The Joy of Flight in Ukraine at War

In a world often overshadowed by conflict and uncertainty, moments of extraordinary resilience and ingenuity shine through. Aerodium, a trailblazer in wind tunnel technology, exemplifies this spirit as it defies the odds and brings the exhilarating joy of flight to the people of Ukraine, even amidst the challenges of war. With their project in Kyiv, Aerodium is not just building a wind tunnel; they’re constructing a symbol of hope, resilience, and the enduring human spirit.

The History of Aerodium: Pioneering Innovation in Wind Tunnel Technology

Aerodium’s journey began over four decades ago with a vision to revolutionize how we experience flight. Founded in 1979, the company quickly established itself as a pioneer in wind tunnel technology, pushing the boundaries of what was thought possible. From the outset, Aerodium set itself apart with a relentless commitment to innovation, investing heavily in research and development to create cutting-edge solutions that redefined the possibilities of indoor skydiving.

Ever since Canadian paratrooper and inventor Jean St-Germain built the world’s first vertical wind tunnel for his parachute students in Saint-Simon-de-Bagot and the very first human flight took place exactly 45 years ago, Aerodium has continuously raised the bar in the field of aerodynamics, introducing a series of groundbreaking advancements that have propelled the industry forward. Their wind tunnels, characterized by their sleek design, advanced safety features, and unparalleled performance, have become synonymous with the ultimate indoor and even outdoor flying experience. Whether it’s professional athletes honing their skills or families seeking an unforgettable adventure, Aerodium’s wind tunnels cater to flyers of all ages and skill levels.

One of the hallmarks of Aerodium’s success lies in its ability to anticipate and adapt to changing market demands. By staying ahead of the curve and embracing emerging technologies, the company has remained at the forefront of the industry, setting new standards for safety, performance, and customer satisfaction. From the introduction of state-of-the-art safety systems to the development of innovative flight training programs, Aerodium continues to push the boundaries of what’s possible in indoor skydiving.

How Can Vertical Wind Tunnels Be Useful in Societies Around the World

The constant advancements allow Aerodium to be a global leader in wind tunnel technology, with installations spanning across continents. Remaining steadfast in our mission to inspire, thrill, and delight flyers around the world, we create ways to bring skydiving to people everywhere.

The applications are truly endless, from on-ground paratrooper training, movie making and entertainment at the Olympics to an option to take flight as a family, Aerodium vertical wind tunnels have no boundaries of how and where they can be used. Even world-class athletes choose Aerodium as their go-to place for a fun in-flight learning experience.

You can also take a look at  the most recent projects Aerodium has developed and participated in on our website, and you’ll see how creative the use cases are.

Indoor Skydiving – The Most Exhilarating Entertainment in Retail.

But one of the most exciting and profitable application areas for business owners in 2024 is to install a vertical wind tunnel as an entertainment opportunity for visitors at their mall. This can create the necessary boost of both foot traffic and overall retail profitability of your shopping center.

The retail landscape nowadays is so competitive that you must do something extraordinary to stand out, attract and engage customers, and bring valuable experiences to them. Vertical wind tunnels are the perfect way to do that. Wind tunnel flying is an exhilarating activity that many have yet to discover. From inspiring professional flyers and adventure seekers to children as young as four, Aerodium caters to a wide audience making it a go-to destination for families, thrill seekers, and everyone in between.

April 29, 2024 marks exactly one year since we opened a vertical wind tunnel in a shopping mall in the heart of Kyiv, Ukraine. And we can proudly say, it has been one of the most rewarding projects in the retail section yet, both emotionally and in monetary profit. Read on to find out more about this undertaking and the ever-lasting impact it has left on us as a company!

The Importance of Entertainment During Times of Crisis

Research has shown that engaging in enjoyable activities can have profound psychological benefits, helping individuals cope with stress and trauma. This has proven to be true through time: the power of entertainment to uplift spirits and provide moments of respite in times of crisis cannot be underestimated. Whether through music, art, or thrilling activities like indoor skydiving, entertainment can bring people together and provide a much-needed escape from the challenges of everyday life.

In war-torn regions like Ukraine, where the specter of conflict looms large, initiatives like the Aerodium wind tunnel project in the “Respublika Park” shopping mall in Kyiv play a crucial role in supporting the well-being of the community, offering a brief respite from the chaos and uncertainty that surrounds them.

By providing an opportunity for people to experience the thrill of flight in a safe and controlled environment, our wind tunnel is not just a source of entertainment; it’s a lifeline for those in need of a momentary escape from the challenges of war.

