Nik provides an in-depth look at the AXIS ChronoPrism team performance evaluation tool.
Nik provides an in-depth look at the AXIS ChronoPrism team performance evaluation tool.
Nik provides an in-depth look at the AXIS Draw Generator Training Camp feature.
ELOY — Two paraplegic military veterans have taken up a new hobby and recently began their journey of obtaining their skydiving license.
Ryan Newell and Chris Wolff traveled to SkyVenture Arizona from Kansas and Texas for their first training session with AXIS Flight School instructors Brianne Thompson and Niklas Daniel.
Newell and Wolff are part of Operation Enduring Warrior, which is a veteran-founded nonprofit organization that offers various programs including skydiving.
The skydiving program offers an unparalleled sense of freedom of flight and endless mental, physical and emotional rehabilitative solutions in what can feel like a completely new dimension in their lives, often becoming a lifelong hobby, advocates say.
“The concept I tell my children all the time is society says I can’t do this. I can tell them to sit back and watch what’s about to happen,” Wolff said. “It lets them know and understand that the only person that’s going to change you is you, and the only person to hold you back is you. There’s going to be a time when you find a wall that stops you, but what is it? Is it an equipment issue, is it a strength issue? There’s something that goes on that you can break through, but it’s not going to be maybe the way society thinks it’s suppose to be done and that’s the biggest thing we have to look at.”
Wolff had some previous skydiving experience with four tandem jumps, but Newell had no freefall experience.
At SkyVenture Arizona, the two veterans spent many hours in the wind tunnel learning the basics of how to control their body during freefall.
“It’s amazing,” Newell said. “You’re free. It’s like nothing else in that moment matters, it’s just you and the wind. It’s the most incredible feeling to be in there and be free.”
Wolff pointed out that in the wind tunnel there was a different sense of freedom compared to when he did the tandem jumps.
“You’re defying gravity when you’re in the wind tunnel floating above it, but you’re by yourself; you’re not attached to anybody,” Wolff said. “You’re in control of your turns, your rotations, everything that you’re doing you’re not relying on somebody else. It’s kind of like having training wheels and you kick the training wheels off and you don’t have them anymore.”
Wolff spent 10 years in the Air Force and went to Afghanistan as an aerospace maintenance craftsman to disarm weapons. Everything went smoothly and he returned home, he went through the redeployment line and during the medical portion of the process where he got his vaccines and updates, he got a flu shot.
“Nineteen days later I woke up paralyzed from the neck down from a flu vaccine,” Wolff said. “I laid in a hospital bed for 2½ years as a C5 quadriplegic. All I could do was move my neck side to side, I couldn’t talk, couldn’t function anything on my own.”
Then one day Wolff slightly lifted his arm off the bed and 11 years later he’s able to stand up and walk with forearm crutches.
Newell spent eight years in the Army and was in Afghanistan riding in a Humvee when his accident happened.
“I ended up rolling over 100 pounds of homemade explosives that detonated right underneath the truck and it took my right leg instantly,” Newell said. “It broke my left leg femur in half … I don’t remember anything from that portion of it — just what everybody had told me. I was the only survivor out of the Humvee and that’s actually what drives me to all the stuff that I do, it’s because I live for my teammates.”
Newell and Wolff spent five days in Eloy during the first session of their training before traveling back home. They both enjoyed learning from Thompson and Daniel and pointed out that they enjoyed the experience with their instructors as well as the whole skydiving community in Eloy.
“They take the time and they focus on each individual need and they’ll tell you if you’re doing it wrong,” Newell said. “They had me flying on my own during the first session of being in the tunnel. I’ve talked to three other drop zones and even though they have instructors there, they didn’t want to take the risk of training an amputee and these guys didn’t hesitate one bit. These two just flat out go, it doesn’t matter what the injury is, if it’s amputation or paralysis, they will find ways to make us fly and there’s other drop zones that won’t do that.”
Wolff added that he’s also faced the same obstacles at other drop zones, where they don’t want to take that chance on him.
“In the adaptive world is where we have a lot of roadblocks,” Wolff said. “Finding people that are willing to take what is considered abnormal, but to us is normal life and pushing the limitations of what was considered the norm to this new type of adaptive skydiving, that’s not really adaptive. We’re a skydiver just like everybody else. Adapting is one of the biggest hurdles in trying to find that person that’s willing to just consider.”
Wolff’s end goal is to be able to continue being an example for other people who are trying to break through barriers and to also change the thought process of those who may unintentionally set those barriers. An added bonus is that he has found an activity that he can enjoy with his daughter.
