OAKVILLE, Ont. – There is a place just outside Toronto where humans can fly.
And flying makes a nice birthday gift, especially for a 12-year-old playing hooky from school.
Suzanne Lyon took her son, Jack, out of school last week to skydive indoors at iFly Toronto in Oakville, Ont.
Jack falls into the vertical wind tunnel where air rushes from below up to 250 km/h, or “a couple hurricanes” worth of wind.
Then he floats for a minute or two, like a skydiver would do after jumping from a plane. The experience is similar to free falling without the crippling fear that can come with hurtling toward Earth at breakneck speeds.
He dips, dives and sometimes crashes into the wall of the cylindrical chamber with instructor Adrian Uracz standing nearby, sometimes pulling him back and helping him.
He looks a little like a bird learning to fly.
Jack says it was “amazing” and “extraordinary” and “awesome.”
But the actual experience is difficult to describe.
“I don’t know what to say,” says the boy of few words. But he smiles a lot.
Uracz is more verbal. “It’s such a different feeling from what you would have in your everyday life.”
Later the instructor shows the rookies how to really fly in the chamber, twisting, turning, flipping and floating at will, as if he lives in a world without gravity. Flyers can learn these tricks over time through iFly’s academy with coaches like Uracz.
The facility opened last May and there are 23 others like it around the world, but a wind tunnel in Montreal is the only other one in Canada.
Four giant fans at the top of the building powered by 350-horsepower engines act like a vacuum and suck air up, before sending it back down nearby vents to recirculate. The flyer floats in the middle of this vacuum.
Both Jack and his mother have come before.
Her husband surprised Suzanne Lyon one date night with a trip to iFly – she thought they were going mini-golfing. They returned to let Jack fly and expect they’ll be back many times in the future.
Maybe he’ll never be able to put the experience into words, but if he can, it will surely involve a lot of superlatives.