A newly constructed red-paneled building along Interstate 405 in Tukwila soon will give thrill seekers the chance to fly away.
Known as iFLY, the indoor skydiving company plans to open its first Pacific Northwest location the week of Aug. 15 at 349 Tukwila Parkway. iFLY already has locations in San Francisco, Hollywood, Calif., Ogden, Utah, Orlando, Singapore, Dubai and other sites.
“There is no amount of fun that can possibly compare to the adventure of body flight,” said Lysa Adams, iFLY marketing director, on a recent tour of the Tukwila location. “You can be sitting in an airplane and flying but you don’t know what it’s like to fly until your body is flying.”
Customers have pre-booked many flights at the facility that features a 14-foot vertical tunnel with curved, laminated-glass walls, wall-to-wall airflow and multiple high-efficiency axial fans.
“It’s the largest recirculating wind tunnel west of the Mississippi,” Adams said.
The tunnel is 2 feet larger than the iFLY tunnel in San Francisco. Adams admitted, however, that the Singapore site has a 16-footer and Dubai a 22-footer.
Those who choose to fly can buy two-flight packages for $59.95 or four-flight deals for $99.95, although prices are subject to change. Family packs and corporate packages also are available. The facility features two party rooms and a corporate room that also are available after hours.
Hours are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The business will employ 25 people, including 11 flight instructors.
Adams expects the indoor flying to be especially popular among children ages 8-14.
“Kids are the biggest demographic,” she said. “And they really continue to come back.”
Adams has watched her 9-year-old daughter get hooked on indoor skydiving at iFLY sites in San Francisco and Arizona.
“She flies better than my skydiving friends,” Adams said. “She goes on her belly and does flips.”
A first-time flyer can expect to spend 90 minutes on their initial visit.
After checking in, customers go to a classroom to work with an instructor, watch a brief video, learn the hand signals needed to communicate in the tunnel and practice the skydiving position.
Flyers then receive knee pads, elbow pads, ear plugs, a flight suit, a helmet and goggles for their flight.
Up to 12 people can be in the flight chamber waiting area, but only one person flies at a time. The instructor holds on to you until your body is stable and then he or she will let you go. Many are not let go on their first flight.
“By the second time inside, everyone usually gets it,” Adams said about how long it takes before you learn to fly. “It is a sport. It’s not a carnival ride.”
The actual flight time is one minute, but to most people the time seems much longer than a minute, Adams said.
“It is a feeling of flying,” she said. “It is what it feels like in a free fall. It’s the closest you can come to the feeling without leaving an airplane.
“You are leaning into a soft column of air. You are not jumping or falling.”
Outdoor recreational skydivers are expected to use the facility to practice. Military flyers also can use the tunnel for training.
Bill Adams, the husband of Lysa, is the CEO and owner of iFLY Seattle as a franchise of SkyVenture, which opened its first tunnel in 1998 in Orlando. There are now more than two dozen locations.
“My husband and I are skydivers,” said Adams, of Silverdale. “We had the idea to build this in 2007.”
Tukwila turned out to be just the location they wanted.
“We picked Tukwila because of its proximity to the highway,” Adams said of nearby I-5, I-405 and Highway 167. “It’s close to everything, including Bellevue and Redmond.”
They plan to market to Microsoft, Boeing, Google and other companies to rent iFLY for corporate outings.
The couple also liked building across from the Westfield Southcenter Mall that attracts thousands to the area. Now they hope a lot of those people want to fly.
“Disneyland talks about being the happiest place on earth,” Adams said. “But once people fly, they will know this is the happiest place.”