First Flight in the Wingsuit Tunnel

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A few years ago I decided that it was time to get out of my comfort zone and try something new in skydiving…

As with many decisions in my life, it was mostly a visceral one, a non-brainer – I was going to learn how to fly in a wingsuit. 😎

Author Andreea captured in an exit frame during her First Flight Course over Skydive Perris with coach Dan Dupuis
Photo by Claudiu Frigescu

Back to student status

It’s a particularly frustrating experience to be rather good at something then go back to student status in a discipline that seems “close” to what you were already doing. Maybe some of you felt the same going from one discipline to another in this very complex sport that we love.

It’s frustrating, and challenging and humbling… I loved it from the start. 🙃

I was lucky to have the chance to do the First Flight Course 2 years ago in one of the best places there are –  the Lightning Flight Wingsuit School in Skydive Perris. Then Covid happened and all plans went to hell and the training opportunities disappeared, so this year I decided to make up for the lost time and invest in some wingsuit tunnel. I descended in Stockholm, the home of the world’s first and currently only Wingsuit Indoor Tunnel, eager to train my wings.

It was by far the best skydiving-related decision I took lately.      

The wingsuit tunnel originally tested aircraft designs
Photo courtesy of Indoor Wingsuit

The Tunnel

It’s incredible what special imagination can do… this tunnel was basically reconverted from a horizontal one initially built in 1939 for the aviation industry and used to test wings’ aerodynamics. 


Before the start of World War II there was a long period of unrest in Europe, so for Sweden it become important to quickly create opportunities for a strong aviation industry. The Aeronautical Engineering Institute was created, and with American help, the Low Speed ​​Tunnel 1 – LT 1 was built. It was completed in 1940, and became a central facility for SAAB, the Armed Forces and others involved in the development of Swedish fighter aircraft. The facility was top secret and very well guarded.

Years later the European Space Agency used this facility in the design process of the Huygens spacecraft, which was launched with the Cassini spacecraft in December 1997. Just over six years later, Huygens successfully landed on Saturn’s moon Titan and sent images to Earth.

And surely in LT 1 they have tested a few things that we will never know. 🙂

Photo courtesy of Indoor Wingsuit

Around 2000, the defense industry left LT 1. Thereafter, the wind tunnel was used more sporadically, and mainly for tests of a more civilian nature.

In 2012, aviation enthusiasts Peter Georen and Anton Westman got grain on LT 1. They tried at first to create Sweden’s first vertical wind tunnel where you could simulate freefall skydiving. It did not work out, but the idea that LT 1 could be used to create something in this concept survived. By 2015 Westman was sure that it would be possible to fly for real – forward towards the air current – instead of falling downwards as in a vertical wind tunnel. It must have been a special thrill to be the first in the world to try something.

The project was a GO. Peter Georen and Johan Strömberg were among those involved in the idea, and immediately set about taking it further.  During hundreds of further tests, the technology was further refined, and at the same time the safety system was developed which means that virtually anyone – children and the elderly as well as adults – can fly in the wind tunnel without risking hitting its roof, walls or floor. 

It must have been a special thrill to be the first in the world to try something…

The dreamers that made their dream a reality 🙂
From left to right: Anton Westman, Jonas Tholin, Peter Georén, Johan Strömberg
Photo courtesy of Indoor Wingsuit

The training programs

The tunnel offers a clear training program that takes you from zero to whatever level you can reach.


No matter who you are and your skill level you enter for the first time only with one of their instructors and using a safety harness attached in four points that allows you get accustomed to flying in this tunnel in a safe manner. Trust me, the skills you learn in the harness are mega-important because if you don’t do things the right way, this tunnel can really hurt you. Alongside the usual helmet, back protection is mandatory.

In a normal vertical tunnel you can probably break some ribs, hit your head a bit, but the injuries that you can get flying a wingsuit in such a small environment can be more serious. It’s also easier to hurt your instructor as things can happen in a flash. This is the reason why all the safety procedures are set in stone and the instructors never cut corners. 

The most important parts of this training are to learn how to fall, on the mattresses and on the net in the back, and how to safely stop from an imperfect drill. Once you master this you progress to the leash. 🙂

Safety procedures are set in stone and the instructors never cut corners 

The basics are learned in the harness
Photo courtesy of Indoor Wingsuit

Basic skills progression  

I have a strong respect for every wind tunnel instructor, but what the instructors do here is a step higher. Once you are on the leash you can basically fly alone, but you still are wearing a climbing harness, where the instructor attaches the leash and you basically become a flying kite. A big and heavy one, which the instructor needs to keep under control at all times. Your safety is now in his hands. 

On the leash you start the real work, training all the moves – up, down, back, forward, left, right and all the combinations in between. It’s not easy and having previous vertical tunnel experience helps, but not so much. The wingsuit is a powerful, POWERFUL, animal. I did my best, got frustrated on the way, progressed, went to sleep dead tired… and repeated it all again the next day.

