Article by Iveta Muravyeva (Murv)
Photography by Mike Mcgowan
If you are like me, you love skydiving because it makes you feel alive. If you are like Todd Love, everything you do is to celebrate the fact that you are still alive and you live your life to the fullest. October 25, 2010 is what Todd calls his "Alive Day". This is the day he survived stepping on an IED in Afghanistan, which cost him both of his legs and his left arm below the elbow. This is a story best told in his own words, so please watch it on Vimeo - "MY STORY: Corp. Todd Love" (click here). Todd has been determined to not let his injuries get in the way of any of his dreams, including skydiving. After completing his first tandem skydive through Operation Enduring Warrior with Mike Elliott, he was hooked! And since "impossible" and "can't" are not part of Todd's vocabulary, his teammates at Operation Enduring Warrior have been determined to find a way to make his dream of solo skydiving come true. This was the beginning of Operation X-Wing, which aims to facilitate initial skydiving training (AFF through A-License) for combat wounded veterans.
For a solo jump, Todd would need a completely custom system. The team turned to AXIS Flight School for consultation, and without hesitation Brianne's response was "You want UPT and PD." Not only was she confident that she was directing us to the industry's best manufacturers, but Brianne knew that the people behind United Parachute Technologies (UPT) and Performance Designs (PD) would support this veteran's quest. Brianne was right! UPT has put in countless hours of research, development, and manufacturing to provide Todd with a unique rig that is specifically designed to enable him to skydive solo. Todd's custom Vector 3 includes a SOS cut-away system and a wrap-around enclosure in lieu of leg straps. PD came through by providing the main and reserve canopies for this rig.
The next major milestone in Todd's journey was learning to fly his body. With the help of a donation of two hours of tunnel time from SkyVenture Arizona and instruction from AXIS Flight School, he was able to achieve his goals in the tunnel. In part due to the instruction he received from Nik and Brianne and because Todd is one of the most coordinated and driven people you will ever meet, after a couple of hours in the tunnel Todd was not only able to fly stable and practice reaching for handles, but was doing barrel rolls, front flips, and verticals. Watch the video on YouTube - "Todd Love: Wind-Tunnel Training" (click here).
Finally, Todd was ready to start AFF. In order to enable Todd to continue training with AXIS Flight School, Operation X-Wing turned to Skydive Arizona with the unusual request of allowing Nik and Brianne to instruct Todd in the drop zone's ASP program. Skydive Arizona not only granted this request, but offered to fully support Todd all the way through his A-License. Thus Todd arrived in Arizona on Sunday, June 2nd and immediately began the First Jump Course. After being grounded by gusty winds and dust devils on Monday, Todd would have only two days (Thursday and Friday) of jumping remaining on this trip before having to head back to the east coast. Plenty of time! Todd was ready when Thursday morning finally came around, and once he got started, there was no stopping him. Instruction by AXIS Flight School, photography courtesy of Mike Mcgowan, FunAir videography courtesy of Wes Moraes — Todd made history with his first jump. Two days — eight jumps — AFF complete! With AFF under his belt, Todd is scheduled to return to Skydive Arizona later in June to complete his A-License training. Watch the video on YouTube - "Todd Love Accelerated Freefall Training" (click here).
You can follow Todd's progress at facebook.com/OperationXWing.