Saturday, March 18, 2006

Fly Like A Vulture!

:: Just like Gollum the Vulture, you can learn to fly in a high-tech wind tunnel designed for skydivers!
++ Personal Tech: Simon Ward / AirkiX

A vulture that can't fly became airborne for the first time in a new wind tunnel designed by SkyVentures for indoor skydivers.

Four-year-old Gollum (an African White Back Vulture) was bred in captivity so couldn't learn to fly by launching himself off cliffs like wild vultures do. The result of his wind tunnel flying experience is that he can now fly unaided.
Imagine a wind tunnel that could be used for testing the aerodynamics of an F1 (Formula One) racing car, turn it upright, step into the airflow and you are flying! It's a proven concept operating in several countries to the benefit of the skydiving community and anyone else who wishes to taste the thrill of freefall in a completely safe environment.

The setup is simple, a 12ft (3.66m) diameter tunnel has two open doorways into the ante chamber (in effect, the outer chamber) which can seat up to 15 people. Inside the flight chamber is the invisible airflow and all is calm in the outer chamber. The flight chamber has a sprung floor made from aircraft standard steel wires. The instructor will spend much of their time walking on the floor as they look after flyers.

To enter the tunnel, stand in the open doorway and lean forward, you will feel your legs lifted from under you as you assume a horizontal flying position. The instructor will take a loose grip on your flight suit and help you get into a neutral flying position before teaching you the basic moves.

Movements such as going up and down, forwards, backwards, sideways and turning are all simple and easy to master and you will soon be learning acrobatic tricks! To leave the tunnel, simply fly to the second doorway, take a grip on the sides and stand up and you are back in the ante chamber. Don’t worry about small matters such as jumping, falling or hitting the fans – it just can’t happen!

Starting at the bottom of the wind tunnel is a plenum that is 27.4m long by 8.5m wide and 4m deep (90x28x13ft). Inside are some huge aluminium banks of turning vanes that smoothly turn air around corners in straight lines. This takes out the turbulence.

The air is forced through the inlet contractor in the centre of the plenum and up into the flight chamber. The inlet contractor squeezes the air into the chamber at normal flying speeds of about 100-110mph (161-177 kph).

The air travels through the clear acrylic walled flight chamber and on up through the diffuser before hitting turning vanes at the top that turn the air left and right into the huge fans which push the air out into the top corners where it is turned on its downward path through the return air towers (RATS).
Note from Technophile: This tunnel is very cool (or warm) depending on the weather. It recirculates the air which gets warm very quickly as the 1000HP motor creates energy and heat. Warm air can be forced out of a huge door and cool air sucked in from an opposite mounted door. The air then gets a final turn at the bottom corners before the cycle starts again at the turning vanes back into the inlet contractor. In winter it’s warm and in Summer it’s cool!
:: Source: [The Science Channel]
:: Innovation: Using wind tunnel technology to allow people to fly!
:: Available: Now (there are seven tunnels world-wide).
:: Cost: At AirkiX, if you book online, £37.99 (£32.99 off-peak) will get you a short class with a video brief and instruction, and 2 flights of one minute each – that’s about the same as three tandem skydives.
:: Image Credits: AirkiX

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