So Ya Wanna Learn to Wing Walk?
Last month, ATA's Sammy Mason brought to us the news of Mike Mason's West Coast Spin Doctors from Sequim, Washington offering the only wing walking course in the United States. So what's it like to be a wing walker in the first place? Are you up for the challenge?
Hopefully you'll find the following story entertaining as I take you for a ride during my very first wing walking venture. Be sure to leave a comment below regarding your 'nay' or 'yay' for stepping out onto the wing of an airplane.
I remember an old adage, be careful what you wish for. But at the same time, I was also told to live every day as if it were my last. I’m not sure if stepping out on the wing of an airplane while in flight would qualify as a sane decision, though it did justify both suggestions!
As a kid, I don’t recall wanting to be a wing walker. As a young adult, it never crossed my mind. Even working in the air show industry I never gave it any thought. A friend who was most likely kidding made the suggestion to me and I took it as just that, a joke. After a few months passed, the notion was revisited over hamburgers at the Corsair Cafe in Pine Mountain Lake with famed aviator Wayne Handley. A phone call was placed to Eddie Andreini who had trained wing walkers in the past and he agreed it would be a good idea. We played phone tag for nearly a year with the intent of beginning training. Unfortunately it just wasn’t meant to be and I was ready to retire the thought.
My full time profession is that of an aviation photographer. I have the pleasure of flying in a variety of aircraft most aviation die-hards could only dream of experiencing. From blimps to helicopters, warbirds to modern military jets, I’ve already lived an amazing life. In order to perform the duties of a photographer from some of these aircraft, various panels, windows, doors and hatches often needed to be removed. Because of this, I’ve been given the dubious job description of one who hangs out of airplanes for a living. I guess that would be exciting enough. Why push it and pursue wing walking? I must have been out of my mind.
Each year members of the air show industry gather in Las Vegas around the first week in December to discuss what worked and what would need to be improved upon through an organization known as the International Council of Air Shows, or ICAS. Additionally, performers and air show coordinators work out who is going to perform at the more than 500 air shows across North America in the upcoming season. My life would change dramatically shortly after this gathering. Thanks to the wonders of networking and internet relations, I found myself as one of those being considered to join Stearman pilot Walt Pierce and wing walker Jenny Forsythe for the ‘Double Trouble’ act as part of the American Barnstormers wing walking team.