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THE ART OF VERTICAL WIND TUNNEL FLYING

About Fly Awesome

My name is Susy and I’m a forex trader living at the Costa Brava. I am also a passionate skydiver and wind tunnel flyer. Just recently I gave up my job as managing director of a global company to have more time for training in the tunnel and in the sky. Empuriabrava with its dropzone and the wind tunnel next door provide the perfect training possibilities for me. Originally I started tunnel flying because I wanted to learn sit-fly for the sky. But then I watched Frederic Nenet flying in Empuriabrava, who by coincidence trained at the same times than I did, and decided that I want to learn exactly that. Since then, skydiving and tunnel flying are 2 different sports for me. Both similar and connected - but different.

This is now 1,5 years ago and I spent hours and hours in different tunnels with different coaches. As it’s such a new sport, I was totally lost while starting. It’s an extremely expensive sport and therefore every minute “counts”. When I started I would have loved to get some dense and straight-to-the-point information from a neutral point of view, more guidance, some advice and shared experiences, but there just was no such thing.

When I am flying I often get asked from visitors if I can tell them a bit more about this sport. Also, friends who start flying in the tunnel (with very different backgrounds in terms of experience and financial resources) seek advice and recommendations about where and with whom to fly. I really like sitting down with them and explaining how it worked out for me and working with them on their training plan.

Therefore I want to share with this page my personal experiences so far – to maybe get you also so passionate and excited about this incredible sport. With being well informed you can save a lot of money and time in your progress.

Everything on this page or beyond (when contacting me), be it my recommendation for a coach or the camps that I once in a while organize, is absolutely non-profit and thought to get more people informed and interested in wind tunnel flying. I also do the camp organization just for fun and to get nice people together and to excite people for this sport.

Obviously this private website only reflects my personal opinion based on the experiences that I personally made so far.

Enjoy reading and let me know if you have any questions or if you wanna join one of our camps and have a chat with other student flyers :-)

Follow me on Facebook and Instagram if you want to see my progress.

Finding an excellent and “fitting” coach is THE crucial issue for your success with flying and can save you really a lot of money. A good coach is an excellent flyer himself AND is strong in communication and didactics, matching the teaching to you as a student (assuming things like being professional, reliable, punctual, etc. as given).

So how do you do that? There are plenty of options, but the least one I would recommend is asking (any) tunnel management directly (i.e. don’t book your coaches via a tunnel! DON’T DO THAT! The only exception is if you KNOW that the tunnel you chose has solely excellent coaches employed. Otherwise talk to somebody who knows the tunnel and its staff already). The reason for this is quite simple: When you book via the tunnel directly you will get one of their employed coaches to fly with.

Most of the really good coaches, however, usually started their flying with being a tunnel employee, but work once they became better as freelancers. Of course there are also exceptions, but just a few. (If you still want to book the coach via the tunnel directly, just ask for their Chief Instructor, that could be more or less “safe”.)

For me personally, it was a mixture between recommendations and trying out. The latter can get really expensive. So if you know people you trust or who fly well themselves, I would always go for the recommendation path.

Or just watch and see who flies the way you want to fly and go for that one (however, be aware that not every top flyer is a good coach and also the other way round, not every super good coach needs to hold a world champion title).

What’s also influencing your choice are the questions: Why do I go to the tunnel, what’s my learning goal? What exactly do I want to learn? How much time do I have? How regularly can I train? Do I want to only progress in skydiving? Do I want to learn VFS? Dynamic flying? etc. (as an explanation, VFS and dynamic flying are different disciplines in flying, see below under “disciplines”)

I personally have luckily found my “main & favorite coach” who is training with me both in the tunnel and in the sky, plus I have a few really world-class coaches I fly regularly with when I get the chance to. Flying sometimes with other coaches and / or trying new ones gives me new input and often also a new push.

There are different disciplines in flying and I just briefly summarize the abbreviations. I personally learn VFS and dynamic.

VFS = Vertical Formation Skydiving, you are working on all axes, mainly headup or headdown
Dynamic flying = includes flowing movements and using the whole tunnel as playground
FS = Formation Skydiving, you are working on the horizontal axis (“on your belly”)

Camps

You can either fly in individual sessions or in camps. In camps you usually also learn in 1:1 sessions but there are more students around (students of all different levels). This is good when you want to meet people at your level with whom you could possibly share time with in the future or maybe already now.

