CLYMB, the biggest wind tunnel in the world, situated in Abu Dhabi, has opened its doors. The flying chamber is FOUR TIMES bigger in area than other tunnels. It’s Ginormous!!
Milko Hodgkinson organised a group of friends to go and fly 16-way to see what was possible. Martial Ferré reports…
The camp was a kind of ‘exploration camp’. Milko, on a very short notice, put a team together with some of the best 16-way flyers in the UK and took me on board with Sian Stokes. We flew 1 hour 20 mins per day from noon till 7pm over 3 days. We managed to fly 16-way like hell!
PLACE & FACILITIES
The tunnel is super-modern in the style of ‘Star Wars’ vessels. The building is connected to a big mall, which is also connected to the Ferrari World attractions. So, the place is really convenient including restaurants and shops right there. The staff is mostly made of European flyers.
Around the chamber there is a big hall where you can walk around the tunnel. After each session staff opened the door of the sas so that we could get out and rewalk our dive or quickly debrief on TV. There is an upper level going around the tunnel where the public can watch us! Team rooms are there to welcome teams. The access to the tunnel is made by a kind of nice modern style covered bridge which is connected to the Mall. You feel like walking in a Star Wars scenery!
Abu Dhabi is famous for its Mosque which is the place where Sheik Zayed is buried (Zayed is the one who managed to unite the Emirates to a nation). There are also a lot of leisure parks and beaches. All at close range from the tunnel! 🙂
I was the first to enter the tunnel when the team started its first flight. As I entered it, I felt like a mini-me (downsized to a fifth of my real body size 🙂 As I was setting up in my slot, I could see all my teammies entering the tunnel like it would be from a plane; a continuous line of skydivers which seems not to reach any end! I was preparing myself to squeeze a little bit to make room for people, like it is in a 17ft tunnel when we do 8-way … To build the star which was our initial formation for each session, we all had to fly inwards to connect … I was not expecting that, I thought I would have had to fly close, with my knees on the wall! When we formed the star I looked behind me and there was still room! Unbelievable! I could see smiles on every face. We started flying our dive which was a pretty common conventional 16-way dive. Nobody touched the wall … We all turned hysterical! The sky seemed to be enclosed here in this chamber and we could play with it as we wanted! Everything looked possible.
After this first ‘safe’ session, Milko, Luck Vereken and I started to draw crazy 16-way dives trying to see where the limits of the tunnel would be. We started reaching the limits only when we made 4 bipoles connected together in a single row. The 2 extreme outfacing guys had to put their hands on the wall and we had to squeeze the centre a little bit (or at least not let us fly big like in the sky). But for the rest, all the formations fitted perfectly.
After 2 or 3 sessions, we knew that we had almost no limits and we started to invent some of the craziest dives ever including 3D blocks. We could do some 8-way double-sized! Meaning that we used the 8-way dive pool and turned it into 16-way, double sizing all the pieces!
The most amazing is that the air flow was superb. No issues at all. No air flow stalls, no problems by the door. The air is the purest I ever flew in my life! Everywhere in the tunnel. It doesn’t seem to be disturbed by the 16 guys flying like dogs of war!
It is 32 feet diameter – double the standard 16ft tunnel in diameter but this is four times the area! When you fly an 8-way in a 17ft tunnel, there is not so much room left. When you fly 16-way in a 32ft tunnel, you still have room for people! We think that we could fly 20-ways probably. When we were turning blocks, we never touched the walls! One time we flew four teams of 4-way independently in each sector. None of the teams touched each other. I believe that two 8-way teams could fly independently side by side without any collisions, You could even run a competition with 3 or even 4 teams 4-way teams all flying at the same time! 😉
The tunnel is so big that when you stand up at the end of a session you have to look for the door since you don’t see it as you fly!
We saw first timers flying – it looks ridiculous to have only one first timer at a time! It’s pure waste of wind. But the staff said that they are not confident yet to take 2 or even more first timers flying at the same time. We saw a 4-way VFS team flying, they look ridiculously small in it! :). You could fit 6 VFS teams at the same time! What was impressive was to see a solo free flyer roaming around this VFS team. He was acting and moving like it would be in the sky with huge trajectories and maximum speed! I filmed it with my Gopro which has a wide angle. In any 17ft tunnel I would just be stationary with my camera to film the whole trajectories. In the 32ft tunnel I had to follow the moves of this guy to make sure he was on camera. The distances he was covering were so big that I had to move my hand to be sure that if would not be off screen! This gives you an idea of the size 🙂
We saw also the Russian 8-way team flying. No need to say that they could do all the blocks of the dive pool without touching the wall anytime.
The costs per hour are more expensive – between 1050 and 1200 Eur per hour at the moment depending on the deal. It could be even higher since they still need to check the consumption in energy with 16 people. But shared with 16 you finally pay as it would be doing 8-way in a normal size tunnel I guess.
AFFECT ON THE SPORT
I think this will have the same effect on big-way jumpers as how 8-way indoor affected the sport. This tunnel will make people discover a new world and this will accelerate the learning process like it happened with the 8-way indoor. My 8 way indoor Hell Weeks have proven that the people get more skilled and solid in the sky. I believe this tunnel will allow people to reach better skill levels in a shorter time.
This tunnel has erased many years of frustrations in outdoor events. When rains and clouds kill your event. When people don’t have the skills to fly the crazy ideas we have. Here in this tunnel we could fly the dives we had kept in our pockets since a long time which we couldn’t make reality till now. 100 % Outfacing diamonds as a normal block doing it 6 or 7 times in a row! That is the best dream ever as a coach! 🙂 My whole frustrations are gone and I see now an unlimited world for belly flying in this tunnel 🙂
A new indoor discipline will also appear: 16-way competition. With new blocks and a new dive pool (Milko and I invented a lot in 3 days ! 🙂 Why not also invent artistic 16-way flying? We made some funny artistic sessions and the staff was amazed to see how beautiful it was looking! They admitted that belly flying was finally nice to watch! 🙂
You may also have races! Why not invent flying races in such a big tunnel. I made some go-arounds in the tunnel at full speed and that’s pure glide sensations, needing new skills to fight against your own momentum! My brain cells are sparkling with new ideas! 🙂
This tunnel is going to transform our lives. Milko even mentioned that he’d be happy to quit skydiving and organise events 16-way indoor all the time! 🙂 For me, as an 8-way tunnel coach and indoor/outdoor organiser, I see a lot of things to do in this crazy tunnel!
Indoor 16-way Video. You’ve never seen 16-way like this!