Chris Erskine | Sky diving without the plane

It's a bird, it's a plane — no, it's just a columnist looking for another literary tour de force, in this case indoor sky diving, which seems a contradiction, but thanks to technology you could now theoretically sky dive in your own home. Or, till that moment, at Universal City Walk, where this wind tunnel is a main attraction, right there on the midway, just past the movie theaters and the giant, overfed guitar.

"What'll they think of next?" is a legitimate reaction. As is, "How do I keep the 170 mph winds out of my britches?"

Well, the flight suit helps, though I won't promise a few breezy moments. All of us can use a little airing out now and then, especially in musky late July. Think of it as an air shower. Think of it as transcending Mother Earth's shackles for a few precious minutes and flying, belly-flop style, on a pond of warm air.

VIDEO: Chris Erskine goes sky diving without the plane

As happenstance would have it, I've crashed — OK, poor word — I've invited myself to Ava Mosier's 11th birthday party, which is being held in the same session I signed up for at the iFly facility.

It's a select group, just Ava and five or six friends, and her big sister, who I sense doesn't really want to be here but puts on a brave face, amid the turbo giggles and Nickelodeon smiles.

They are all putting on a brave face. After a short classroom session that lasts maybe four seconds, I ask if anyone is scared, and they all say no, nope, not me.

"Well, I'm a little scared," I say, and then a couple of them nod, admitting, OK, maybe they're a little scared too.

"Excited," one of them says. "Not scared. More like excited."

"Me too," I say. "More like scared-excited."

I wear my fears on my sleeve, because frankly, I have so few fears left. Marriage hasn't killed me, or public speaking, or any of those other things I used to dread (sitting next to Robin Williams on an airplane used to be No. 1; Ben Vereen No. 2).

The trade-off to all this fearlessness, of course, is that there are fewer things to really get your juices flowing. But the very thought of sky diving still makes my tiny heart bounce. The only way you could get me to sky dive would be if you pushed Kate Bosworth out of the plane first, then ordered me to hug-save her. That I would do. "Kate, here I come!!! Geronimooooooooo!!!" Otherwise, there will be no sky diving in my future.

But I like to face my fears head on, so this tiny step of indoor sky diving helps do that.

Here's how it works: Like a Champagne cork, you float on the upward draft, courtesy of two 400-horsepower fans in the ceiling. There is very little technique to it. You bend your arms in a crash position, even with your kisser. You keep your chin up, as if greeting St. Peter.

Even amid hurricane-force winds, you feel in control. When you nudge the 4-inch Plexiglas, you gently push yourself away. The two fans pretty much do the rest.

As does Marco Gonzalez, our flight instructor, who, when he's done guiding us through our two minute-long sessions, takes a few leaps of his own.

What Gonzalez does is nothing like what we do. He Spider-Mans to the top of the 40-foot-high tube, then death-plunges and pulls up just before hitting the metal grate at the bottom.

I call that good marketing, because when Gonzalez performs, 100 City Walk visitors stop to gawk, even on a Monday afternoon.

Professional sky diver Allessandro Struppa is also using the wind tunnel this day, to improve his techniques for nationals in 2014.

"The wind tunnels changed the sport," he says of his frequent practice sessions here. "It's crazy how much you can improve."

Like a spork or a metrosexual, this attraction is not one thing, it's not another but, rather, a combo of two things. In this case, a sport (sky diving) and a science fair experiment (wind tunnel research). Call it spience.

Yep, what'll they think of next?

Oh, and happy birthday, Ava.

Indoor skydiving

iFly skydiving sessions start at $39.95. The facility is at Universal City Walk, (818) 985-4359,

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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