Insights from Ivars Beitāns: Overcoming Challenges and Seizing Opportunities

In a candid interview with Ivars Beitāns, the Chairman of the Board at Aerodium Technologies, he gives invaluable insights into the company’s journey in Ukraine. Beitāns shares the numerous challenges they faced during the construction of the wind tunnel in Kyiv, from navigating bureaucratic hurdles to dealing with the constant threat of conflict. Despite the adversity, Beitāns and his team remained resolute in their determination to see the project through. Their unwavering commitment to bringing joy and entertainment to the people of Ukraine is a testament to the indomitable human spirit.

Planning Profit and Entertainment During War

“Aerodium Technologies” wind tunnel in one of the largest European shopping centers “Respublika Park” in the capital of Ukraine, Kyiv, began to be built in 2012. At that time, its completion was stopped by Russia’s invasion of Crimea. The second attempt to build it started in 2020 when no one knew that the opening of this tunnel was facing a similar fate.”We have been doing very well in recent years after Covid. Better than anyone else in this industry,” said Ivars Beitāns, Chairman of the Board of Aerodium Technologies, in a conversation with “Delfi Bizness”(in Latvian).

The Challenge of the Decade

The “Respublika Park” tunnel was planned to open in March 2022, but in February, the second massive Russian invasion of Ukraine began. The project had to be frozen again. However, about a year later, when the Russian troops were driven out of the outskirts of Kyiv, the Ukrainians decided to open the wind tunnel anyway.

Beitāns remembers how he and his colleagues went to Kyiv at the time: “Everyone involved was terrified, but I managed to persuade the first three people to come with me. That’s when we finally saw with our own eyes that business is really happening in Ukraine, in Kyiv – several new stores were opened in the same supermarket.”

As the tunnel that was built more than 10 years ago seemed visually and morally outdated, we wanted to demolish what we had created and build a new one instead. “It was very difficult to market it to the partners, but considering various technological aspects, we managed to convince them that it would be a much better product, that it would be the most modern product in Europe, and they agreed,” Beitāns recalls.

Not knowing what to expect and preparing to open an entertainment venue during the war were the two biggest challenges at the time. “There are days when everything is calm and there are days when there are air raids five times a day. When we were building, there were times when we sat in the basement all day simply waiting to see what would happen,” he shares.

Wartime Marketing – How to Sell Something New During Crisis

Figuring out how to get people to visit the new entertainment venue was not easy. Together with Ukrainian partners, we worked on the message announcing the opening event for about two months. “If you made some kind of a disco party in Kyiv at that time, you were punished for it. We had to thread it all very carefully so that it looked politically correct and viable in that situation,” Beitāns admits.

The opening event was announced on all of the big advertising screens in Kyiv, presenting it as a patriotic event. “Despite the war, we are warming the economy and will pay taxes to the Ukrainian budget. This is not false, it is exactly what this opportunity brings to the country,” he says. The average turnover of Kyiv Aerodium is 120 thousand Euros per month, paying around 30 thousand Euros in taxes.

Several music groups and artists known in Ukraine, local influencers, and Latvians participated in the opening event, the ambassador with his family and others, with the number of visitors reaching 1,000 people. “It was pure luck that everything went well that day,” Beitāns says in regards to no attacks.

Seeing Beyond Financial Gains

With the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, the company has already been actively working to help the country: we have repeatedly donated financial resources, and cars, and delivered a cargo of food to Severodonetsk. “It’s one thing to do it in such a crisis situation and only once, but it’s another thing that you work in Ukraine on the spot, you can say you’re doing two good jobs. You employ people and in this gloomy atmosphere you give the opportunity to have some fun,” Beitāns says.

“During the year, we have paid almost 400 thousand euros in taxes to Ukraine. This is much more than I can afford to pay as a donation from Latvia,” says Beitāns.

In his opinion, this experience is especially important for children: “For a five-year-old child, two years in his life are a whopping 30% of his life. If all he sees are bomb explosions and accidents, that’s such a ruined childhood.” For this reason, he observed that Ukrainians themselves also work to keep children’s amusement parks open and take care of other opportunities to provide children with positive emotions.

How Profitable Is It to Start A Business in Ukraine Now

This is a good time to start and develop a business in Ukraine, Beitāns concluded from his experience. “The information space is almost completely empty. It’s very easy to make an ad and become known instantly. The same big screens – many people have nothing to put there, so they took [our ads] basically for nothing,” he explains.

Even after the opening of Aerodium tunnel in Kyiv, the promoters of the event continued to distribute advertisements. “Emotionally, you need to show something positive that something, anything other than war is happening,” Beitāns says, adding that under normal market circumstances, the advertising expenses would have been much higher.

According to him, the opening of new businesses is both an economic and a moral boost for Ukrainians: “It is important for them that we open those businesses because we believe in them. If I didn’t believe in Ukraine as a country, I wouldn’t do it.”

