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Will this idea take flight?
Wind tunnel that simulates skydiving could be coming to Celebrate Virginia South

 A SkyVenture instructor helps a customer learn to 'fly' at one of the company's wind tunnels. The tunnels simulate the feeling of skydiving.
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Date published: 5/28/2010


A Spotsylvania County man wants to build a $7 million wind tunnel in Fredericksburg's Celebrate Virginia South that simulates the feeling of skydiving.

But the project is contingent on Kalahari Resorts breaking ground, and the wind-tunnel developers are frustrated with the many roadblocks that have delayed the massive water park, hotel and conference center.

Jamie Lindsay, a longtime pilot for United Airlines who lives in Fawn Lake, and his two partners want to build a facility near Kalahari that would feature a wind tunnel manufactured by Texas-based SkyVenture.

SkyVenture's first wind tunnel opened in 1998 in Orlando, Fla. Its owner and CEO, Alan Metni, was a world champion skydiver. SkyVenture now has independently owned facilities throughout the U.S. and overseas. The closest one to here is in Fayetteville, N.C.

Lindsay and his partners want to build a vertical wind tunnel with a 14-foot diameter inside an 80-foot-high building. High-powered fans at the top draw up air that the customer leans into while being supported by the instructor. That lifts the individual off the ground and simulates flying. Experienced fliers can do flips and tricks. The ride ends with the customer, who receives instruction beforehand, flying to the exit and stepping out of the tunnel.

Lindsay, a cancer survivor, started skydiving in 2001 and has since done about 2,500 dives and competed in national competitions. He has also spent about 1,000 hours in wind tunnels. He said the tunnels provide a nearly exact replication of the feeling that follows jumping out of a plane, but for significantly less money.

Lindsay and his partners intend to hire about 40 people, ranging from world-class skydiving instructors to people with limited experience who excel at working with children. Customers will likely include members of the military training for airborne missions, people who don't have the stomach for skydiving but want to experience the sensation of flying, and families looking for a fun experience. Lindsay said it's extremely safe.

Lindsay has helped start several SkyVenture locations in the U.S., and he invested in the facility in San Francisco before selling his stake. Now he and his partners want to start their own. He said indoor skydiving profits have grown by double digits throughout the recession.

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