Huge thanks to Alex Knaub and Arvid Endler, my instructors in this period, for their patience and hard work. Guys, I am truly grateful! It’s worth mentioning that these guys rock it in acro wingsuit flying. Arvid and his team Venom are Indoor Champions and won the bronze medal at the World Championships that took place in Tanay earlier this year. He went on to win the German Nationals in September with the same team. Alex Knaub, an American, took a vacation and went back home where he won the bronze medal in the US Nationals with a team that had minimal training time together. Nicely done!! 💪💪  

The wingsuit is a powerful, POWERFUL, animal

Author Andreea flying on The Leash 😎
Photo by Bogdan Pistea

Advanced Categories

When you get good enough you can start working on Acrobatics, Performance, Tracking or flying bigger suits. Let’s say, the sky is the limit.

You can find more details on the program here.

Besides the home-based awesome main instructors the tunnel also works with some of the best coaches in the business that regularly organize training camps for all levels.                   

Let’s face it, in skydiving the tunnel is the best invention ever made. It’s true you can’t practice all skills in it but for the actual freefall flying part whatever training you can get in the tunnel is gold. JUST DO IT. The progression is worth it!  

Whatever training you can get in the tunnel is gold. JUST DO IT. The progression is worth it!  

Video – Venom Wingsuit Team – free routine during the 2021 International Indoor Wingsuit Championships

VR glasses

One treat that this tunnel is providing is wingsuit flying using Virtual Reality glasses. The safety harness is mandatory for this, of course, no matter the skills level of the flyer. It’s incredible that anyone can experience BASE jumping off a cliff in the Andes, a skyscraper in New York or a bridge in California – wearing a wingsuit with air flowing towards you at 100 mph I tried the BASE in China option and I loved it! As I don’t plan to do any actual BASE jumping until my kids are grown, and maybe not even then, it was an amazing experience.   

Surprise guests

I was a bit shocked one morning when I entered the tunnel and saw skiers in the tunnel. I kid you not!! Ski jumpers use the tunnel (with the harness, of course) to train in order to get the perfect flying position.

I don’t know who had the idea first, but it’s bloody brilliant! I understand that there are quite a few national teams using it now as they can benefit from the same thing we do – huge amount of training in a short time.       

A ski jump that can last a LOOOONG time 🙂
Photo courtesy of Indoor Wingsuit


I have been to many tunnels along the years and from all of them this tunnel has the most relaxed atmosphere. The crew are relaxed, involved and ready to help when needed. 

One evening they organized a barbeque where Jonas Tholin, the tunnel’s CEO, was in charge of the burgers. It was a great time to connect with their team, other flyers and friends that joined the party. 

Other interesting activities took place, but some things can only be told with a beer in my hand. All I can say is, whenever and wherever you travel, make sure some Brits are there because the entertainment is guaranteed. I don’t remember when last time I laughed so hard.

Whenever and wherever you travel, make sure some Brits are there because the entertainment is guaranteed

Andreea with her instructors Arvid Endler and Alex Knaub, and the awesome Brit gang 😎

From tunnel to sky

From the time I had this training until this article was published I was back in Perris for the TBS event and managed to test a bit my newly acquired wingsuit skills. By the time I did my last wingsuit jump there I could fly well with a group of 4 and did my first super-controlled dock. Claudiu, Dan Dupuis and the whole wingsuit gang there – I love you guys!   

Andreea, Stephanie Baptiste and Claudiu Frigescu during a training jump at Perris
Claudiu is flying his CR+ Squirrel wingsuit quite collapsed to be able to fly compatibly with Andreea’s Swift
Photo by Dan Dupuis

What’s next?

Well… for indoor wingsuit flying the next step is US, of course. I think there is no question why US has been chosen as the forthcoming location of the second indoor wingsuit tunnel in the world. Orlando, Florida, where the new tunnel will be built, is in normal times one of the hottest tourist spots in the world. The new tunnel will be offering tourists and locals a completely new attraction for recreation and sports. The land is near other tourist attractions and within a 2-hour drive of DeLand, Sebastian and Zephyrhills. In other words, perfect!

The tunnel should be ready for testing by mid 2022 and open for operations by the end of the year.    

But until the future I’ll end this article with a glimpse at the past, just because it’s fascinating 🙂

The Past – in black & white

Further reading

If you’re interested in wingsuit flying, check this 4-part series on Wingsuit Progression

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Meet: Andreea Pistea

Andreea started skydiving at 16 years old and the step between hobby and passion was almost immediately made. Nothing changed in the years that passed.

She is a USPA coach, AFF Instructor, Multiple World Record holder in big-ways, former captain of TNT 4-way team and a Romanian Airclub athlete.

Andreea enjoys FS, wingsuiting and freefly. She flyes Sun Path, Aerodyne, Squirrel, Cookie Helmets and Cypres.

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