“I always look at what my daughter can do,” Wolff said. “From playing with a soccer ball to riding her bike or something like that and being able to see something that her and I can do together. That my injury isn’t considered the problem of why we can’t do it but the availability to do it or it’s something we have to work together to do. I don’t have to worry about that barrier anymore.”
Newell’s goal is to eventually have enough people go through the training to establish a skydiving demonstration team.
“We want to be able to show not only everybody here in the U.S. but the whole world with a disabled demonstration team,” Newell said. “To show them that we came to AXIS Flight School and they taught us from Day 1, and go all the way to become a demonstration team of wounded warriors or even wounded individuals in general. Show the world, hey. Get out there and do something. It’s not the disability, it’s the ability.”
In addition to competing in 4-way VFS with Arizona X-Force during the 22nd FAI World Cup of Formation Skydiving, Brianne Thompson also participated in 4-way FS female with team Phoenix XP. Having medaled in both events, Brianne is the first American and third person in skydiving history to medal in FS and VFS at the same World level competition. This feat was first accomplished by the Lemay brothers of the Canadian National Team Evolution in 2014.
Congratulations Brianne on this amazing accomplishment!
To view scores and videos, please choose from the following links:
4-way Female (605 USA 1)
4-way VFS (501 USA 2)
The 22nd FAI World Cup of Formation Skydiving was held at Skydive Arizona in Eloy from October 7th to the 12th. Arizona X-Force attended after having just completed the USPA Nationals in mid September.
The competition started out strong, with the top three teams being neck and neck. As time went on, the field started to widen. The Russian team, Vertical FlyStation, and SDC Core (USA) took the top two spots.
Keeping with the tradition, the team immediately found a new hiding spot for it, even though it was in plane sight.
Read more about the FUN Flag tradition here.
After 4-way VFS concluded, Nik tossed his hat in the Speed Skydiving ring. Having previously competed in the discipline two years earlier at Skydive Perris, his main goal was to reach a new personal best – breaking his top speed of 443.32kmh / 275.5mph. Nik accomplished that on six out of the eight rounds, reaching a new top speed of 465.6kmh / 289.3mph in round 3.
Coming in 5th, Nik’s performance earned him a spot on the USA Team. The 2020 World Championships will be held in Tanay Siberia, Russia.
Brianne Thompson brought a 4-way FS player coach team to the 2019 USPA Nationals; competing in the advanced category with the name AZ Shift. This was the team’s first Nationals, finishing with a 9.5 average over 10 rounds.
I would like to congratulate Joe, Andre, and Leland of team EagleBear who took 3rd in the MFS open category. After a two year break, the team got together at Skydive Arizona one week before the competition in order to prepare for the Nationals. After around 60 training jumps with AXIS Flight School and several hours of tunnel time, EagleBear got onto the podium with a 13.25 average over eight rounds. Truly giving some of the most experienced and trained teams a run for their money, EagleBear was only 5 points behind the first place team, Flightshop.
Niklas Daniel and Brianne Thompson of AXIS Flight School are coming to Berlin this fall! This camp will be a very personalized and focused two day event of flying aimed at honing your skills when it comes to personal progression and or formation flying skills. These flight sessions will have detailed briefs and video debriefs to help you work on your skills in a controlled environment. You will have ample opportunity to ask questions and get feedback on your flights! Bilingual instruction is available as Nik is a German speaker.
Get to know the coaches Nik and Brianne, and check out their story.
Oct. 24 – 25
at WINDOBONA Indoor Skydiving Berlin,
Landsberger Allee 268, 10367 Berlin
€725.00 per hour, which included tunnel time and coaching. Participants may use their personal block time, but must make special arrangements to do so. In that event, the coaching cost is €250.00 per hour.
Oct 24th 0900 – 4x 15minutes 1100 – 4x 15minutes 1230 – 1330 Lunch Break 1400 – 4x 15minutes 1600 – 4x 15minutes 1800 – 4x 15minutes
Oct 25th 0900 – 4x 15minutes 1100 – 4x 15minutes 1230 – 1330 Lunch Break 1400 – 4x 15minutes 1600 – 4x 15minutes 1800 – 4x 15minutes
Please register for this event by sending us an e-mail to info [at] axisflightschool.com
This overview lists all of our articles (140+; Foundations of Flight as well as Feature Articles).
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I would like to thank Dave at Skydive Radio for making my image below their pic of the week! Skydive Radio is the world’s leading internet radio show dedicated to the sport of skydiving. Weekly episodes include commentary, feature interviews with industry insiders, listener-contributed photos, and e-mails from an audience that spans the globe.