Although the Ukrainians themselves paid for the construction of the wind tunnel, doing business in Kyiv required certain investments. To ensure the company’s profitability, it was necessary to create a successful team of instructors and other employees, purchase furniture, create IT systems and advertising.

However, business in Ukraine is currently four times better than in Latvia. Beitāns explains this with the number of Kyiv’s population, which, together with immigrants from the war-affected regions of Ukraine, is currently around 5 million. “Usually those who have money are already leaving. They live in rented apartments or hotels in Kyiv, and they also need to eat, have fun, and live their lives. That market is very rich and good for any business at the moment,” Beitāns admits.

First year in Kyiv is a success story – watch and learn all about it!

The Most Profitable Investment in the Project – The Language and Pure Emotions

Beitāns’s Ukrainian language skills have aroused special affection among Ukrainians. He says that it was not difficult to learn the language, but this knowledge has more than once provided a pleasant experience. According to him, it’s the knowledge of the language that was the reason for the invitation of Kyiv mayor Vitalii Klitschko to the dinner.

“The Ukrainians told me – when you go to Ukraine, bring him [Klitschko’s] a helmet. I brought it, and gave it as a gift, but he said: “I won’t take it for free, I have to pay.” Otherwise, they will say that I corrupted him. I said: “Okay, give me one Euro, and it will be fine.” Then he invited me to dinner, not because of the helmet, but because I speak Ukrainian. We sat all evening, we talked for three or four hours about life in Ukrainian. These are the opportunities that the language gives,” Beitāns recalls.

Taking Risks and Facing Consequences During War

When starting a business in a war-torn country, risks must be taken into account. “There is no such insurance that insures you against war,” says Beitans, adding that the company does follow certain rules to reduce risks. For example, in order not to become a target of hostilities, Aerodium in Kyiv cannot host soldiers or people in uniform.

He also points out that the war has its own, hard-to-predict impact on business results: “Usually, in this business, December is the most successful month, because it’s New Year, Christmas, Orthodox Christmas, but unfortunately, this December in Kyiv, the bombing was so frequent that it didn’t go as well, as anticipated.”

Children Like to Fly Regularly

Latvia’s Aerodium is also doing well in the flying season from May to October. “In the first years it was more difficult to convince people, but now they have understood why it is so cool there,” concludes Beitāns.

The company’s price policy has recently been adjusted for children, who can visit “Aerodium” for half price. Beitāns considers the fact that half of the visitors to the Latvian “Aerodium” are children as a success. Unlike adults, children are happy to return regularly to fly in the wind tunnel even after the first attempt. Children from the age of four can fly in the wind tunnel, but young people from the age of 10 can really enjoy this sport.

In Kyiv, several children are already training at a professional level with the goal of participating in the FAI Indoor Skydiving Championships, which are taking place in April this year in Macao, China. “There is one Ukrainian boy, who is currently nine or ten years old. He really wants to participate now, he goes to practice in the tunnel every day,” says Beitans.

Future plans at Aerodium

Although Latvian Aerodium location hosts pilots only six months a year because of the open-type tunnel and the weather in the region becoming quite harsh during winter months, the production of tunnels for export takes place continuously throughout the year. “Currently we are the biggest producers in the world. The business niche is not too big, but three tunnels a year is a lot,” he says.

A wind tunnel in Las Vegas, USA, which had to be moved at the turn of the year due to delays with local builders, is currently under construction and awaiting an opening. Also built and ready for opening this year are wind tunnels in Kuwait, South Korea, and the Chinese city of Nanjing.

Also, Saudi Entertainment Ventures (SEVEN), a government company of Saudi Arabia, has purchased two wind tunnels that are being built and installed in Riyadh and Kobar. The construction of a third tunnel in Jeddah is also being negotiated.

In April, the FAI Asian and European Championships and World Cup in Indoor Skydiving were held in Macau, China, which Aerodium organized in the tunnel built in 2019. ‘We have been actively working to organize this and hopefully upcoming championships as well,” he added.

Summary: Embracing Joy in Times of Crisis

In summary, every Aerodium project brings a new opportunity to communities around it no matter the specifics of the tunnel or the use case of it.

But the wind tunnel celebrating its first full year of operation in the Respublika Park shopping mall in the capital of Ukraine, Kyiv, is a testament to the transformative power of entertainment in times of crisis. Despite the challenges posed by war, Aerodium has remained steadfast in its commitment to bringing joy and excitement to the people of Ukraine.

By investing in projects like this, Aerodium is not just providing entertainment; we’re providing a source of hope and resilience in the face of adversity. As we look to the future, let us remember the importance of embracing happiness and seeking opportunities for growth and innovation, even in the darkest of times. Contact Aerodium today to learn how your mall can become a beacon of hope and joy in your community!