Updated: Oct 10
How wind tunnels and drop zones around the world went into and out of their respective shutdown differed greatly. On the simple grounds that they were the consequence of restrictions imposed – or lifted – by different levels of government, from the local to the national. They varied even more from one country to another. There was – and is – not even minimal coordination between the countries in terms of their sanitary policies and the measures implemented to fight the spread of SARS-CoV-2.
How could one reasonably expect this to be any different for an activity like (indoor) skydiving? Well, it is. Tunnel Instructors and International Body Flight Assocation, the two organizations sharing the control over technical and safety aspects of indoor skydiving, both came up with a set of recommendations and guidelines that the individual operators could adhere to.
It was the operators, however, who were the most creative in effectively communicating scope and purpose of anti-COVID-19 measures to their clientele. iFLY produced a slick video, 'Safety First,' with an audio track reminiscent of Chuck Yeager radioing down from his cockpit. "Checked! Safe!" is the message.
CLYMB Abu Dhabi, the world's largest tunnel (with a flight chamber of 32 feet in diameter and an array of 16 fans – plus five climbing walls, the highest of 138 feet) came up with a similar message in the 'Stay Safe! Stay Fit' video. They relaunched the "the world's ultimate indoor adventure hub" on 29 Juli.
"For the safety of our guests, we have introduced enhanced health and safety measures. These include, but are not limited to, health screening on entry, reduced guest capacity, extensive sanitization and disinfection, and social distancing throughout CLYMB Abu Dhabi."
The operator that took the concept of informing and enlightening its clientele to the highest level was iFLY Singapore. Prior to and after the shutdown, the tunnel not only briefed the customers on the extensive list of safety measures, the staff seized the moment to bust a few myths regarding the operation of a state-of-art facility in the process. "Is the same air circulating all the time?"
How about the safety measures applicable for skydiving outdoors? A number of national governing bodies have come up with the protocols that should ultimately achieve the same objectives as those applied for indoors. Keep COVID-19 from spreading. The fact that the skydiving community as a whole counts on an established tradition in defining and enforcing safety standards for other aspects of operation, the measures are bound to be effective.
Dan Brodsky-Chenfeld, a multiple world champion in formation skydiving, the general manager of Skydive Perris as well as an author and speaker, recorded a message for his own YouTube channel about the sport's tradition in safety. Well worth listening to!
Over the past few months, and almost in spite of the adversities, new facilities have opened for people to skydive at LUXFLY in Sterpenich - Grass, Luxembourg, and Fly Gran Canaria in Mogán, Las Palmas, Spain. A third one, zerOGravity, in Poitiers (Futuroscope), France, will launch on 7 August. Even though all three are likely to operate on a reduced scale for quite some time to come due to the sanitary requirements and safety restrictions, they send a strong signal between them:"Phoenix shall raise again! You cannot keep us down and you don't beat us for safety."