Falling without fear: Disability doesn't stop skydiver, pilot

Falling without fear: Disability doesn't stop skydiver, pilot »Play Video
TAFT, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — The same day Felix Baumgartner jumped out of a pod 24 miles above the earth, breaking the speed of sound, Chris Connelly attempted to break his own record jumping out of a plane for the 84th time.

"The game plan is to throw ourselves at the ground and miss," jokes Connelly as he gears up for his latest jump.

The self-proclaimed adrenaline junky already has his 'B' class sky diving license, overcoming what could have sentenced him to a life on the ground.

"I was born with cerebral palsy, so I've always had that as an obstacle, when I want to go out and do these things," says Connelly.

The 20 year old has never let his limitations - limit him at all.

"I am a pilot and a skydiver," says Connelly through a smile that stretches from ear to ear. "To get my pilot license in fact I went through an eight-month certification process of seeing different doctors, writing letters to the FAA. Finally I got certified to be a pilot and fly."

But it turns out, not everyone believed in Connelly when it came to jumping out of a plane. Connelly says if it had been up to some sky diving companies in California, he would have never set foot into thin air.

"They said you absolutely cannot do this and they actually asked me to leave," says Connelly of one sky diving center he refused to name.

He says after being denied he stood in shock, holding his pilot's license in one hand and medical clearance in the other. But that denial only made the junior at the University of Southern California fight on.

"More than anything I remember leaving the sky diving center thinking, that's it, now I'm going to do this" proclaimed Connelly.

He heard the word 'no' a few more times before someone finally gave him a shot.

"He called us on the phone and asked if he could do it here. I was kind of worried at first," admits Dave Chrouch, owner of Skydive Taft.

Chrouch says his only concern was if Connelly could use his skydiving rig on his own.

"He could reach all his handles; preform everything we needed him to do. He went through the class just fine like everyone else and my instructors came to me and said he's good to go, we'll take him and up we went," says Chrouch.

That was months ago. Now Connelly is practically a pro at doing tandem jumps, soaring through the air with the greatest of ease and landing with pride.

Connelly now offers these inspiring words: "The big reason that I do all the things that I do is to prove that it’s not just me it's anyone, if you are putting your mind to something you can do it."

Connelly says sky diving won't likely be his last challenge but says he isn't sure what lies ahead.

"I don't know where I want to be in 20 years let alone in five years, right now I'm just living day to day doing the things i love to do," says Connelly.

When Chris is not flying a plane or jumping out of one, he tutors several students to pay for his hobbies.