The SkyVenture wind tunnel in Orlando, Florida, has just finished adding bigger more efficient motors and a host of other improvements that make the world's best vertical wind tunnel even better. During a September 3-16 retrofit, the five 125-horsepower electric motors were replaced with 200 hp units, and the fixed-speed, variable-pitch fans replaced with a fixed-pitch, models mated to variable frequency drives. The result is both a faster and more quickly adjustable airspeed.
"We're getting about 150 miles per hour now," says SkyVenture CEO Alan Metni. "This makes for an even more realistic training environment, especially for the freeflyers, and we can now change speed in two or three seconds - compared with ten to fifteen seconds before."
A redesigned flight chamber and staging area adds to the tunnel's new efficiency.
"The flight chamber staging area now has two doors instead of one," says Brannan Johnson, SkyVenture's director of marketing and product development who also oversees tunnelcamp.com. "Before, when one group came out, the next group had to wait to go inside. Now, there's an entrance door and an exit door, so that bottleneck is eliminated."
Johnson says the motor and flight chamber changes, which will be standard on all future SkyVenture tunnels, will benefit both tunnel operators and users.
"It will increase the ticketed customer capacity from 24 per hour to 28 per hour," Johnson says, "and jumpers buying time by the hour will get more usable time; they'll be able to get in and out faster, and ask for and get windspeed changes much faster, so they'll end up with more actual flight time per booked flight hour."
Another major change is a complete rework of the flight chamber walls, designed to increase both customer and spectator pleasure.
"The solid walls and small windows have been almost completely replaced with 9-foot high acrylic panels," says Johnson. "The whole thing is now open, so jumpers in training can watch their teammates more easily. In the Orlando tunnel, the other open sides make it easy for spectators inside the building to see the flight chamber; in the new tunnels, those sides will be visible to outside spectators and pass-by traffic."
The final upgrade on the Orlando tunnel is a completely redesigned control room. Gone is the bulky, complicated analog panel, replaced by completely new software, two touch panels and a joystick.
"One panel is for general tunnel control," says Johnson, "the other is for camera control during tunnel camps. The joystick is a one-axis unit for very simple control of tunnel wind speed."
Metni say the Orlando upgrades raise SkyVenture's offerings to another level.
"We've raised the bar again," he says. "This ensures that SkyVenture will not only be the fastest but also the most efficient in the world."Skyventure Web Site