Get ready to soar. iFLY is a family-friendly space that offers the dream of flight in a secure, controlled environment. CEO Matt Ryan says, “The instructors supervise the experience, and you truly get to fly.”

The world-class instructors are an essential part of the iFLY experience. They are incredibly passionate about giving the millions of customers who have visited the vertical wind tunnels the ultimate experience. According to Ryan, the business “looks at instructors as athletes.” And the supporting team around the instructors, including the facilities managers and customer service people, need to have a passion for delivering the dream of flight to guests globally.

It takes time and dedication to become an instructor. Each must go through an exacting training program independently run by the International Bodyflight Association. Instructors “have to go through this course and qualify to engage with customers,” says Ryan. In due course, there’s a leveling-up process as the instructors improve their skills inside the vertical wind tunnel and with guests.

The top-notch instructors are always present to supervise flyers inside the vertical wind tunnels. “They manage the experience,” says Ryan. “And from a technology perspective, there is, in addition to the instructors, there’s a dedicated driver that controls the wind speed.”

That one-on-one experience inside the vertical wind tunnels is what leaves a lasting impression on guests. “The iFLY reviews typically credit an amazing instructor. Parents will mention if an instructor was great with their children,” says Ryan. Making memories that will last a lifetime and receiving that kind of positive feedback are what make the intensive training process worth it to the company.

Hiring the Best People for the Job

The company is headquartered in Austin, Texas. It’s intensely selective about the crew it hires to work in any of its 89 operational facilities worldwide. iFLY remains committed to hiring passionate people who deliver an excellent guest experience. The business invests in “individuals who are somewhat athletic, although they don’t have to be skydivers. A great thing about iFLY is it transcends culture, class, and ethnicity,” says Ryan.

Its core customer base is families — moms, dads, and kids. “That is over 80% of the company’s customer base. And that’s who it focuses on,” says Ryan. “They come for a family experience. They experience flight as individuals, but they experience it as a family.” And they keep coming back in part because of the expertise of the instructors.

It takes approximately six months to become a fully certified instructor. “So that is a big investment just to get them to what we call a Level One or Level One-plus certified instructor,” explains Chris Barrett, iFLY retail division president.

“There are ranks, files, and levels. So when [the company] hires an instructor, besides the requisite background and safety checks for them to even start employment, they go through four weeks of training. And that is four weeks of 40 hours of very intense training.”

To become the ultimate top-level trainers at the vertical wind tunnel facilities, instructors must complete three to four years of additional training. “That is a very dedicated choice for instructors since there is a massive amount of time and effort that goes into it,” says Barrett. “I would say it takes roughly hundreds of hours per year per instructor after their initial training.”

Instructors Come to iFLY for the Thrill

Many of its employees initially flocked to the job for an exciting experience. Ryan says, “That’s one reason they come here. They get paid a base salary and commissions but also free flight time, which is a huge draw when they’re passionate about flying.”

However, they tend to stay a long time because it’s so much more than just a chance to float on the wall-to-wall air. Ryan says, “These are young men and women. Some have engineering degrees but love working with customers inside the vertical wind tunnel so much.” Its employees tend to remain with the facility for four years on average.

And they make good money. Barrett explains that the company compensates instructors accordingly. “Pre-2019 to now, instructors are making 30% more on average than they used to be making,” he says. “The instructor’s tenure is much better.  But the fact of the matter is that we put so much time and effort into the investment because, in a way, those instructors are the product for our core flyers.”

That’s why the company strives to eliminate anyone from the training program who isn’t up to par with their strict standards. “Concerning the training program up front, it’s rigorous where we try to force people out,” says Barrett. “We go out of our way not to pass people because we only want people that are actually qualified and capable of doing it. So our retention and the pass rate is in the 70s, but that’s the company exiting the individuals, not vice versa.”