OEW in the Eloy Enterprise

Disabled veterans learn how to skydive

 

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.”

OEW tunnel intensive January 2020

f877696cd2a2eaa654dd5513b046876cChris Wolff and Ryan Newell just completed flying with AXIS Flight School at the Skyventure AZ tunnel. Having flown 3.5 hours each over the course of four days, Chris and Ryan are part of the January 2020 Operation Enduring Warrior Skydive class. The goal of this training camp was to best prepare Chris and Ryan for eventual AFF and skydive training in the near future; aiming for March. Both excelled at learning body-flight in the tunnel and exceeded their own expectations. Before jump training can commence, there are still a few equipment hurdles that need to be taken care of. AXIS Flight School instructors Brianne and Nik feel confident that Chris and Ryan will take to the sky without hesitation and are happy to welcome them to the skydiving community.
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From left to right: Brianne Thompson, Chris Wolff, Ryan Newell, and Niklas Daniel. Photo by Kay Robinson.

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Ryan learning to back-fly.

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Chris and Ryan flying together in formation.

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Chris working on a leg awareness drill.

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Chris receiving instructions from Brianne.

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Ryan practicing arm movements to deploy a parachute.

 

AXIS Flight School in cooperation with Operation Enduring Warrior

Skydive training for Wounded Veterans 

Double Bronze for Brianne Thompson

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!

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Brianne Thompson with two bronze medals at the 22nd FAI World Cup of Formation Skydiving. Photo Niklas Daniel

To view scores and videos, please choose from the following links:

4-way Female (605 USA 1)

4-way VFS (501 USA 2)

2019 World Cup Recap

Bronze Medal for Arizona X-Force in 4-Way VFS!

Team Photo.JPGThe 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.

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Image created using the AXIS DrawGenerator Training Camp Tool.

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To watch all competition videos, please visit the Omniskore website.

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USA 4-way VFS Team Arizona X-Force on the podium. Photo Meghan Stewart.

Arizona X-Force steals the FUN flag!

National Skydiving League (NSL) reported that X-Force had located and stolen the FUN Flag from the Norwegian VFS team, Blue Pelicans.

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X-Force showing off possession of the FUN Flag at Square2. Photo Ryan Vivion.

Keeping with the tradition, the team immediately found a new hiding spot for it, even though it was in plane sight.

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The current location of the flag is unknown as it was last seen claimed by the Swedish VFS team, Kwansta Kwattro, on Picacho Peak.

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Read more about the FUN Flag tradition here.

4-way VFS Block videos are online!

AXIS Flight School has uploaded sample videos of all 22 blocks from the Vertical Formation Skydiving dive pool to its YouTube Channel. You can check out the full playlist here. Special thanks to Arizona X-Force videographer Nathan Roth for the footage.

2019 USPA Nationals Recap

Silver Medal for X-Force in 4-Way VFS Open!

IMG_6660.JPGDuring the 2019 USPA National Skydiving Championships Arizona X-Force came in second in the 4-Way VFS Open event. The vertical formation skydiving event completed all 10 scheduled rounds, with four teams in each of the open and advanced divisions. One team, “Why Not”, competed in the intermediate division.
X-Force — now in its second year with the current line-up — scored a 16.3 points average, a lower score than last year, however flying at a faster pace – 18.9. The team used this years USPA Nationals as a training camp leading up to the World Cup which will take place in the first week of next month in Eloy, AZ at Skydive Arizona. The team plans to peak next month, having a better understanding of what the judges will be looking for and enforcing.
Watch all 10 rounds here.
X-Force did walk away from this years Nationals with a new personal best, a highest scoring round of 24 points in round 9. Unfortunately this round got busted down from a 33.
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SDC Core once again took the gold medal and Arizona Anthem took bronze. To view all scores and competition videos, check out OmniskoreArizona X-Force would like to thank all of its sponsors and supporters for making a successful 2019 season possible, and congratulate its fellow competitors for a great competition!

Niklas Daniel makes USA Speed Skydiving Team!

611.jpgAfter 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.

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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.

 

 

4-way Team AZ Shift (player coach)

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.

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Congratulations Leanne, Bob, Trip, Brianne, and Tom!

Mixed Formation Skydiving Team EagleBear

70513305_2481228832154797_2104329066445275136_n.pngI 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.

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Congratulations EagleBear!

Tailors of Training – AXIS interview

AXIS Flight School would like to thank Annette O’Neil for writing the following article about the new AXIS Merits System.

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Photo by Samantha Schwann

AXIS provides bespoke education for Smart Skydivers: Now with (Gorgeous) Merits!

Ask anyone who’s been in the sport for more than a couple of seasons: the times, they are a changin’. For the first 15 to 20 years of sport skydiving’s popular heyday, there wasn’t any doubt that the party lay at the heart of the matter. In the not-too-long-ago bad old days, your standard sport skydiver would go about chasing boogies all season long — and chase the sun to find even more skydiving parties when her/his own season ran out. Beer, tent cities and magic-carpet exits ruled the day

In recent years — as you may have noticed — the sport is sobering up. Today’s skydiver has a different goal to chase: skill development. Suddenly, it’s not enough to simply jump out of an airplane with your buddies; now, you’d better be using that jump to get — well — better. This is the age of the skills camp; of the training trip; of one-on-one coaching. People just want more. And can you blame ‘em?

Enter AXIS — one of skydiving education’s indisputably premium brands. Brianne Thompson and Niklas Daniel, AXIS’s owners and instructors, are a pair of highly decorated skydivers who founded AXIS as a boutique instruction operation. The intentionally-small operation has been based at Skydive Arizona since 2010. In that time, Nik and Brianne have managed to actually revolutionize how skydiving is coached.

How’d they do that? In essence, by… Continue reading on SkydiveMag.com

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4-way FS block videos updated

Earlier this year the IPC made some changes to the 4-way FS dive pool, replacing blocks 1 and 13 with new versions. Special thanks to Arizona Airspeed‘s camera flyer David French for sharing the team’s training footage.

Block 1

Block 13

If you wish to see all the blocks of the 4-way FS open dive pool, check out the

AXIS YoutTube playlist.