Gone with the wind tunnel

Trying to contort one's body in an aerodynamic fashion while flailing in mid-air proved tricky at Sentosa's iFly Singapore.
Trying to contort one's body in an aerodynamic fashion while flailing in mid-air proved tricky at Sentosa's iFly Singapore.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

I had the rare chance to train like a Red Lion yesterday, and though it looked effortless, it was anything but a breeze.

Stepping into the wind tunnel at Sentosa's iFly Singapore, I was immediately whisked off my feet by a mighty 160kmh gust.

We had practised the right posture to adopt - belly down, chin up, back arched "like a banana" and arms bent at eye level.

Easier than yoga, I thought.

I was wrong.

Trying to contort one's body in an aerodynamic fashion while flailing in mid-air proved tricky.

Thanks to the skydive instructor who held down my scrawny frame, however, I did not spin out of control or hit rock bottom.

Although I found myself floating like a cloud in no time, I could not help but think of First Warrant Officer Ivan Low's words.

The parade jump may seem simple, but many crucial thoughts run through a Red Lion's mind during the five-minute descent, he said.

Among other things, they have to worry about wind conditions, be aware of their altitude and coordinate their landings.

I soon learnt this the hard way.

Trying the parachute flight simulator at Pasir Ris Camp, I was strapped in like a baby in a sling carrier and hoisted off the ground as I leapt off the "plane". At 4,000ft, it was time to release my chute. But it took me three tries to yank it out.

The virtual view of the city was breathtaking. I tried to land at the Padang - but ended up beside the Civilian War Memorial Park.

Why had everyone else landed on target, but not me?

The answer, as Bob Dylan once sang, was blowing in the wind.

The exercises taught a novice like me many things. I can only imagine how helpful it must be for the Red Lions, who have to perform complex manoeuvres.

With all the work that goes on behind the scenes, it is no wonder they never fail to make the parade crowd roar every year.

Yeo Sam Jo

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 29, 2015, with the headline 'Gone with the wind tunnel'. Print Edition | Subscribe