When I fly individual sessions, I do spread it, i.e. once or twice per week a shorter session.

When I fly in a camp, I do like 4 or 5 hours on a long weekend (1 – 1,5 h per full day). So the flying in camps is more intense but usually also less personally. As everything in life, this has some pro’s and con’ s.

For me it’s quite fun when I organize camps among friends myself, so if there are some people I know, it’s just nice to get together PLUS flying in the tunnel or doing some jumps. If you want to join one of our camps, just shoot me a message. We organize those maybe 3 or 4 times per year and they are rather small (5-8 people). Depending on what the people want to learn and fly, I suggest some locations or coaches.

The price includes 2 parts:

The tunnel fee itself
The instructor fee

The tunnel fee is the bigger one and it’s so big as the running costs are also quite high. So you pay between 400,- and 650,- per hour alone for the turbines to run. Also, there are in some tunnels off peak (night times, week days) and on peak (evenings, weekends) where you have approx. 50,- EUR price difference between the two.

The coach charges 200,- (+/-) per hour.

Per hours means net, i.e. flight time. To fly 1 hour you are minimum half a day busy – if your physical constitution allows flying so much. Tunnel flying is quite an intense sport that requires physical strength and a good condition. (However, most beginners don’t even fly 1 hour per day! They start with 15 or 30 min.)

Therefore the fees are NOT a normal per hour fee. The coach is busy at least 5 hours when he flies 1 hour net with you, so the “per hour price” gets relative already. Usually you share 30 min. with another flyer, i.e. you fly 15 and the other person / group also 15 – with a 2,5 or 3 min. rotation.

In most tunnels you can book starting at 10 minutes minimum.

A word on money…

No doubt, this is one of the most expensive sports that you can do. However, I personally know a lot of people who are active tunnel flyers and don’t have a lot of money. As with everything in life it’s like this: If you REALLY want to do it, go for it and you will find a way. Text me and I am happy to explain this further.

If you have no money at all, but want to fly, try to get a job as a tunnel instructor. You don’t need experience in tunnel flying but have to be fit and customer oriented.

If you have little money, but don’t want to work in a tunnel and still want to fly, I would recommend choosing the coach and the training method wisely to spend every EUR as efficient as possible. In this case also think about it clearly what you actually want to do, where is your learning goal, etc. Answers to these questions help a lot in getting things planned. This sport is not like tennis, where you just go out and play. Planning wisely, choosing your coach carefully, combine a smart travel, know exactly what’s your goal, this all helps extremely in making things more efficient.

If money is not a big issue for you, then don’t rush while learning. If you rush at the beginning you will pay for it at a later stage of your learning progress. Correcting bad habits also costs a lot of money, nerves and time.

Equipment

You need for flying the following:
A helmet
Sports shoes
A flying suit (one piece, the 2-piece suits from skydiving don’t work)
I also recommend knee and elbow protection (I only use the knee protection but should use the elbow ones, too…..)

The suit and the helmet you can borrow from the tunnel at no costs for the beginning.

However, if you seriously want to start flying, the suits to borrow do not work well (they are far too wide).

The professional tunnel suits are all tailor made, so they take their time for being produced (depending on the season and manufacturer between 3 and 10 weeks). They range from 350,- to 800,- EUR and more… The current manufacturers are all producing good suits, and for a normal tunnel flyer it mainly depends on your personal preferences.

The helmets that you can borrow are open face helmets, i.e. you have to wear special glasses. Also here, when you start seriously flying you want to have your own one. The “standard” tunnel helmet is the Cookie G3 (it’s a full face helmet). There will be a competitive product soon available that is called Skyhelmet and provides more protection.

I personally have 3 Sonic suits V3 and 2 Cookie G3 (no Skyhelmet because I could not buy one yet). I personally decided for the Sonics because I don’t need a lot of fancy stuff (like colors and design, I am more the black and white type of person, haha) and I really like their customer service.

The Sonic suits are: One super tight suit, one short summer suit (my favorite one, because it fits perfectly, with short legs and short arms) and one wider that I can use for skydiving with clothes underneath or after Christmas when I gained weight :-)