SCAD: free fall!

Photo right: Herman Verwey

A SCAD (suspended catch air device) free fall facility is a popular leap – or drop – of faith available to thrillseekers in only a few places in the world.

The Orlando Towers vertical adventure center in Johannesburg, South Africa, has a SCAD (suspended catch air device) freefall facility, a popular leap—or drop—of faith available to thrill seekers in only a few places worldwide.



… in a safety-net contraption made of air-filled tubes and a sophisticated brake-suspension system

© Herman Verwey


The activity has been taken to a whole new level at Orlando Towers by manager Nico Myburg. First, and perhaps least surprisingly, it’s the only SCAD system set up in a unused cooling tower; second, it’s the highest in the world, with a drop of 230 feet. “As the SCAD freefall here is inside a cooling tower, it’s a unique ‘tunnel’ experience,” says Myburg. “It’s truly a world first.” The experience comes complete with all the fear and adrenaline you’d expect.

After ascending to the top of one of the two iconic 330-foot-high chimneys via a dangling cage winched up through its center, you hang suspended over the drop. The only thing between you and the rush of your life is the controlled freefall harness, essentially a belt clipped to a quick-release hook. Far below, the suspended catch air device—a safety-net contraption made of air-filled tubes and a sophisticated brake-suspension system—is ready to break your fall. The countdown from five begins.

When it gets to zero, the instructor releases your harness. “There really is nothing between you and the net below,” says Nick Avery, a 21-year-old student from Philadelphia who took the plunge while on a visit to South Africa.

Nick Avery

“You really don’t know when you’re going to hit, because you’re falling backwards. It’s just an insane experience and one of the craziest rides on the planet. If you want to feel like you’re falling into complete oblivion, or want to know what your death scream sounds like, this is what you do.”

Thanks to the SCAD, the landing is a very soft one. You feel very little at all, just a slowing of the descent. It adds significantly to the intensity of the jump. The entire apparatus is then lowered to the ground, allowing you to exit safely, heart and fists pumping.


Inside the unused cooling tower- on the way to the big jump

© Herman Verwey 


“Experienced jumpers can learn aerial tricks like somersaults and back flips,” says Nico Myburg of Orlando Towers. “It’s not advertised and it’s up to the jumpmaster to decide if you can, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.”

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06 2015 The Red Bulletin

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