by Daniel Howard
Vertical wind tunnels give all the thrill of skydiving without taking a plane.
Technology always finds unexpected uses. A vertical wind tunnel is made up of a vertical space blowing high-powered air straight up. It was originally designed to do aerodynamic research, but it was not long before people realized that they could also be fun. Now, vertical wind tunnels are popping up in increasing numbers advertised as indoor skydiving or bodyflight. What began as yet another dull research tool has become an exciting activity.
Recreational vertical wind tunnels blow air upwards through a safety net at around 195 kilometers per hour, a sufficient speed to actually lift a person off his or her feet. In the right position, the result is that the person in the wind tunnel floats in the air. The enclosed space simulates the flight-like feeling of skydiving while floating only a meter or two off the ground. For anyone scared of heights but wanting the sensation of flying, the vertical wind tunnel can be a perfect activity.
The first person to fly in a vertical wind tunnel was Jack Tiffany in 1964 at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, located in Ohio. The first public reference was in a Canadian skydiving magazine in 1979. Shortly after, Jean St. Germain patented the technology for recreational use, once in 1984 and again in 1994. Many skydiving facilities use vertical wind tunnels for training skydivers. Additionally, several companies have facilities around the world where people can experience the vertical wind tunnel just for fun. For novices, there are lessons and coaches on hand to keep everyone safe. For experienced users, there are competitions in which teams compete in choreographed maneuvers. It is all about the joy of flight, without ever leaving the ground.
1964 年，杰克‧帝福尼是首位在垂直风洞飞行的人，地点位于美国俄亥俄州的莱特――派特森空军基地。1979 年，加拿大某高空跳伞杂志首度公开提及垂直风洞飞行一事。不久，金‧杰尔曼获得了此项作为娱乐用途的技术专利，1984 年取得一次，1994 年又再度取得。许多高空跳伞训练中心都会利用垂直风洞来为高空跳伞员进行训练。此外，全世界有不少公司拥有该项设施，大家在那里可以体验垂直风洞所带来的乐趣。对新手而言，现场会有训练课程，以及教练随时在旁以确保每个人的安全。对于经验丰富的使用者来说，还有就编排舞蹈的动作进行团队竞赛。这完全就是不用搭飞机远离地面就可享受到的飞行乐趣。