Today was the day I learnt to fly…well sort of…if floating in a wind tunnel counts (OK, OK, it’s not free falling from a plane but I would still highly recommend it!) I can safely say this was my favourite Christmas present of last year, even if it did take 3 months to book my flight!
Airkix, who I flew with, have 3 sites in the UK (Basingstoke, Milton Keynes and Manchester). Their Manchester site is based just off the motorway near to the Trafford Centre so it’s really easy to find (and was closest for me to get to). We breezed through check in quickly (it helps if you complete your statement of risk online before you leave home) and up to the Spectators’ area to wait to be called for our briefing. I thought being asked to arrive an hour before was a bit excessive but I can see now why – it was great watching everyone else having a go whilst we waited so we could learn from their mistakes (and we were called after about 15 minutes). After the safety briefing and being suited up we went into the waiting area inside the tunnel to wait for our turn..the hour flew from when we had arrived and we were ready for show time!
I went second so I had the luxury of watching a flight before I had a go myself. The instructors are fab and really encouraging.
They said during the briefing “if you forget everything, stay in a star shape, smile and remember to breathe!”
Thankfully I remembered to breathe and couldn’t wipe the smile off my face but staying in a star shape against 90mph winds wasn’t always easy and I could have done better by putting my hands out a little higher (in line with my face rather than my shoulders) and keeping my hips a little more square (you naturally want to move with the wind but your hips are your handlebars so if your hips move one way, the rest of you moves with them!).
I was better that some of the others on my flight time (phew!), but not the best by any stretch and would love to go back for a few more flights so I can put my learning into action. It also really helps having the film of your flight on a monitor in the waiting area so about 30 seconds after you return, you can watch your flight back and look at how you did; I took a lot from watching my first flight to help me when I came to take my second flight.
As a result, my second flight was heaps more confident than my first and I was definitely not going to miss the opportunity to be spun up in the high fly (the instructor whizzes you up to the top of the tunnel and back down again twice) – given that I’m not known for my head for heights, the first was very fast and made me feel dizzy but the second was great fun and I actually began to enjoy it. The photos and other merchandise from your flight are ready to purchase (or share online via Facebook for free) straight after the flight session so we had little to no waiting around. There’s also no great sales pitch, which I hate, so you don’t feel obliged to buy anything if you don’t want to.
Overall, it was an unforgettable afternoon; needless to say, I left there dying to go back! Who knows, one day I might try the real thing!