P. Claire Dodson
January 08, 2017 1:42 pm
Joe Klamar/Getty Images

The art of wingwalking, where people do acrobatics on top of a moving airplane, is breathtaking and adrenaline-fueled, but the experts who practice it are fewer and fewer every year. A new BuzzFeed piece by Suzanne Cope features one of the last wingwalking women who is trying to change that.

Carol Pilon has been a wingwalker for 17 years, coming to the sport after seeing a TV commercial for an airshow in Ottawa. As Cope notes, Pilon is different from other wingwalkers in that she has her own plane and hires and trains her pilots. She also mentors future wingwalkers and has her own aerobatic business named Third Strike.

“The world doesn’t know about wingwalking,” Pilon told BuzzFeed. “People see warplanes and they think war. I have a warplane but I can make it sing.”

As you might expect, there are many hazards involved in wingwalking. For wingwalkers, the most-feared one is a “bird strike,” or colliding with a bird while on top of the plane. For pilots, its about balancing a small plane with constantly-shifting weight. As Cope wrote, “No longer is it just you and your airplane — you also need to know where your wingwalker is at all times, anticipating movements and easing transitions.”

The pilot and walker also have to be aware of G-force pressure and its stresses on the body that can cause fatal accidents. They’re crazy brave and talented:

or this one…

But despite the risks, a committed few work to carry on the art and tradition. “It’s never been about adrenaline to me,” Pilon said. “I am questioning perfection.”

Get at it, Carol, we’re all rooting for you.