A rising star in the international world of skydiving, Temecula resident Dan Brodsky-Chenfeld miraculously survived a horrific 1992 plane crash at Perris Valley Airport that killed 16 of the 22 people on board, including the two pilots and many of his close skydiving friends.
When he awoke from a six-week coma, Brodsky-Chenfeld learned he had a broken neck, a cracked skull, a brain injury, a collapsed lung and other serious internal injuries. He was told he would never skydive again. The funerals for his friends were long over.
But Brodsky-Chenfeld recovered and became a multiple-time world champion skydiver. Now the manager of Skydive Perris, Brodsky-Chenfeld, 50, tells his story in his new book, “Above All Else: A World Champion Skydiver’s Story of Survival and What It Taught Him About Fear, Adversity, and Success.”
“It’s not written for skydivers,” Brodsky-Chenfeld said. “I hope that everyone from my kids to the executives at Walmart that I’m going to be speaking to in Orlando reads it.”
Brodsky-Chenfeld discusses his recovery, rebuilding his skydiving team and winning skydiving medals as well as ideas for cultivating success in everyday life and tips for succeeding in business.
Published late last year, the book is part survivor story, part memoir and part motivational guide. He covers assessing what winning means to you and coming up with a plan to achieve it; teaching yourself to believe it’s possible to succeed and making it happen; beating fear and anxiety; teambuilding; and challenging common obstacles.
The first chapter introduces Brodsky-Chenfeld as he awakes from his coma and is simple titled, “Waking Up.”
He says the book connects skydiving with ordinary people’s everyday lives. His audience is the general public because, he noted, skydiving enthusiasts come from all walks of life.
“Most people think skydivers are just in it for the adrenaline rush. That could not be further from the truth. If you were out on the drop zone at any given time you’d see people from 18 to 80, from executives to people living in their cars. They share this burning desire to want to fly.”
Brodsky-Chenfeld took his first jump in 1980 when he was a freshman at Ohio State University. The idea of skydiving came up when he was talking with some friends who all said they wanted to try it. Of the 12 of them, four actually went.
At the time, they used surplus military parachutes on a static line so the chute deployed as soon as they jumped out of the plane, leaving no freefall time.
Brodsky-Chenfeld fell in love with the sport, which he believes is the closest thing to experiencing true human flight. He worked his way through college as a licensed skydiving instructor, jumpmaster, parachute rigger and pilot, graduating in 1984 with a major in Aviation and a minor in Theater.
A National skydiving competitor since 1983, Brodsky-Chenfeld is a sought-after coach in the sport and is beginning to do motivational speaking engagements.
As a competitor, he has led teams to 16 National Championship gold medal victories and won seven World Championships in the 1990s. In addition, he was one of the primary coordinators of the “GO FAST 300-WAY,” the World Record largest free-fall formation consisting of 300 skydivers jumping from 14 airplanes simultaneously.
Brodsky-Chenfeld has done about 25,000 jumps – 18,000 of them after the plane crash – and says he’s never been injured on a jump. He’d love for people who don’t know much about the sport of skydiving to visit Skydive Perris and see what it’s all about.
He said: “It’s a great community and one people would be impressed with.”
Amy Bentley is a freelance writer and regular contributor to SWRNN.