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CybAirDay 2017 at Indoor Skydive Bottrop was another step to open the doors of skydiving for persons with disabilities and place our sport more into the mainstream.
The event was organized by the handicapped skydiver Claudia Breidbach with support from her 4way team KARMA together with Indoor Skydive Bottrop and the German Not-for-Profit organization “Anfpfiff ins Leben” [literally 'start the game'], which helps people with disabilities to get ”back on track”.
Participants had to sign a medical before they could enter the tunnel. The wind tunnel is a safe environment but some extreme problems such as epilepsy, or being quadaplegic (paralysed from the neck down) can exclude people from entering the tunnel. But disabilities like a lost leg in an accident or a missing arm since birth are no reason not to fly. Even people who are wheelchair-bound can handle themselves on their own in the wind tunnel, if they have full control of their body from the hips up, with just normal starting support from the instructors. In this case, the legs are fixed with tape. Very simple. The flying is done with the upper body.
Even people who are wheelchair-bound can handle themselves on their own in the wind tunnel, if they have full control of their body from the hips up
But most of the time the only barrier is that some people with a handicap do not believe that they can fly in a tunnel, so refuse to even give it a shot. They are afraid to fail. This was the reason that, before the event, it was kind of hard to find participants willing to face that challenge. This is a very rare event! Normally, if tunnel time is offered for free, every skydiver would sign up immediately! Not in this case. In the end 13 pioneers signed up for the event and took the challenge to prove what is possible. Age range was from 10 to 60 years, and everyone had physical handicap. Some flew with a prosthesis; others without. Some did very well; others struggled a little bit more. So there was no difference to non-handicapped persons trying a wind tunnel for the first time.
A goal of the event was that people with a disability would get a boost for their self-esteem when they successfully master ACTUALLY FLYING in a wind tunnel! They prove to themselves what they are capable of. This aim was achieved, as all the participants said they gained confidence by what they achieved, and gave the flying a big thumbs-up!
Another important side effect of CybAirDay was to bring skydiving more towards the middle of our society, showcasing it as a sport that almost everybody can enter, with only a few exceptions. Our sport needs more positive publicity far away from the thrilling, impressive pictures of BASE jumping, which only is an activity only for a few highly experienced people. Unfortunately it takes the most of the media attention of our sport. The competitions held in all the skydiving countries deserve more spectators from outside the sport, with the side effect that more money would come into our sport and it would become even more professional.
So the CybAirDay was only one small part in the puzzle to move towards to that direction. It will be held again in 2018, with a much bigger event!
On top of that, NTI (the biggest non-profit organisation in the USA which brings people with disabilities back into work), interviewed Claudia Breidbach and her 4way team KARMA. Mike Sanders form NTI wanted to know how a team in this high speed sport can work successfully together and which challenges the team had to overcome in the beginning. Check it out below:
We'd like to thank Boris Nebe form Indoor Skydive Bottrop and Diana Schütz from the German NGO “Anpfiff ins Leben” for supporting this event with all their passion.
See you in 2018!