Who Says Flying Isn’t Possible?
Advertorial for iFly (Edited version ran in Austin Monthly)
The idea of flying unaided brings to mind childhood dreams of visiting Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory or floating through outer space.
But it’s not a dream, and you can indeed fly on Earth.
That’s what attracts 300 people a day to IFLY Austin at 13265 U.S. 183, with its five-story concrete walls and four outsized fans.
You might think that guests only visit once, but: “This isn’t one and done,” says Dusty Shaw, a Flight Instructor at iFLY Austin. Admittedly, some guests come to iFLY to tick off an item on their bucket list, he says, but for many, it’s the chance to make the dream of flight a reality — every day.
The feeling of flight is truly unique, and quite addicting, flyers say. Learning to fly is quickly becoming a weekly hobby for many in the Austin area. “Some people give up rock climbing, dance, riding horses to do this and teach kids ages 3-103 how to fly,” Dusty says.
For one first-time guest, 16-year-old Byron, it was cautious curiosity. “I had heard about it from my friends, and I wanted to check it out,” he says. For many, debunking the myths surrounding iFLY is part of what draws them to the experience.
Byron admitted he wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
Despite first flight jitters, signing in was quick and seamless, with a check-in process similar to that at the airport (minus the long lines and grumpy security).
Upon entering the flight deck, Byron saw two teenage boys go through their competition routine in the tunnel. Watching the duo flip through the air, appearing at times to glide through the air in slow motion, Byron sat intently, mouth slightly open and eyes wide. A “Cool” quietly escaped his lips.
“You see your instructor do flips, and you think you can never do it,” says Dusty. “But if you follow the initial steps, you can start to fly with others in as little as 15 minutes. Learning flips and ‘trick flying’ is similar to learning Karate — you can’t walk into the dojo and be a black belt your first day. Learning to fly takes practice and dedication.”
After a concise training class, Byron and fellow flyers were ready to gear up and take their first flight.
With friends and families standing and sitting around the perimeter of the see-through tunnel, flyers sat on a long, winding bench waiting their turn.
When Byron’s time came, he perched with hands and feet pressing the door frame, then fell into a blast of air and a sound like an airplane’s turbine as over 100 mph wind moved past his body.
Dusty signaled to him to relax, then, Byron eased into the wind.
“Learning to balance on the wind takes physical control and focus. That being said, everyone flies differently their first time, and has their own learning progression,” Dusty said during their flight debrief.
“The key is to stay stable and balanced and not flop over on your back like a turtle. Some people think it’s funny to flop around, but you aren’t learning anything,” Dusty said later.
“At iFLY, we are really excited when someone wants to learn to fly,” Dusty says. “To hear a guest say, ‘I’ve dreamed of flying my entire life,’ and then to help make that dream a reality — there’s nothing better than that.”