The Thrill of Wing Walking

It was not long after the Wright Brothers’ historic first flight that people began attempting death-defying stunts on airplanes. The first known wing walking was actually a practical demonstration of the lateral stability of a particular model.

U.S. Army Air Service Pilot Ormer Locklear had a habit of walking out onto the wings of his aircraft to make in-flight tuning and adjustments. He parlayed this talent into a lucrative career as a stunt pilot in the Locklear Flying Circus.

From there, Locklear moved onto Hollywood, starring in the Cecil B. DeMille-produced “The Great Air Robbery”. In 1920, he died in a crash during production of his second film.

Wing Walking

Flying circuses and “barnstorming” shows became very popular in the 1920s and ‘30s. Male and female daredevils in surplus World War I biplanes dazzled crowds with risky stunts, such as plane-to-plane transfers, handstands, dangling by teeth and more, each performer trying to one-up the others.

Wing Walking

The golden age of wing-walking and barnstorming ended before the start of World War II, but pilots still perform stunts on restored vintage biplanes today.

Wing Walking

The Breitling Wingwalkers are a squadron of pilots and dancers based in the UK who dabble in a unique brand of aerial spectacle.  The Breitling group today is one of Europe's most famous wingwalking acts and specializes in synchronized performances by its seven pilots and six wingwalkers.

Wing Walking Breitling Wingwalkers  

When doing stunts, walkers use all parts of the plane and their body. Wingwalkers do not wear parachutes for safety reasons, but a harness and cable are used while doing certain movements. This may seem strange for some, but there are reasons for the lack of parachute. First, the planes fly at too low an altitude to make a parachute useful. Secondly, there is a risk of the parachute becoming tangled in the plane’s wires if it accidentally opens. Finally, it’s simply easier to move around the plane without a parachute on. This