With no jumping, parachutes or planes required, now anyone can fly like Superman – on a cushion of air.
Arrow International’s team worked in blazing heat and falling snow to get iFLY, Queenstown’s sensational new attraction off the ground this winter. Arrow was involved in the design phase of the $15 million project, giving buildability and programming input before being awarded the main build contract.
The skydiving facility involves an 8m deep basement and wind turbines that sit on top of the building. The turbines blow air around the building, into the basement, and then project it up through the centre of the building to create a ‘flight chamber’. People float on a column of air rising up to 5m above the ground.
The Queenstown building design, drawn up by local Walker Group Architects, is the first of its kind for New Zealand. This iconic build is a joint project between Sky Venture International, which manufactures iFLY vertical wind tunnels and Kiwi residents Emma and Gary Beyer. Emma Beyer was on the British skydiving team winning the 2006 world champs, while her husband Gary is a former world champion and 18-time US champion.
Emma comments that “we originally approached iFLY in 2011 with a view to launching an indoor skydiving facility in New Zealand. Before tendering for construction even started, a huge amount of work went into finding and researching the right location. The consenting process was especially time-consuming and challenging due to the central Queenstown location, and the appearance of the building needed to fit well with the surrounding architecture and alpine backdrop. It’s unique as it is unlike any of the other 67 iFLY sites around the world.”
Nick Hamlin, Arrow’s Southern General Manager says, “The site is wedged between two existing buildings making construction activities incredibly difficult. The site is very tight and steep and on one of the busiest streets in Queenstown for foot traffic, which leads up to the gondola. A major tower crane was used on site to construct the super structure and install all the 12 tonne wind turbines.
“The basement area is approximately 8m in the ground, with the top of the building lifting up to 14m – making it a massive concrete structure that had to be systemic designed for the alpine location.”
The 450mm-thick basement walls required specialised pouring systems brought in from Christchurch and a special free-flowing concrete to pour the massive walls. Highly technical, the wind tunnel and most of the technology for the project have come from Texas.
Construction Project Manager Bruce Halligan, Project/Senior Site Manager Brian Macmillan, Quantity Surveyor Gerry Lyons and Project Administrator Kirsty Tamatea were supported by an enthusiastic team of subcontractors.
“It’s been a tough but very rewarding build, with a lot of very technical details and low build tolerances that add to the challenge – we all can’t wait for the opportunity to try out the tunnel itself.”