View original post on Skydive Arizona website here. Interview by Melissa Lowe.
Skydive Arizona is a big drop zone with many extraordinary people from local to visiting jumpers, staff, pilots, instructors, ground crew, maintenance, manifest to teams, event organizers and load organizers!!! The Featured Friday series is aimed at getting to know the people that make Skydive Arizona work and rock!
Today, we meet a woman with a stacked resume including earning the USPA 2015 Regional Achievement Award. This woman has blazed (no pun intended) the trail continuing to inspire skydivers of all disciplines. Meet co-founder of Axis Flight School, Brianne Thompson!
What/who inspired you to make your first jump and why?
I actually learned here at SDAZ in the summer of 2000. I tormented my parents for years, begging for them to let me go skydiving. I even asked if I could get a fake ID to get around the minimum age of 18. They were less than enthused. So, for my 18th birthday in December of 1999, my dad and I did a tandem together for my 18th birthday. Needless to say, I was hooked. The school gave me flyers about how to go about becoming a student. I was on the website everyday, trying to figure out how to pay for it, when I was going to do it, etc. I was still in high school at the time of my jump. So, once I graduated and got all of my graduation money, I took all that, in addition to working two jobs, and scheduled myself for my A-license in August of 2000. I think I got my A-license in about 10 days. Fun fact, Matt Greis was one of my AFF instructors. Pretty cool.
When I was a student during August, there were days that it was literally me and Airspeed on the plane. At the time, they had two 4-way teams. I got to watch them train, practice, prep, all that. I thought they totally looked cool because of their matching equipment, I had no idea that they were the best team in the world. Let alone, that same day I learned you could actually compete in this crazy thing called skydiving. Mind blown! So, because I enjoyed skydiving so much, I knew I wanted to compete in it. But, with my limited experience, I figured you needed about 10,000 jumps before I could even consider doing something like that. Those guys have matching jumpsuits and stuff, that is kind of a big deal. When I had about 75jumps, a jumper approached me in the loading area and asked “Would you like to do 4-way?” I told her I wasn’t very good, I only had 75 jumps. “That’s ok, we will teach you”. And that was it. She became one of my first teammates, and I competed in Nationals that year. My first Nationals was 2003 in Lake Wales, FL. After that, it was competitive after competitive team. I was on the US Team from 2006-2010 for women’s 4-way. I went to my first world meet when I had 900 jumps in Gera, Germany in 2006, Maubeuge, France in 2008, and Russia in 2010. Fun ride.
There was never one person. When I was a little, baby skydiver, I always wanted to learn to freefly. I even got 2 freefly coach jumps when I had about 60 jumps. For me, I just had to focus on one thing at a time, and that was competitive belly 4-way. I dabbled a lot with freely in the tunnel and would do a goof off jump every once in a while, never really learning or advancing. But, my biggest influence is Niklas Daniel, my totally awesome husband. He was a tunnel instructor and so was always a freeflier, so to speak. He has been my biggest influence and coach for freefly and VFS. He has taught me the most.
See previous answer. In addition, because of my competitive 4-way background, it was only natural that I wanted to do VFS. In fact, I pretty much learned to freefly just to do VFS in a way. Because of the VFS discipline, I was more motivated than ever to learn to freefly.
No and yes. Meaning, the principles of 4-way are the same, regardless of orientation. You have to cross reference, you have to be level, and you have to stop, all before you take a grip. That is universal. However, the flight skills needed to even begin VFS are significantly more advanced, for sure. You have to be proficient in head-up and head-down orientations. So the individual skills needed for VFS are definitely more advanced. In addition to finding 3-4 other teammates with similar proficiencies.
You have many achievements! So many we’re just going to link your BIO HERE! Is there any achievement that stands out that you feel most proud of?
I have 2:
2) Working with the Operation Enduring Warrior Projects. It has been so cool to teach these individuals, with varying injuries, to skydive and fly their bodies with complete control. So awesome. Todd Love was our first OEW student, and we have had a handful of completely awesome students from this project after him. We have seen this project go from theoretical to happening all over the country. Many of these students working towards their B licenses and beyond. Wicked.
AXIS Flight School is a coaching entity that teaches ALL aspects of this sport. From individual skills to learning to compete. We coach in the sky, the tunnel, and canopy skills- hence the name AXIS: For all AXIS of flight. We believe that everyone should respect all disciplines in the sport. You may not do all of them, or they all may not appeal to you, but you do need a healthy respect for all of them. We teach that. Our entire goal is to bridge that gap from the young jumper just off of A license, to becoming the next world champion. That is our goal. In addition, we believe it is the responsibility of the more experienced people in this sport to be nice/ approachable/ cool to the younger jumpers.
Get coaching. Stay patient. Get coaching. Get on a team.
This sport has so much to offer. If you find you feel “stuck” or are not sure what comes next, don’t sweat it. Give us a call. This sport is so diverse that it might be a bit overwhelming. There is something here for everyone. You just may need a little help with finding that thing that appeals to you. After your A license, it gets better. The A license is only the first step, not the entire goal. You may be the next world champion. We look forward to finding out.
Over the 4th of July weekend, AXIS Flight School visited Skydive Suffolk in Virginia to coach and organize. Skydive Suffolk is the premier skydiving center in the Virginia Beach area and has been in operation since 1960.
On the first day, the DZ enjoyed good weather with partly cloudy skies. Jumps were made from the DZ’s PAC 750 and Skyvan until sunset. Nik and Brianne oraganized some challenging yet fun jumps for the locals, including belly and freefly disciplines.
A couple of attempts were made at the Virginia state head down record, and for the sunset load AXIS organized a swoop and chug to close out the day. Unfortunately the weather quickly turned that evening and did not clear for the remainder of the event.
We look forward to returning to this awesome drop zone and highly recommend other jumpers check it out if you are in the area. Here are some images by Jimmy Hatch for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!
For more photos, please visit the Skydive Suffolk Facebook page.
DropZone Marketing specializes in effective marketing strategies for the skydiving industry. They help skydiving professionals connect with customers and grow their business via Social Media, Web Design, SEO, SEM, Branding, and Custom Consulting Services. In a recent newsletter, the company featured AXIS Flight School as one of 5 BRANDS KILLING IT WITH CONTENT.
“There are several brands in the skydiving industry doing an excellent job of connecting with their audiences by generating excellent content. An examination of who’s doing it and why it’s so good.
AXIS Flight School has been producing great content from an entertainment standpoint as well as an educational one. Have a look at their YouTube page and you’ll see a huge variety of stuff. Their brand awareness is way up (I wouldn’t know much about them if not for their videos and content in various magazines).
The best marketing resonates. The best way to resonate is to be authentic and use storytelling to showcase who you are. This resonates with Millennials (our number 1 target market) and our general customer base. It’s time to stop selling and start showcasing who we are and why we’re passionate about what we do.” – James La Barrie
AXIS would like to thank James and DropZone Marketing for the shout out.