As I posted on FB here:https://www.facebook.com/james.boole/posts/713834132148403
So a lot of people have asked for my opinion on the Indoor Wingsuit Flying tunnel:
Q. Is it worth going to the indoor wind tunnel?
After a plane ride and 2 buses I find myself outside the tunnel in Stockholm, Sweden. The green metallic structure resembles an alien spaceship, parked amongst industrial buildings. The 1.4 MW motor roars as the air flows around the loop, up the inclined tunnel and down again.
The original structure was built in 1940, it played a fundamental role in the Swedish aerospace industry and was used to develop the SAAB fighter aircraft. Until recently the tunnel lay dormant - that is until 4 friends came up with a crazy idea!
The refurbished structure has 3 levels, reception on the ground floor, viewing area and briefing rooms on the middle floor and the boarding area and flight control on the top floor. The impressive glass flight chamber cuts diagonally through the building and is currently fixed at a 32 degree angle (or 1.6 GR) with a wind speed up to 144km/h. The tunnel is operational but the building work is on going.
Once fully completed the tunnel will be able to tilt during operation between 45 and 20 degrees (or from 1 to 3 GR) with wind speeds over 200 km/h! The team aims to complete the tunnel construction early in 2018.
After a short safety briefing you are equipped with a "reverse tandem" harness, a Havok wingsuit and a G3 helmet. The harness is used to attach you to a cable system inside the tunnel which is cleverly designed to allow you to fly freely but without the danger of hitting the tunnel walls.
Why the Havok wingsuit you ask? The reinforced suits have been especially made for tunnel use and have leg grips that help the instructors guide you through your initial flights safely. The Havok has also proven to be one of the easiest suits to fly in the tunnel.
Once clipped in the speed is gradually increased, the suit inflates and starts to generate lift and in theory you take off - in reality these first attempts vary in elegance and success! The combination of nerves, low airspeed and fixed glide angle flying means that even experienced pilots need a moment or two to adjust.
Sessions are generally 10 minutes long which is broken down into 2 minute blocks. Between each block you get a quick rest and chance to talk to your instructor. Once you can hover you progress on to 3D movement; up / down, forward / back and left / right, followed by some docks. The instructor uses hand signals during flight and can physically adjust your position if required.
Most pilots require 2 or 3 sessions on the cables before they are allowed to progress to the "leash" - quite simply a tether attached to your waist which the instructor keeps hold of.
You must also master taking off and landing which is something completely new to most of us. Initial attempts often result in you bowing towards the wind giving black hole and kissing the tunnel floor OR getting blown backwards and stuck upright "Han Solo'ed" on the net wall behind you :)
Once you have demonstrated all the necessary skills on the "leash" you are certified and can then fly "freely" without any tether. The amount of flight time required to become certified varies but is usually between 30 - 45 minutes.
You can use your own beginner or intermediate suit once you are certified but you will be required to do a short flight back on the cables and then on the leash to demonstrate you have complete control.
Once you are certified you can also progress on to fly 2 ways with your instructor, back flying, acrobatics and beyond..
The tunnel is already an exceptional tool for first flights, flocking and acro. Sloppy body positions simply won't fly so if forces you to have good habits (solid core and strong legs). The enclosed tunnel also makes you much more aware of your control inputs, you can judge the accuracy of your movements to within centimetres.
A 2 or 3 day trip flying around 30 minutes each day seems the best way to start. Some physical preparation and 3+ minute skydives will help you get even more out of your trip.
There are tunnel bats who already fly multiple 20 minute sessions with 5 minute blocks ! With time you relax more and obviously become stronger.
In 2018 the tunnel will become even more useful - offering trackers and large wingsuit pilots the chance to fly.
The tunnel offers new possibilities and many that still need to be dreamt up! VR flying, competitions and also for suit R&D.
The staff are friendly & welcoming and there was a warm atmosphere with all the flyers exchanging tips and experiences.
The city of Stockholm is great to visit on your down time, lots of good restaurants and museums.
For those who want to double up on their training there is also a vertical wind tunnel within walking distance!
Overall I found flying in the tunnel great fun but was surprised by the physical effort and concentration required. Quite simply it makes you a better, stronger and more precise flyer.
I went to Stockholm knowing how to fly a wingsuit but I just learnt how to fly a wingsuit again! The weather is always good for flying in Sweden.