World’s biggest Hollywood ready wind tunnel



Everyone kows that Tom Cruise does his own stunts, so it was no surprise to see him doing his own HALO skydives from 25'000ft out of a C-17 Globemaster in the latest Mission Impossible movie. But did you know just how many BPA members it took to make it all happen?

Trying out the wind tunnel made for by up to six flyers at once

Building the largest wind tunnel in the world

Exclusive for Mission:Impossible

The Challenge

It wasn’t just about jumping out of a plane at 25,000 feet. It was also about lighting, camera technique, and selling the action.

Training for the HALO jump. Tom Cruise

Before getting in a plane and jumping enough times to get a certified skydiver license, Cruise started his HALO training in a wind tunnel at Leavesden Studios in the UK. And as you can probably guess, a normal wind tunnel just wouldn’t do. “I suggested we get a vertical wind tunnel; they said that was a good idea,” said Neil Corbould, the “Fallout” special-effects supervisor. “We found a portable wind tunnel and brought it to England but found out very quickly that it was too small.”

Size matters

The wind tunnel would be used to learn the choreography for the HALO jump sequence devised by Eastwood, but to train properly there would need to be six people in the wind tunnel at the same time (including actors, stunt specialists, and camera operators). The wind tunnel Corbould provided could have only two people in it. “Tom said, ‘Can we make a bigger one?’ and I asked, ‘How big?’ And he said, ‘As big as you can make it,’ Corbould said.

Closest to real skydiving

Tom Cruise wanted something bigger so we could practice the whole skydive sequence in full equipment and even film in it if required. Special Effects Supervisor Neil Corbould came to the rescue and he sent Dominic Mewburn-Crook to oversee the design and construction of a brand new wind tunnel. This must be ready for use in only two months and worked amazingly.  He found Aerodium to build in 12 weeks what would turn out to be one of the biggest wind tunnels ever created.

Biggest outdoor

Housed in an empty exterior water tank at Leavesden, the wind tunnel was 20 feet wide by 10 feet high. Powered by four 1-megawatt generators — enough to power a small town, Corbould noted — it would have blades that could spin at 150 mph and raise the people in the tunnel 7 feet.

The size of the wind tunnel also helped Cruise, who wanted to keep from bumping into the sides, as he was still trying to heal his broken ankle from earlier scene shooting in London.

“He had to be rolled into the wind tunnel and then would lay there flat until the power went on, and then he would take off,” said Allan Hewitt, the “Fallout” skydiving coordinator. “We put some orange tape around his foot so we knew which was the bad foot. We didn’t want to touch the wrong one.”

Skydiving simulating trainings

Aerodium’s wind tunnel instructors Eriks Osmanis and Toms Ivans were amazing throughout the training and testing of the parachute equipment in the wind tunnel. They were supported by Sergejs Luckinskis, who is Aerodium’s wind tunnel engineer. Eriks did most of the work and kept control over the skydivers, but didn’t stop us from having a great time in the world’s largest outdoor wind tunnel.

HALO jump

In the case of the HALO jump, they had developed a lot of action to take place in Paris, but the question remained: How does Hunt get to the City of Lights?

“A HALO jump came up, and we started talking about what that would take — this many jumps, learning this and that,” said Wade Eastwood, the “Fallout” stunt coordinator. “Everyone thought that kind of time didn’t fit in the film schedule, but we made it fit, even though on paper it didn’t.”

On a serious point, Tom and Henry used the wind tunnel for training and we also did some filming in it. However, as the real filming from 20’000ft was much better, the wind tunnel footage will not be seen on film. The serious commitment from both Tom and Henry was evident and they flew at night in the middle of winter -5 degree C. Factoring in windchill meant we couldn’t fly for long and flying when the machine was covered in snow was just amazing. The guys flying from one end of the tunnel and across the six-meter flying area to land on a snow-filled air bag was not really part of the training, but who could resist that?


This biggest vertical wind tunnel offers a lot of fun and is the closest thing to real skydiving with such power, smooth airflow, and the biggest surface to ever fly on! This technology has great commercial potential. It is truly Hollywood ready!


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