Freefalling from 18,000 feet above the Earth isn’t for everyone, especially those afraid of heights—or flying for that matter. But for Amy Chmelecki, the 170 mph ride is just a day on the adrenaline-pumping job; a passion turned dream-come-true.
As the only female member of the Red Bull Air Force, an exclusive 13-person team of the world's most elite professional human flyers, Amy specializes in wind tunnels, skydiving and wing suit flying. This upcoming Thanksgiving weekend, Amy will be teaming up with 79 women in attempt to break the Women’s Vertical World Record in Eloy, Arizona of 41. Talk about girl power!
So what does this undertaking entail exactly? “The challenge is getting all the flyers to the ‘base’ [formation] in an orderly manner,” she explains. “The organizing team has to carefully plan when people exit the aircraft. If the exit order is planned correctly, flyers can approach it traffic free.” Once each flyer gets into their assigned slot and makes the connection to the base, the team has to continue to fly strong, staying engaged in the mission. “We are all counting on each other, with our lives, to do our jobs and do them well.”
At an altitude of 7,000 feet, the group ‘breaks off’ and flies to an open area to safely open their parachutes. Talk about a precise process! “Things can get dangerous quick,” Amy admits, adding that this is especially hard in larger formations.
The final challenge: landing. “Modern parachutes are very easy to steer,” says Amy. “A good pilot can land their wing where they want. The girls involved in this event will be very experienced. Nonetheless, it is a lot of people in the air at one time.”
So how exactly does one train for a jump of this magnitude? “My exercise routine involves an even split between cardio, weight training and yoga,” Amy says. “It’s more physical than people think. We pull on each other, fly very fast in a very close space, jump all day even when it’s freezing out (gear weighs about 30 pounds) and sometimes our parachutes open hard in a way that creates a whip lash effect.” Plus, since thinner individuals fall slower, keeping a healthy weight is key for this Bikram-loving Superwoman's success, so both a well-rounded diet and workout regimen are a must.
As daring as it all sounds, like anything else, practice makes perfect when it comes to skydiving. “The most important part of my training is practicing the sport over and over again," Amy explains. "Sometimes I practice a move for days before I nail it.” Oh, and never get too comfortable. You are falling from an airplane after all.
Now tell us: Do you have the guts to go skydiving?