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I Believe I Can Sort of Fly

I Believe I Can Sort of Fly

Our monthly columnist Dennis Hensley faces his fear of flying with indoor skydiving at Universal Citywalk in Hollywood.

When I watch The Amazing Race, which I do rabidly, I like to think about how I would fare on the show's challenging Detours and Road Blocks. Most of the time, I think I'd do okay ? until they get to the flying stunts, like skydiving and bungee jumping. Then I start feeling panicky and worry that I'm going to let my imaginary boyfriend partner down and he'll leave me.

When it comes to flying, I'm fine on airplanes; but personal flying, like by myself through the air, totally freaks me out. I was once at a Fourth of July party where revelers were invited to jump from a one-story roof into a swimming pool that was right below. You didn't have to run and jump out or anything. You just had to take one step off the roof and yet I couldn't bring myself to do it.

If only there was such a thing as training wheels for flying.

Well, guess what, there is. Sort of. Indoor Skydiving attractions, where average civilians can, for a reasonable fee, experience the sensation of free-falling, have been popping up all over the world in recent years, from Las Vegas to Abu Dhabi to Brazil to Montreal. There's even one a few miles from me -- at Universal CityWalk in Hollywood. So maybe it's high time I got my free-fall on and conquered my fear of plummeting, I mean flying.

I make a reservation and invite my friend Pat along for moral support and to identify my body if necessary. When we get to the CityWalk, the IFly attraction is pretty tough to miss. It's a 30-foot tall, translucent fiberglass tube and it's right in the main promenade, which means that any meltdown I have will be witnessed by lots of innocent passersby. Fun.

We meet our instructor, a strapping and amiable guy with the superhero-ish name Drew Steele. Drew explains that the fans that generate all the air are actually in the top of the tunnel, which means that we'll be getting sucked up from above, not blown from below. This also means that if I were to be sick while flying, my throw-up would go up into the fans, be recycled and come blowing back at me from below. Drew says this never, ever happens but it's fun image, isn't it?

Pat and I get outfitted in purple jumpsuits which are snazzy but not nearly as well-fitting as the instructors' suits, which have their names printed on them and are tailored for maximum muscle enhancement. I have no problem with this. Speaking of fun outfits, Drew says that last Halloween he donned a Spiderman costume and wowed the crowd with lots of spectacular Spidey flips and turns. Cool, right? Boy, if I had a dime for every friend I know that would love to live out their Wonder Woman daydreams in just such a fashion, I could almost pay for parking at Universal CityWalk.

After learning some basic hand signals -- "straighten legs," "bend legs," "relax," and "chin up" -- Pat and I are escorted to the tunnel. There, we get a wave from another iFly professional. This one's dubbed "the Driver" because it's his job to gauge how much wind to give us based on our weight -- don't judge me! -- and experience level. Today's Driver has spiky hair and an Iceman from Top Gun vibe about him. I'm going to try not to weird him out in any way because he is the wind beneath my wings, literally.

Part One | Part Two

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