This girl can! My journey from receptionist to instructor

By: Emma Harwood: Instructor, iFLY Milton Keynes

My name is Emma and in the space of one and a half years, indoor skydiving has totally transformed my life. I came to iFLY Milton Keynes as a 20-year-old receptionist, who was happy to get some free flight time as a perk of the job. I’d already been in the tunnel four or five times, but becoming an instructor was the last thing on my mind. I was just pleased to be dealing with customers at the desk, who regardless of how they arrived (there are always some who feel a little nervous), almost always left with a massive smile on their face. It was simply a cool job when compared with what many of my friends were doing.

Things began to change as I jumped in the wind tunnel at every opportunity, inspired by the amazing skills of the various instructors. With their encouragement, my progress was rapid and it slowly began to dawn on me, that I could get good enough to trade in my receptionist uniform for an instructor suit. I was aware that one of the instructors, Cameron, had also started out on reception. Perhaps it was time to show that this girl might do similar.

As all in the industry know, the fitness demands of the Flight Instructor Training Programme (FITP) are intense. When I reached this stage in May 2017, I was determined not to fail. I was aware that some had reservations about my feisty nature - I do wear my heart on my sleeve -  but Andy Godwin, GM at Milton Keynes was hugely encouraging and kept me focused on the end game. Aimee Southwell, one of only two other female instructors currently working in the UK, was also immensely supportive. At the back of the mind, I was determined not to let the girls down!  

When I heard the news I had passed, I can honestly say it was one of the proudest moments of my life.  Two months in and I’m simply loving it. Each day I get to share the buzz that every customer gets, when they experience the dream of flight for the very first time. It’s no exaggeration to say that, for some, flying in the tunnel can be life changing. At a minimum, it’s a memory they will cherish for a very long time.

Who knows what the future may bring? If I keep up my current rate of progression, becoming a trainer or a coach is not off limits. I’m also excited about how technology might create new opportunities for developing the flight experience. Games such as tunnel ball, which iFLY recently introduced, are only the start.

There’s lots to look forward to. This sport is only going to grow. Bring it on.