How Do Vertical Wind Tunnels Work?
The invention of large machines called vertical wind tunnels launched an entirely new sport: indoor skydiving! After donning a jumpsuit, goggles, a helmet, and some earplugs, you can step into the wind tunnel and float on a column of air that simulates the experience of freefall.
Although there are different designs for vertical wind tunnels, one of the most popular designs features large fans at the top of the tower that draw air upward through the main chamber. When the air reaches the top, it gets pushed back down the sides through return air towers.
The air is then compressed, increasing its speed as it reenters the main chamber. The result is a smooth column of air that can support several people. Beginners might learn at wind speeds of 60-100 miles per hour, while more advanced fliers might float on air traveling as much as 160 mph.
The main chamber usually has a diameter of 12-16 feet and a height of 35-40 feet. The floor of the chamber consists of a metal net similar to a trampoline. Fliers can use their arms and legs to move and turn like real skydivers.
Vertical wind tunnels got their start as a training tool for the military and professional skydivers to practice fundamental skills without jumping out of an airplane. Today, however, indoor skydiving centers have become popular as all sorts of people learn to fly indoors. Some people have even turned indoor skydiving into an art form that features a wide variety of dance moves performed while floating in the flight chamber.