CEO of iFLY
Born and raised in rural England, Simon escaped from life on a dairy farm by getting into broadcasting. From his first jobs at commercial radio stations in the UK he ventured into a challenging assignment abroad. He took on a daily show on the Voice of Peace, an offshore radio station broadcasting to audiences of up to 20 million across the Middle East in English, Hebrew and Arabic, from a vessel anchored in international waters off the Israeli coast. While the music was pop and the legal status ‘pirate’, the station’s mission was one of high ideals: the promotion of peaceful co-existence between Israelis and Arabs.
Back from this adventure, Simon worked in different capacities for more traditional stations in Australia and in England, eventually ending up as the Commercial Director of the GRW Group plc, the UK’s leading commercial radio network.
Skydiving as his sport of preference was taken up along the way and gradually turned into a parallel career, with Simon becoming a renowned freefall photographer and cinematographer. In 2003 an accident resulting in a broken neck brought his active sporting career to an abrupt end. Another skydiver crashed into him after he himself had already landed.
The months Simon spent immobile and in rehabilitation gave him ample time to reassess his future involving the sport and consider an entirely different path towards professional fulfilment. Even prior to his discharge from the hospital, he had embarked upon the project of building a vertical wind tunnel, which opened in 2005 in Milton Keynes, about 50 km northwest of London, and under his own brand Airkix. A second one was opened in Manchester in 2009. Just as Airkix was building the third tunnel in Basingstoke, Simon sold the company to SkyVenture in 2012, the world’s largest operator and franchisor of wind tunnels that are based on proprietary technology. Airkix already had close ties with SkyVenture as joint owner of a couple of US based tunnels and the seller and initial operator of the world’s first private wind tunnel in the Middle East. Airkix later rebranded to iFLY.
Simon became one of iFLY’s shareholders and joined the Leadership team of four which oversaw rapid growth of the company before KSL Capital in Denver bought a majority stake in 2016.
iFLY Indoor Skydiving has not stopped opening tunnels around the world ever since, first with Simon Ward as the International President and, as of very recently, as the Chief Executive Officer.
Simon is undoubtably one of the most experienced tunnel professionals, having embraced most aspects of the business - from raising the finance, building, buying, selling, and operating all on a large scale.