Published in Indoor Skydiving on March 30, 2016
Update: as of late May 2017 the facility has finally opened its doors to the public. You can find the tunnel profile here: Airborne San Diego Profile
The USA is about to see an entirely new indoor skydiving concept open its doors to the public - enter Airborne San Diego. The project is the creation of Buzz Fink, the long time owner of Skydive San Diego and early investor in multiple indoor skydiving facilities.
“We've committed a lot time and resources to research and development, making sure everything is cutting edge,” said Buzz Fink. “We can’t wait to give San Diegans and tourists the opportunity to experience something so special.”
We had the chance to take an in-depth look into the new dual 14 ft (4.3 m) flight chamber project located near the heart of downtown San Diego's East Village.
The most noticeable aspect of this new facility is the layout. Airborne San Diego chose to sit two independent single-loop recirculating wind tunnels side by side. This allows the facility to handle twice the volume and opens the doors for some really interesting competition concepts.
Two identical tunnels side by side allows for new ideas of people "flying together" as well as head-to-head live action competition. Dynamic flying has long used a battle format which would work wonderfully here. This same concept could also easily be applied across almost all current competition disciplines.
Historically there have been other side by side wind tunnels, but up until this point nothing like what we see here. Indoor skydiving competitions are normally held in 14 foot diameter tunnels or larger and this will be the first facility to offer two tunnels of this size. Older tunnels like iFLY Dubai feature a side-by-side identical tunnels, but the flight chambers are 10 foot ovals.
This dual 14 foot design will be seen more in the future too. The City Skydive project in the Netherlands has begun construction on their dual 13.5 foot facility due to open in late 2016/2017.
Airborne San Diego is implementing some new concepts and ideas to their tunnel design and operation.
Some notes from Airborne San Diego:
"Indoor skydiving technology hasn’t changed significantly in the last 15 years, leaving today’s flyers with a less-than-optimum – and sometimes dangerous – experience. Well before starting construction, Airborne San Diego hired leading wind tunnel engineers to design the best air quality in the market, giving the truest experience to skydiving as possible. In the process, the team created not only the world’s best experience but also a significantly more efficient and environmentally-friendly system."
And on power source:
"Airborne San Diego has chosen to use a single high efficiency motor/fan. This format is a preferred configuration among large scale wind tunnels. Airborne San Diego’s single fan design also allows for reduced wind noise giving us a quieter environment to fly in and making it highly energy efficient."
We are interested to see the end result of these ideas applied in a functioning tunnel.
Airborne San Diego plans to cater to first time flyers, skydivers, and even military. The 3 story facility will include a full service cafe, lounge space, party rooms, training rooms, a BBQ terrace, and a retail storefront.
Also interesting to note is that the tunnel will be partnering with TunnelInstructor.org for their rating system. This will be the first time that a US based tunnel will use the TI.org rating system to train their instructors.
While the facility itself is of great interest, the impact of Airborne San Diego entering of the US market will be very interesting. The reason being that:
Airborne San Diego will be the first modern, non-SkyVenture wind tunnel to open its doors in the USA.
The first vertical wind tunnel built in the USA was Vegas Indoor Skydiving in 1982. While this location is still very successful today, it is an older, propeller below design. Until Airborne opens, SkyVenture (often operating as iFLY) has been the only manufacturer operating modern wall-to-wall vertical wind tunnels in the USA.
Airborne San Diego also sits less than a 15 minute drive from the recently opened iFLY location in San Diego which makes things even more interesting.
Airborne San Diego is in the final stretch of their construction process and is due to open in late 2016 (as of Nov 16th, 2016). You can also follow the Airborne San Diego construction progress via their Facebook page or homepage. You can also subscribe via their profile page here on Activity Quest to be notified of any updates and be emailed when the tunnel officially opens.