A proposed wind tunnel at a Middletown business to be used for indoor skydiving has already gone on a growth spurt, even though construction hasn’t yet started.
Start Skydiving received approval this week to increase the height of its proposed vertical wind tunnel another 50 feet, from 130 feet to 180 feet. The approval amended a previous development plan approved last fall.
Once completed, the project will be the tallest indoor vertical wind tunnel in North America, according to John Hart of Start Skydiving.
The project will allow people to have a skydiving experience in a more controlled environment as well as complement the outdoor skydiving business at the airport, he said.
In addition to the recreational component to be built at the Middletown Regional Airport, Hart said the facility could also be used for aerospace research by businesses and the military.
City economic development officials said the proposed facility would create about 30 jobs. In addition to the research component, the project could be eligible for funding through an new $50 million JobsOhio research and development program.
The wind tunnel features a single loop design and has a 17-foot diameter and recreates the physics of free-fall by producing a more 20-foot-wide column of air at the top so skydivers can practice for several hours instead of several minutes experienced from a free-fall from a plane. The proposed wind tunnel would have a 90-foot freefall, he said.
“There would be nothing like this in North America,” Hart said.
Hart told the Middletown Planning Commission this week that he is already working to procure military and commercial contracts to use the proposed facility. In addition, he said about $8.5 million in parts to build the wind tunnel are already in crates waiting to be shipped from Dubai to Middletown.
“We can have a $20 million wind tunnel and build it for $10 million,” Hart said. “We could have a groundbreaking in the spring and it could be done in a year.”
He said the planning commission’s approval helps the project get one step closer to completion.
Hart said he did not foresee any issues with the Federal Aviation Administration about the location of the wind tunnel building and believes it would be approved.
When asked how the recently announced indoor skydiving facility planned for Liberty Twp. would impact the proposed Middletown facility. Hart, who is a shareholder of iFLY, the company developing the Liberty Twp. site, said that there would be no impact because they are operating “a totally different business plan.”
He said the proposed Middletown facility will be for multiple purposes, unlike the Liberty Twp. facility.
“Middletown needs to drive economic development at the airport,” said city planning commission member John Langhorne. “It’s such a great asset. I hope we can jump start that.”