Why the world's best teams train in the wind tunnel

7 February 2017

Written by: Claire 'Sparky' Scott - World Champion Formation Skydiver

It’s interesting to look back and remind myself that when I started skydiving in 1992, wind tunnels didn’t even exist! It wasn’t until I joined the British Female Formation Skydiving team in 1999 that I got my first taste of tunnel flying at iFLY’s first ever facility in Orlando. We found that flying in the tunnel was so similar to the real thing, that we, along with many other national teams, scheduled our training camps in Florida, so that we could combine tunnel flying with skydiving. The plan paid off and we won the World Championships in Australia later that year. 

Since then tunnels have popped up all over the world, with the UK boasting the highest number of tunnels per square mile, with 4 wind tunnels, 3 of which belong to the iFLY group. Since our first success in 1999, various British Female Skydiving team line ups have won numerous medals on the world stage including 5 gold medals, with one of the teams being sponsored by iFLY, or as was known then in the UK, as Airkix. 

Tunnel flying now plays a big part in every serious competition team’s training plan, and is also proving to be very useful at attracting new skydivers to the sport and helping inexperienced skydivers to develop the skills they need for jumping out of a plane. The tunnel is especially useful in countries such as the UK where we are not exactly blessed with the best of weather. 

Tunnel flying is becoming so popular now that it is now becoming a recognised sport in itself. Whilst there will always be a group of people who combine skydiving with tunnel flying, there is a new generation of flyers who have never skydived and are just intent in having fun in the wind tunnel, where the barriers in terms of  age, weight and disability, are far fewer than skydiving outdoors. 

This growth is fostering a new wave of competition. Numerous Indoor Skydiving competitions are now being run all over the world. The next big event will be the Indoor Skydiving World Championships at iFLY, Montreal in Canada in October 2017. It’s another opportunity for the UK, as a nation, to show our strength in the female formation skydiving category. In 2015, my team Volition won bronze at the World Championships in Prague, and silver at last year’s World Cup in Warsaw. As a team, are very excited to be kicking off our training for the forthcoming world championships by training at iFLY Basingstoke on the 11th February. We only got together as a team in 2015 and are already starting to close the gap with our highly-experienced French rivals. This year we are being coached by Belgium team Hayabusa. They are Open Formation Skydiving Champions in both Outdoor and Indoor Skydiving and we are hoping that they will help us improve sufficiently to make a UK victory possible! 

If anyone is interested in seeing the British Female Indoor Skydiving Team train with the current world champions, pop along next Saturday to iFLY, Basingstoke. Watch us start the long journey to what we hope will be another medal success for Great Britain in Indoor Skydiving!”