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TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Instructors at iFly Portland hone their skills during a practice session on opening day, Tuesday. The Tigard indoor sky diving facility is the only one of its kind in the state.After months of preparing, Hilary Cox is ready.


“Our first group of paying customers came through this morning,” Cox said on Tuesday. “It’s exciting.”

Cox is the general manager for iFly Portland, the state’s only indoor skydiving facility, which opened its doors in Tigard on Tuesday. A grand opening is set for 11 a.m. Saturday.

The building, located at 10645 S.W. Greenburg Road, has been under construction for months, turning heads from nearby motorists because of its size.

Standing five stories tall, the building towers above nearby businesses. Most of that height is needed to house the 56-foot-tall vertical wind tunnel, said Cox, who moved from Chicago to open the Tigard location.

Standing on the “flight deck,” instructors in red jump suits and helmets step casually into the 14-foot-wide wind tunnel. Leaning back they gently lift off the ground, propelled on a column of air.

“It’s exactly the same sensation as skydiving,” said Cox, who worked as a professional skydiver before coming to iFly in 2012, “only without the jumping.”

That sales pitch has worked exceedingly well for iFly, which operates nearly 40 locations across the globe and is poised to open several more.

Bill Adams, a vice president at SkyVenture, iFly’s parent company, said that five other projects are currently set to open by the end of the year.

Across the globe, iFly has an additional 22 wind tunnels in various stages of construction.

That’s an incredible rate of growth for a company that opened its first facility in 1999.

Adams, who previously ran the Seattle iFly, said that the reason for the company’s growth is simple.

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - The iFly wind tunnel uses both blowing and suction to create a skydiving-like effect for patrons.“It turns out that when you take all of the danger out of skydiving, everybody wants to do it,” he said. “Everyone has flying dreams. If you can make it safe for a 3-year-old, they want to do it.”

Adams isn’t kidding, Cox said that children as young as 3 are allowed inside the tunnel.

“We have a kids birthday party tomorrow,” Cox said. “You should see the kids; they are so cute.”

On Nov. 21, the site’s official grand opening will kick off with an appearance by Red Bull Air Force, a professional skydiving team that is expected to land in front of the building at about 11 a.m.

Along with food carts and a beer garden, the event is expected to draw a few hundred who want to get a taste for what the company is about.

Tigard is slowly gaining a reputation as a place for thrill seekers. Along with iFly, Tigard is the home to Sky High Sports Trampoline Park up the road, and a 19,000-square-foot bouldering gym — The Circuit — on Upper Boones Ferry Road.

IFly is open to the public seven days per week, Cox said, for anyone who wants to sit and watch people fly. She said she’s working with local school districts for field trips to show the science behind what makes people fly.

“People have a lot of questions,” Cox said. “They see skydiving and think that kids can’t do it, or that it’s dangerous.”

Unlike traditional skydiving, which tends to draw adrenaline junkies, Cox said that the Tigard facility is meant to appeal to every day people.

“This is meant for families, for kids, for people having a fun date night, for friends wanting something different,” Cox said. “It’s for everyone.”

Indoor skydiving facilities also appeal to professional skydivers looking for a place to practice, Cox said. Professional teams make up about 10 percent of the company’s business.

iFly Portland is expected to fly about 75,000 people a year, Adams said.

Flyers with iFly take two one-minute flights for about $70 — though the company is currently offering $40 flights through the end of December.

Traditional tandem skydives only last about 40 seconds, Cox said.

“You don’t actually free fall for that long, only about 40 seconds,” she said. “The majority of tandem skydives are done at 10,000 feet, which only leaves you about 40 seconds of diving before they pull their parachute.”

Cox said that the sport touches people deeply.

“I started doing this because I loved to skydive, but I stayed because of the impact that it makes in people’s lives,” she said. “We’ve flown people who are paraplegic, or kids who are autistic and have trouble verbalizing. They get in the tunnel and their eyes light up and they are just a different kid. We call the wind tunnel ‘The Equalizer.’ Just because you can’t walk doesn’t mean you can’t fly.”

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - The iFly wind tunnel uses both blowing and suction to create a skydiving-like effect for patrons.

Editor's Note: This story originally listed the address for iFly Portland 10655 S.W. Greenburg Road. The correct address is 10645 S.W. Greenburg Road.

The Times regrets the error.


By Geoff Pursinger
Reporter
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