as pictures and souvenirs. I was also awarded a Flight School Certificate with my name on which now sits proudly in a frame on my wall. A wonderful memory that I will cherish forever.