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A Fear Of Heights And Wingwalking

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Like a lot of pilots, I'm a little afraid of heights. I'm fine on ladders and roofs but looking over railings on tall bridges or edging toward a cliff edge sets my inner ear off. Flying or flying in an aircraft doesn't bother me in the slightest, regardless of the attitude or altitude. Those of us so afflicted don't really know why it's that way. I'm sure there's an expert explanation out there somewhere but I doubt knowing why looking down between the railings of a tall building's stairwell makes my head swim while aerobatics in a Pitts Special is a walk in the park will make any difference. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't like skydiving so I've avoided it despite having numerous opportunities to do a tandem jump. Something that's never come up, however, is wingwalking. I mean, why would it? Well, a couple of weeks ago in Buochs, Switzerland, a couple of dozen people, yours truly included, were strapped to the top wings of some really nice Stearmans and given a 20-minute flight over Lake Lucerne and its environs. It was all part of a corporate event sponsored by Swiss chronometer company Breitling, which is a huge sponsor of air show acts, including the world's only formation wingwalking team. While I'd cleverly avoided yet another chance to skydive at the same event, for some reason wingwalking intrigued rather than terrified me. Besides, skydiving opportunities abound. How often do you get a chance to wingwalk? I was prepared to be scared but I wasn't. 1,500 feet from the top of a biplane is damned high but I felt safer on that wing than I do on a 20th floor balcony.I don't know why and I don't particularly care. Now, if I can just keep avoiding the skydiving offers....

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Comments (12)

Video of the year Russ. I was expecting more of this though ... (start at 3min) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WaWoo82zNUA ... did you limber up your facial muscles first?

Posted by: john hogan | July 23, 2011 8:32 AM    Report this comment

Care to join me for some skydiving? [Just joking]

I wouldn't be at all surprised if you found it enjoyable because you understand how the airplane flies, and possibly not how a skyscraper stands.

I also wouldn't be at all surprised if skydiving sounds odd to the two of us because of the feeling of falling faster than we'll normally dive in a 172...

FIAT LUX!

Posted by: Divad Vermiculo | July 23, 2011 3:16 PM    Report this comment

I have the same problem. During my first visit to Chicago many years ago, I went to the top of the Sears Tower. I got off the elevator and froze at the sight of the city below me. My friends couldn't understand. One said,"You're a pilot, you cannot be afraid of heights". I replied I was a pilot and was still afraid of heights. I am 81 and still feel the same.

Posted by: Orv Knarr | July 25, 2011 10:02 AM    Report this comment

Kudos, Russ. I don't mind flying the airplane, usually don't mind riding in the airplane, although I'm not too sure about aerobatics, but I don't think I'd ride ON the airplane and I certainly am not going skydiving. Those girls are really something, wingwalking inverted. That would definitely bring on some airsickness for me.

Posted by: Mark Consigny | July 28, 2011 1:14 PM    Report this comment

I never found the urge to "jump out of a perfectly good airplane" but I respect those that do...well, sort of! (Just kidding). My dad, a long-time pilot that learned to fly just after WWII, always said "The only way I'm jumping out of an airplane is if it's on fire!"

Posted by: A Richie | July 28, 2011 2:27 PM    Report this comment

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