Learning to Fly

Indoor skydiving offers fun without fear.

“That was one of the coolest things we’ve ever done!” It’s a refrain Bob Pizzini hears from customers again and again. It’s often followed by “We can’t wait to do it again!” and “The kids are still talking about it!” And no wonder. Pizzini, CEO of iFLY Virginia Beach spends his days teaching people to fly.

The first iFLY vertical wind tunnel opened in Orlando in 1998. A 26-year Navy veteran, Pizzini used similar facilities to train military skydivers, but he also saw “the great fun that everybody had.” At locations across the country, he watched families, birthday parties, and date-night couples enjoy flying. Inspired, Pizzini worked for six years to launch iFLY Virginia Beach, opened in 2015.

Business has been “incredible,” Pizzini says. In addition to training professional and sport skydivers and welcoming the public, he has created a leadership development and team-building academy. Teams break the ice with a flight, then gather for leadership training in iFLY’s conference room.

It’s all about “bringing people together through the dream of flight”—iFly’s mission. When people come, Pizzini says, “they have a wonderful experience with each other. They learn, they overcome a challenge, a fear of heights, a fear of falling, a fear of flying—all these things—in a way that’s very fun and very enjoyable. To see that every day, and to know that we deliver that every day, is just incredible.”

After a training video, guests put on a flight suit and helmet, then enter the clear wind chamber. The instructor tips you into the air stream, and you float, weightless. The loud rush of air, like putting your head out a car window, is, Pizzini says, “a perfect simulation of falling out of an airplane”—except instead of the stomach-churning feeling of falling, you hover, controlling your motion with small movements. Beginners simply float, while advanced students rise and dive, turn upside down, and spin. It is one of the coolest things you’ll ever do. You won’t stop talking about it—and you’ll want to go again. iFLYVaBeach.com

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