The FAA has barred a wing walking company from conducting flights and revoked the owner’s pilot certificate, deeming the operation unsafe and reckless, according to a report from The Seattle Times.

Mason Wing Walking, based in Sequim, Washington, in the summer and Ventura County, California, in the winter, gives thrill-seeking amateurs the opportunity to strap themselves atop a 1940s Stearman biplane—fulfilling a bucket-list item for many. However, the business was ordered to cease operations after owner Mike Mason received a March 18 letter from the FAA noting the flights were “careless or reckless so as to endanger the life or property of another.”

The Seattle Times stated that Mason, who has been conducting the flights since 2012, claimed he was assured he was exempt from the regulations that govern commercial air carriers based on rules tailored to flight school, acrobatic and aerial photography missions.

Nonetheless, the FAA informed Mason that he had advertised or provided passenger-carrying aircraft operations to the public without proper authorization. The agency cited infractions such as conducting acrobatic flight maneuvers without a parachute for the paying passenger.

During the flights, most of which last 25 minutes and cost between $1,000 and $1,400, wing walkers climb out of the cockpit tethered to a cable at an altitude of 3,500 feet while the biplane performs aerobatics. According to its website, Mason Wing Walking says that to its knowledge, it is the only wing walking school in the world, noting that wing riding is available in the U.K.

Mason was instructed to surrender his revoked pilot certificate immediately or face a daily fine of $1,828 until compliance. He will not be eligible to apply for a new certificate for one year.

Amelia Walsh
Amelia Walsh is a private pilot who enjoys flying her family’s Columbia 350. She is based in Colorado and loves all things outdoors including skiing, hiking, and camping.


  1. “Mason Wing Walking, based in Sequim, Washington in the summer and Ventura County, California in the winter, gives thrill-seeking amateurs the opportunity to strap themselves atop a 1940s Stearman biplane—fulfilling a bucket-list item for many.”

    I had NO IDEA that there was a demand for this, a business model to fill that demand, or a type of person that this was a bucket list item, much less enough of that kind of person who has $1,400 to scratch that particular itch.

    As a person who shuns risk adversity myself, I applaud that individual but share no desire to walk on the wing of an inverted biplane. I’d be happy to be in the cockpit at the controls however.

  2. I have had the privilege of attending Mike and Marylyn Mason’s wing walking academy twice.

    Today is a truly sad day, as the government has exceeded its reach and is clearly grasping at straws. Never once did I feel unsafe or in danger. Mike and Marylyn have huge hearts, empathy, and care for their students.

    As for the noise issue, I stood on the ground as my classmates took flight, and I had a hard time hearing or seeing the biplane once they were airborne. It is unfortunate that a few individuals have made it their mission to try to destroy this wonderful family business and experience.

    For 13 years, the FAA had little to no concern with the Mason Family operation. Think about that.

    Is this just a noise complaint issue?

    If you want, take a look at my flight. It was one of the happiest days of my life. Search in Youtube:

    What’s next, hang gliders and airshows?

    • “For 13 years, the FAA had little to no concern with the Mason Family operation. Think about that.”

      The FAA is understaffed and undercapitalized so … it takes longer than it used to for them to catch illegal wing walker operations. Maybe they were worried that someone with mental instability would use that mode to unhook themselves and go for a long dive as a means to sign off from the planet?

      I’m curioius. IF — while you were climbing up onto the upper wing you slipped — the snare cable would keep you hooked to the Stearman but dangling ???

  3. Does this mean he was Part 91 when the FAA claimed he should be 135? Did they maybe step on some government toes?

  4. Wow, it’s a good thing the long arm of the federal government has stepped in and stopped these dangerous criminals from running their illegal operation. So the FAA is understaffed and they have nothing better to do than go after a bucket list experience. The Biden administration continues its crusade against the little guy while turning a blind eye toward the real criminals.

    • The Biden Administration??? As if the office of the president micro manages every departments rule making and enforcement. I suppose you could also say that the Sheriff’s departments that were out in force yesterday enforcing speeding laws were a direct result of “the Biden administration”!

      • In business and government, the executive level sets the tone and strategic direction for those below them. There’s no disputing that the Biden Administration is all about government micromanagement/control.

