Photo: Pei Xin/Xinhua Press/Corbis

Wish you could fly in the sky, performing graceful acrobatics like so many skydivers on film and TV, but are too acrophobic to jump out of an aircraft? Well, have no fear — or rather, keep it — for you don’t have to fall from great heights to experience the sensation of flight when you go indoor skydiving.

Indoor skydiving centers can be found around the world, wherever casual thrill-seekers can by found — I went to one in Malaysia of all places — and they are the closest thing to jumping out of an airplane or helicopter. Basically, going to an indoor skydiving center involves gearing up in a jumpsuit, goggles, and helmet, and putting yourself in a vertical wind tunnel chamber powered by a strong, consistent stream of air generated by fans underneath a grate in the floor. The resulting environment is like gliding above a giant Xlerator hand dryer placed upside down, complete with the effect of your skin rippling from the force of wind.

Advantages of Indoor Skydiving

While there is no thrill of seeing the earth from 15,000 feet above in the stratosphere, there are some advantages to skydiving indoors. For one, there’s no need to worry about organizing a plane or pilot, or expending any fuel for a flight. Also, having a virtually unlimited amount of time in a stream of air is an easier way to train how to maneuver in the real sky. There’s no need to worry about when you have to deploy a parachute — you are being repelled from the earth, not accelerating towards it after all — and with a simple maneuver out of the wind, you can land on your feet at your leisure.

As I learned during my indoor flight, the slightest tweaking of your appendages causes your body to ascend, descend, or move laterally. Looking upwards allows more air to pass through your body mass, causing you to descend; looking downwards causes you to go up. When your arms are extended out like Superman, with your palms face down, the slightest tweaking of your palms’ angle allows you to steer. It takes a bit of practice to get the hang of it; when you’re a beginner, you spend a lot of time just trying to prevent yourself from spinning out of control — but eventually you know your way around the airspace and can simulate the flight of a superhero.

Indoor skydiving can be found in many entertainment meccas in the world — Las Vegas or Orlando, for example — and other places where there is a target audience for the casually extreme. If you have the means, it’s definitely worth trying out, especially if you want to ease into skydiving or practice tricks if you’re a seasoned pro. For the acrophobic, it’s a good way to ease into getting over your fear; it is after all, just like free fall — without the free fall.

For more adrenaline-pumping content, check out The Adrenalist.