Catching up with Amy Chmelecki

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Skydiving Queen of Red Bull Air Force

Amy Chmelecki
Amy Chmelecki — by Samatha Schwann

For Amy Chmelecki, pushing the limits is all in a day’s work. What started as a young teenager’s dream of flight eventually became a life path rooted in flying, with world records, medals and the the first helmet ever given to a woman by the Red Bull Air Force. Amy was born to fly. She stands on the edge of aircraft doors, taking her deep breath of air and leaping into thousands of jumps with an ease so rich and natural, you get the feeling that the sky has been built with her in mind. The sky is a playground, and Amy Chmeleki has figured out how to enjoy it with an enormous and immense passion.

Flying above the world, Amy leaves behind a palpable trail of inspiration to skydivers, body flyers, women and men across the world. We got a look inside life as Amy Chmelecki…

Flying like birds above the city, Red Bull Air Force
Red Bull Air Force, flying like birds above the city — Image by Red Bull

How does a little girl from Westchester County grow up to be an internationally known, bad-ass professional flying maniac?
Well, if you ask my mother she will tell you that my thirst for adventure was sparked by two health related issues I had as a child. The first happened at birth. When I was born my hip was not fully formed. I was put in a hard cast from under my mid torso to the top of my feet. I could only move my arms and head for the first few months of my life. The second was a respiratory condition that I developed when I was 5 years old. I was often very sick with severe lung infections for most of my childhood. On average I missed about 40% of each school year due to illness. I was constantly getting tests done to figure out what was wrong with me. Some of the tests were really nasty procedures. No doctor could figure it out. At age 14 one doctor simply told us that I had allergies and that I would eventually grow out of them. I will never forget that diagnosis. He looked at me and said, “don’t worry you will not be sick forever” and he was right. A few years later I stopped being sick.

My mother thinks that because I missed out on a lot of my childhood, I developed an urge to be as free as possible in my adult years. I like her theory and it could be true, but all I know is that my entire life I dreamt of flying. My flying dreams were both conscious and unconscious. In my imagination gravity had no effect on me. I could just fly everywhere. I first heard about skydiving when I was 14. The concept was an instant answer to making all my dreams come true.

From jump number 1 to jump number 15,000 I have always poured my heart into the sport. From day 1 I never looked back. Skydiving grabbed my attention like nothing else ever had and ever has since. If I look hard enough and if anyone really wants to hear me complain, I can talk about my sacrifices, but the truth is it has all seemed easy to me. In most areas in my life I have always found it extremely easy to focus on the positive and this attitude just creates epicness! Everyone should try it.

I could probably talk for a long time on this subject. I have often wondered why and how I got to where I am today. I cannot help but admit, I think it is part luck. I have been extremely blessed.

What makes our sport so magical?
I skydive and tunnel fly because is feels so extremely free! I love the feeling of flying my body. I also really love the bird’s eye view. Have you ever been under canopy and seen a big bird flying under you? Seeing a bird’s eye view of a bird in flight is magic to me.

And no doubt the community around skydiving is one of the greatest I have been around. Skydivers are just so fricken nice. I love our community so much. Magic for sure!

Progression is going much faster thanks in part to the intense availability of tunnels and the massively shared video content online glamorizing our beautiful experiences in the air. What would you say to new jumpers who are in a rush to be top flyers in skydiving, wingsuit, BASE and tunnel?
I think being in a rush is okay if you are truly enjoying the journey. If being in a rush causes you anxiety or pain then it will only inhibit your learning and make your journey an uncomfortable one. I am not saying it will be rainbows and unicorns every step of the way but living a life you dream is, in my opinion, not about the end goal, it is about being happy. It may not always go the way you expect it, you may not always get the job you want, the sponsor you want, you may break your ankle the week before a big competition you have been training for all year (that totally happened to me), you may see other flyers climbing the chain of success faster than you — but I do not think any of these things are a problem. They are just part of life. I think the problem is how we deal with the problems. We have to do our best to stay positive and roll with the punches. Being relaxed and happy not only helps you fly better in the air, but it helps you live better.

Amy leading an angle jump – Image by D-Squared

What is one safety tip you’d love people to remember every day?
There are lots of things. We have to remember all of it. Everything we were taught in AFF — we have to remember it all. We need to review it, think about it and practice it. I see people becoming very comfortable in skydiving to the point where they forget the dangers, their emergency procedures, proper gear maintenance. I have been guilty of this and it has caused me injuries and very close calls. We must take it seriously. It is our responsibility as skydivers, we owe it to ourselves, our loved ones and our sport.

Which dropzones are some of your favorites to jump?
There is a DZ in Switzerland that is absolutely beautiful and so fun to jump at. It is called Flying Devils in Bex, Switzerland. The view is breathtaking and the owners are so cool. They really know how to have fun at that DZ.
If you really want to pump out some jumps there is no place like my home DZ — Skydive Arizona. This place is a machine. We jump so much. The sun shines here way more then anywhere else. We have multiple large hangars filled with aircraft. I think the Skydive Arizona fleet currently includes 5 Otters, 5 Skyvans, a DC3, a Porter, a Caravan, a Beech 18 and a hot air balloon. Oh, yeah and a wind tunnel!

Is there anything you know now that you wish you’d have known when you first got into skydiving?
Honestly, not really! It has been such a fun journey, which has lead me to a pretty cool place, I would not want to risk changing anything.

Red Bull Air Force practicing with smiles in the tunnel 
Red Bull Air Force practicing with smiles in the tunnel  — by Samantha Schwann

You seem like a really grounded woman. You are pushed to extremes in some of the jumps you make, you are doing things and jumping places no skydivers have been/done before. How do you keep the calm, the ease and the physical strength to live this kind of lifestyle?
The harder it is the better I preform. I have always been this way. I think it has to do with adrenaline. I am not totally sure why I am wired like this, but I am super grateful I am. When it is time to perform, I get into a mental zone where everything seems possible. I actually try to tap into this state of mind all the time. I have not figured it out yet, but I am sure it is possible as I see other people do it. I will keep trying.

I love the friendship between you and Jeff Provenzano. It’s enviable – having so much life between two people in these sports. How amazing is it to be so connected to a fellow skydiver for two decades and also be on the same team, doing the same jumps together?
My relationship with Jeff Provenzano is hard for me to put into words. We started skydiving together in 1995 when we were 18. We traveled around Europe together when we were 19, we traveled across the US together several times before we hit 20 years old. We moved to Skydive Arizona together when we were 21. We lived in a trailer together for 3 years. We have been there for each other through massive life changes, challenges and accomplishments. We are now both on the Red Bull Air Force together. I feel connected to Jeffro beyond this physical realm. I am not even sure if I believe in that kind of thing, but it just feels like I have been close with Jeffro for millions of years.

Amy jumping as a Mummy over the Pyramids – by Peter Edward Photography

Is there a life value, lesson or philosophy, or fuck it, just a piece of advice you’d share with the world if the whole world stopped to listen for a moment?
Persistence will get you where you want to go in life. Talent and/or intelligence alone are waisted without determination. First commit yourself to a happy peaceful state of mind, then commit yourself to your goals. Be patient and enjoy the ride.

“The problem is not the problem, it is how you deal with the problem that is the problem.”
Captain Jack Sparrow

Thanks, Amy. You’re one hell of a human being.

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