Cruising through the air like Tom

The outdoor simulator in action as visitors take to the air.
The outdoor simulator in action as visitors take to the air. / SUR
  • Spain's first outdoor sky-diving simulator, first used by the Mission Impossible actor, launches in Campillos

Flying through the air at 24,000 feet is a feeling very few get to experience in their lifetime. The adrenaline pumping round your body as you plummet to the ground is, presumably, an unforgettable experience. It is therefore easy to assume that a skydiving simulator would not give you that same sensation. Yet the only way to describe the feeling inside the new wind tunnel now open in Campillos is euphoric. As director Ray Armstrong highlights, "The only problem with [using] the word simulator is that you're actually doing it, you're flying."

That is the sensation you get as you lose complete control of your body as you relax into the arms-above-the-head-knees-bent position, with the wind blowing your face at 120 mph. As you lift your head up to look out to the hills surrounding Campillos, to the blue skies above, your cheeks discover a life of their own as the sound of the machine hurls past your ears. You feel completely powerless - were it not for the instructor, you might just fly right out the top.

Fly4Real's outdoor skydiving simulator, or wind tunnel as the experts call it, offers the chance to experience how it feels to fly. While you fly on a column of air, without a parachute, the tunnel simulates the freefall portion of a skydive - and is the first of its kind in Spain.

Mission Impossible

The story behind Fly4Real, situated in rural Campillos, is just as interesting as the experience itself. Initially serving together in the Parachute Regiment in the 1980s, co-owners Allan Hewitt and Ray Armstrong are veterans to the sport, having done thousands of jumps in their careers.

After a call from Hollywood, the pair went on to work with Mr Mission Impossible himself, Tom Cruise. Using the wind tube, the pair spent an intense two years training him to carry out all of his own stunts for the movie, most notably the extreme HALO (high altitude, low opening) jump. On wrapping the film, they loved the tunnel so much they offered to purchase it from Cruise, getting a "good deal" they admitted.

Having already set up a sky diving centre in Seville, Hewitt explained that when searching for a home for their tunnel he knew "it had to be Spain, it had to be Malaga", but it was not until a year of searching that they finally found a home in Campillos, joining forces with KartCenter owner Martin Reuvers.

The experience is for everyone aged five to 95, say the owners, whether they want to train for real or simply have some fun. Combined, the team have spent days soaring through the air, and now they want to bring that sensation to the masses. As the experts point out, the tube is "very similar" to the real thing, using "the same body movements" and "same flying technique", the only difference is not having to worry about a parachute - or imminent death.

The centre opened at the beginning of May, with an official launch and ceremonial ribbon-cutting taking place last week attended by mayor of Campillos, Francisco Guerrero, who emphasised the importance of attracting these kinds of activities.

"Campillos is proud to have one of the best kart circuits in Europe and the only outdoor skydiving simulator in Spain," he said.

Allan Hewitt explained that Fly4Real have brought in two instructors, one Irish and the other Spanish, but are "looking to train people up locally to become instructors which will take around six months".

Being brought back down to earth is a strange feeling when you have just experienced the rush that comes with flying. Stumbling to find your feet as you make your way out of the simulator, the adrenaline makes you think you could do anything - perhaps even jump from a plane. It is hard to disagree with the professionals - there really is no feeling like it.