Here in Empuriabrava, Spain, we are fortunate to have in our community many passionate people with a desire to push our sport further. Sometimes in our personal flying development, it can become overwhelming to know which paths to take in order to have focused skill development. Including both inside the wind tunnel and with skydiving progression. Having organizations and coaches who can create skill progression opportunities within our tunnel communities is extremely valuable. It is with people like Julian Barthel and Sebastian Giannecchini at XFLIGHTLAB, who are stepping up and creating these opportunities for flyers at our home in Empuriabrava.

XFLIGHTLAB is a project that Julian and Sebastian have created, and it is finding much success within our flying community. Our sport needs people creating these types of projects and event. This helps to make individual and group flying progression more easily available and affordable to everyone. Check out our interview and learn more about XFLIGHTLAB!

Introduce yourselves!

I am Julian Barthel, my position at XFLIGHTLAB is founder and co-owner. I am 32 years old and have been in the sport since 2009. Outside of skydiving and tunnel flying, I hold a B.Sc. Sports and High Performance degree, and Master in personal training.

Currently, I have over 250+ hours in the wind tunnel and 8000+ skydives. The disciplines I focus on are vertical sequential, VFS, dynamic 2-way, beginning 4-way, free flying and canopy piloting. Professionally, I am a Flight-1 Instructor (sport/military), free fly load organizer, free fly coach, tunnel coach and AFF-I. My current ratings include USPA coach/examiner, USPA AFF Instructor, Tunnel Class A Spotter, USPA/UPT/Sigma Examiner, additionally a former USPA Tandem Instructor. My current sponsorships are Performance Designs, United Parachute Technologies, Cypress, Tonfly, Alti-2 Europe and Modern Camera Solutions.

I am Sebastian Giannecchini, my position at XFLIGHTLAB is founder and co-owner. I am 38 years old and have been in the sport since 2008. In school I completed my MBA in Civil Engineering.

At the moment, I have over 150+ hours in the tunnel and 3000+ skydives. Focused disciplines include, vertical sequentials, VFS, free flying, dynamic 2-way, and I am also beginning dynamic 4-way. Professionally I am a USPA Coach, USPA AFF Instructor, USPA Tandem Instructor and Tunnel Class A Spotter and I am sponsored by Sonic Flywear.


What is the XFLIGHTLAB mission?

The XFLIGHTLAB mission is to organize and share information and flying techniques to improve the level, knowledge and safety in the flying community.

What can one expect from joining XFLIGHTLAB?

XFLIGHTLAB is based in Empuriabrava, Spain at the Windoor wind tunnel and Skydive Empuriabrava dropzone. Also, recently we have expanded to the Barcelona Windoor tunnel. We organize weekly shared vertical sequentials, in which we divide into different groups according to the flyers skills levels. This way everyone is challenged but still enjoys and progresses in their abilities.

The groups can vary in sizes. For example, two students with two coaches, learning to share the tunnel space and exploring moving safely while relative to others. As well, there are groups of eight-way flying more experienced. Within the advanced groups, we work on mixed head up/head down sequential with dynamic elements, flips, moving pieces and everything in between.

Prior to flying, the groups meet at the tunnel to discuss and practise the dive flows that will be flown in the session. Afterwards, there is a detailed debrief were the group watches videos of the flying. Discussing the successes of the session, as well as going over what can be improved. The detailed briefing and debriefing of each session is a very effective way of teaching and preparing our participants for growth in their flying progression.

Who can fly with XFLIGHTLAB?

Basically, as soon as someone is able to fly on their feet and can recover safely from their back at sit-fly speeds, they are ready to come and join our Rookie group. From here they will start their progression through to the Advanced group, with bigger head up formations and more complicated dive flows. As flyers continue to progress, we have an Elite group for VFS flying, and finally a Ninja group doing six to eight way sequentials. When a student is interested in progressing and improving technique, we coach them individually to up their flying skills for the next level.


How did the idea for XLIGHTLAB come about?

Previous to meeting each other, both of us enjoyed teaching in the skydiving and tunnel environment. Although, both of us wanted to create a community that makes flying more inclusive and accessible for newer flyers. While also applying learnt skills from the tunnel into the sky, in an organized fashion. In October 2017, we met for the first time in Empuirbrava and shared some tunnel time with some mutual friends. Immediately, we had a connection and became great friends and started flying together. After discussing ideas, we realized we could prepare something new in the Empuriabrava flying community.

In June 2018, XFLIGHTLAB came to life and started to move into its first steps. After the first flying session, the project seen an explosive growth in participation as well as flyers skills. And now today XFLIGHTLAB has had flyers from all over the world participate in its events!

“We are very excited to see the enormous positive response to XFLIGHTLAB. We are ready to take it to the next level to keep challenging our participants to grow into stronger and more confident flyers.” – Sebastian

How does XFLIGHTLAB benefit our flying community?

The project works so well because it fills a void. It gives people direction, offers progression and it creates a community and makes flying more affordable. People train a lot in the tunnel, but either they compete, fly with their coach or occasionally share time with friends. Sharing organized time on a regular basis keeps people challenged, excited and engaged.

“Its important to see the difference between our structured skills camp approach, in which we help people progress, gain confidence and technical understanding. Which leads to flying better together as well as growing towards their personal goals. As opposed to the huckjam format, which are comparable to boogies in skydiving.” – Julian

How did XFLIGHTLAB approach marketing to find participants?

Truly it is an amazing experience to witness the XFLIGHTLAB grow from flying once a week, initially with small groups of local flyers. To now flying with people from all over the world, multiple times a week, and with a wide range of skill levels and group sizes. The word of mouth around the wind tunnel and dropzone have spread like wild fire. Quickly we found ourselves organizing up to six sessions in the same day! The XFLIGHTLAB has shown immense success, and we are very excited to keep the momentum going and take it to the next level.

Has the expansion to the new Windoor Barcelona tunnel been successful for XFLIGHTLAB?

With the recent expansion to the new Windoor tunnel in Barcelona, we have seen a massive increase in participation. The central location of Windoor Barcelona makes the shared tunnel time much more accessible for people who are living in the city. We were initially concerned that it might have a detrimental effect on our numbers in Empuriabrava. However it turns out that we have established a completely different customer base. Which actually compliments the XFLIGHTLAB in Empuria, so we are very excited about that.

Do you have advice for others in the flying world who might want to organize a group like this in their home flying community?

Start flying, sharing and progressing! If you are doing it for the passion of flying, people will get pulled in by your contagious energy. It is lots of hard work, you will wear lots of hats, but it is intensely gratifying. It is beautiful to witness an idea flourish and see all the hard work pay off. Get on the train and enjoy as the madness unfolds!

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