February 2019 marks a monumental step forward for the indoor skydiving community. For the first time ever, US flyers have a new option when it comes to modern recirculating wind tunnels. We thought this moment would have come a couple years back with Airborne San Diego, but the facility fell short despite so much promise.
This month however, trampoline and adventure park brand Urban Air opened the first ever non-SkyVenture recirculating wind tunnel in the USA. The new facility also marks another milestone as the first ever adventure park to feature indoor skydiving as an attraction.
This tunnel sits within the newly opened Fort Worth adventure park situated on the north end of the city in Texas. This facility poses the first ever direct competition to an iFLY wind tunnel. Urban Air sits less than 10 miles away from the iFLY Fort Worth tunnel.
In this article we take an in-depth look at the facility, the machine, and what this may mean for the future of indoor skydiving in the USA.
Urban Air Fort Worth's Grand Opening
If you hop over the the Urban Air Fort Worth Facebook or Instagram profiles, you'll find similar highlights to many other trampoline park facilities. They feature a wide range of activities aimed at children. From trampolines, to rock climbing, to skycoasters - these adventure parks have grown to become the go-to place for birthday parties, weekends, and after school hangouts.
Looking at Fort Worth's profiles though, you'll notice one thing that no other trampoline or adventure park has - indoor skydiving. While populating their social media profiles with photos of this new attraction may seem obvious, when you look deeper it tells the story of just how big this event really is.
About half the posts on these pages are indoor skydiving related, their opening video (posted below) is probably more than half indoor skydiving. They know, and we know, how much draw an indoor skydiving facility has. What we didn't know until now is just how well these machines would fit into the trampoline park model and exponentially boost the draw.
Situated among the attractions inside the Fort Worth adventure park, you'll find the new machine. The all glass flight chamber gives spectators a great view of the action and the lighting and ambiance capture the truly fun nature of the experience. From a first time flyer's perspective this is fantastic. Rather than a standalone facility, kids and parents can participate, spectate, and bounce from attraction to attraction.
The Machine That Powers It
Now for the tech specs: the tunnel features an 8.2 ft diameter flight chamber which is capable of producing medium wind speeds. The small size and low top speed are certainly a limiter when it comes to experienced flyers, but that is not the target market.
The facility caters to children. For a child who is looking to fly, the act of getting in the wind tunnel is the primary focus - they aren't too picky about the flight chamber size or top speed. As a result, this machine absolutely meets the needs of the direct target market plus provides something no other wind tunnel has had - a wealth of additional activity all around.
Priced to Compete
Here is perhaps the most telling aspect of the whole thing: price.
This new facility prices their indoor skydiving time at the lowest rates we've seen across the USA. At the time of writing, Urban Air offers either two flights for $39.99 or for full, all-day facility access plus two flights for $49.99. Compared to the $69.95 you'd pay for two flights over at iFLY Fort Worth, this is a big talking point.
A Game Changer: Industry Impact & Predictions
This new facility has immediate and future impact on the industry that will be fascinating to watch unfold:
For First Time Flyers
The impact on the first time flyer market will be localized and incremental. The effects that this facility has on the local, existing iFLY facility will serve as a benchmark. Urban Air currently has plans to open many more locations across Texas, the USA, and beyond. You can find new facilities in our tunnel database.
The opening schedule is looking to be fairly slow however, and this first location took much more time than originally estimated to open. We can only expect things to accelerate as the company gains experience constructing and operating these types of facilities.
For Experienced Flyers
As a US-based experienced flyer, one thing becomes quickly obvious as you begin your tunnel progression - there is one game in town. When we compare US flying to the rest of the world, and especially to Europe, it can be a depressing situation.
In Europe and throughout some other parts of the world there are a wide range of facilities to choose from, competitive pricing, and vast proflyer/coach support. Turn to the USA and this just isn't true. US residents have either corporate or privately owned facilities to choose from, but they are all SkyVenture built. The fact is so potent that US residents often fly overseas for access to more desirable machines and top level coaches.
As we covered above, this new Urban Air facility doesn't directly address these problems for experienced flyers, but it does do several important things:
- It shows that it is possible to open a non-SkyVenture facility in the USA. This is something that has long been a big unknown after the shutdown of the FliteShop project and ISG settlement.
- It creates market competition in the USA which will ultimately benefit the consumer.
- The market competition will force standalone wind tunnels (especially 14ft+ facilities) to put a higher value on experienced / returning flyers.
As you might tell by the tone of the article, we are very excited to see this new facility open. We hope the impact for the flying community is positive, and we wish Urban Air the best of luck on future openings!
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