Monday, September 1, 2008
Bugs & Hugs
The “Glamorous” Life Of A Wingwalker
"It's mostly about the young people for me," says Ashley. "All of the kids just love our show; they have so many questions. Some are humorous: 'Do you have Velcro on your shoes to stay on the wing?' [Oh well!] Most have intelligent inquiries, showing surprisingly keen interest in what it's really like on top of the wing." Ashley, in her Wonder Woman outfit, has these kids entranced, and she happily signs autographs and poses for pictures. "It's what I love most about this business," she explains.
Greg Shelton and Ashley Battles have been performing their wingwalking routine together since 2003.
So, I had to ask, how does one go from no wingwalking experience to show-qualified? "Very carefully," says Ashley. "Imagine rock climbing in hurricane-force winds—in tights, having to smile and wave at an audience—and not looking terrified!" After witnessing Ashley climb to the top wing of the Stearman during the air-to-air shoot for this article, it's clear that it is a lot like rock climbing. Her initial training started on the ground, where she worked on getting her footing down cold, transitioning from the front cockpit to the top-wing rack and the javelin (a piece of wood the size of a broom handle that keeps the guy-wire vibration to a minimum), and back to the cockpit. Around her waist is a safety harness with a carabiner, and just like a rock climber, as she takes a step, she moves the carabiner to different parts of the plane's wing bracing for security.
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