From hopeful trainee to certified trainer, the 11-year veteran shares his journey of teaching people how to fly at Sentosa.
“The wind speed in the wind tunnel can go up to 300 kilometres per hour. That’s as fast as an F1 car! We’d taper it down for kids and newbies, of course, but the more experienced pros tell us what speed they want, depending on the techniques they want to execute.
I would describe the feeling of flying as an adrenaline rush. It’s like an addiction – there’s a kick to it. You’re so weightless and free of everything. If you have any problems outside, just come here, fly a bit, and feel so much better afterwards.
I’ve been working as an indoor skydiving instructor for 11 years. Before this, I was an associate engineer. Trust me, it was a boring job. I was deskbound and doing the same thing every day. I needed to be moving. So when iFly Singapore had a job opening, I went for it.
The fuel for skydiving was actually ignited during National Service. I was in the 1st Commando Battalion, and we did a lot of airborne stuff. But Singapore doesn’t have a drop zone if you’re talking about skydiving recreationally. That’s why indoor skydiving is perfect.
To be an instructor at iFly Singapore, you’ll need to go through a series of interviews and pass a fitness test. For the fitness test, you’re required to do a certain number of pull-ups, sit-ups and burpees. You also need to run five kilometres in under 30 minutes.
When I was still a trainee, my arms would be so sore from catching my trainer repeatedly in the wind tunnel. He was pretty heavy. [laughs] But it’s all part of training where we’re given different scenarios to spot and respond accordingly.
I still recall how our trainer was mad at us before officially signing us off as instructors. We were doing our final exercise and made some really basic mistakes. He yelled at us, then gave us an hour to have a drink and think about what we wanted to do with our lives.
It didn’t feel great, but we understood that he was strict with us because safety is our number one priority. Danger doesn’t yield to anyone; accidents can happen in the wind tunnel. So when we returned an hour later, we could perform everything perfectly.
Now that I’m an instructor, it’s my turn to do what was done to me to new trainees. Now their arms are sore from catching me in the wind tunnel. [laughs] But it’s important because if you know how to handle different situations in training, nothing will faze you in the wind tunnel.
Interesting people? We’ve had some incredible people come here, like Paralympic swimmers Theresa Goh and Yip Pin Xiu. We also host world-level competitors and train people planning to do actual skydiving overseas.
We even had Prince Abdul Mateen, the son of the Sultan of Brunei. He’s into extreme sports and was here on his own time. I had to call him Your Excellency, but during the debrief in the wind tunnel, I accidentally called him ‘bro‘. I apologised, but he laughed and said it was okay.
But one of my most memorable moments was helping a boy with special needs. He came with his father to fly. He was nervous and hugged me tightly when we first entered the wind tunnel. I told him to relax and keep breathing.
By the end of the session, he let go and was flying by himself. I told him, ‘Good job, buddy.‘ His father was clapping and tearing up for his son. He didn’t expect his son to enjoy himself that much. As an instructor, it felt great to experience such an emotional moment.
That’s the great thing about iFly Singapore. It’s for anyone who wants to do anything extreme yet safe. And if you were planning to skydive, this is a good training ground. If you can fly in a 16-feet wind tunnel surrounded by glass walls, the sky is nothing.
I actually received my long service award earlier this year. Our CEO gifted me with a custom-made watch of my choosing. It was a surprise and very touching because it’s been a long journey here, full of ups and downs.
iFly Singapore is more than just a place where people come to Sentosa to fly. Still, it’s also where I work, and I have many amazing memories. I truly appreciate the recognition, and to be acknowledged for my hard work feels very special.” – Kumar Jayakrishnan, Flight Instructor
Interview by: Arman Shah