  5. What about downhill skiing? Water skiing? What about white water rafting? Football? Sky-diving?

    What earthy business is it of the FAA if I – as a sentient adult human being – want to risk my life in an given activity?

    That’s my call.

    I am so sick and tired of the government trying keep me “safe.”

    The Government does not make me feel “safe.”

    It scares the shit out of me.

  6. Another case of federal overreach. Instead of making him stop carrying passengers for pay until he gets the necessary certs, they kill his entire method of livelihood.

    Draconian measures for sure, but that seems to be the standard mode of operation these days. Send a SWAT team to raid someone’s house for a potential civil crime.

  7. IMHO many folks are being violated because of social media postings. When visibility is raised, surveillance likely follows.

  8. Unfortunate. My wife and I both enjoyed this experience. Worth every penny! Mike and his family are wonderful people. Mike quit his corporate job to spend time with his family after his disabled daughter was born. Mike and Marilyn were amazing and very professional. Been operating a safety for years. Safer than any skydiving operation for sure. Apparently this all stems from neighbors complaining about noise. FAA initially said he was in compliance, but then did a 180 and pulled his ticket. No Bueno.

  9. … and one wonders why it takes SO long for the FAA to deal with REAL issues … geesh!

    This is like being arrested for spitting on the street in Japan.

  10. Claiming lack of a parachute as a safety risk?
    Furthermore, those involved in an activity know the risk they are taking. They are grown assed adults… let them take the risk!

    Wearing a parachute in that manner would be more dangerous to both the wing walker and the pilot!!! What the hell does the FAA have in their pipe?

  11. FARs say no aerobatic flights without a parachute (or an ejection seat). You don’t like it? Get a waiver, otherwise follow the rules.

    This isn’t really that complicated.

    • Right on Steve! Those who claim that paying passengers know the risks that they are taking are sorely mistaken. Joe Public now thinks that if something is offered commercially it must be safe or it would be verboten. Sky divers have a modicum of training at least but parachuting is probably more hazardous. Life is not much fun without some risk so I have: Flown SEL north of the Arctic Circle, done SCUBA, climbed mountains, owned the world’s fastest production motorcycle. I also met a man who killed a grizzly with a spear. That makes me a piker by comparison.

  12. The FAA is one of the leading over-reaction agencies of the Federal government. These are the same folk, remember, who arbitrarily pulled Bob Hoover’s ticket at RAR in ’93. Also the same bunch of clowns who, many years ago, red-tagged several planes which had just been fitted with the then-new scimitar props as having “bent prop tips”. Do we need an FAA? I think so. Do we need the one we have now? I’m not so sure.

  13. What’s the big deal? Looks to be as safe as flying on an airliner. Imagine, someone hanging from that cable after falling and the airplane on a final approach? You can’t make this up.

  14. I don’t believe the Masons woke up 13 years ago and said “Let’s go to the airport and start a wing walking enterprise.” I’d wager they consulted with an attorney or two, had bullet proof liability wavers, for wing walkers, to read and sign. I hope they appeal and are successful in the reversal of the Airman Certificate revocation.

  15. My attitude toward evaluating this sort of government action is shaped by the question “what is the State’s (the government’s) interest in this thing?” The mantra is public safety, as in protecting the mass public, but here the State targets only a tiny cohort of consenting adults who want to do something the outcome of which has neither a real safety connection to the mass public nor the potential of other societal disruption at any noticeable scale. So, it isn’t being done for “public” safety or even as being for the general good of society but simply for the satisfaction provided to one group by the imposition of their personal view on others.

  16. What is the difference whether someone is attached to the top of the wing, or sitting on the seat in an open cockpit airplane? Perhaps better yet–what is the difference than sitting on the “rail” of a Breezy homebuilt, with no cockpit structure around you?

    I fly balloons as well–the “crew” stands in the basket–no restraints.

    What “Law” does the FAA cite as being broken–and how would they square that with the rest of aviation as cited above?

    I’m a former skydiver, and have dropped thousands of people out of aircraft–as any jump pilot would tell you, we are more concerned about well-meaning but uninformed “do-gooders” that insist on parachutes for “safety”–yet far more accidents occur due to inadvertent deployment of a parachute than were ever prevented by having a parachute available.


  17. As the FAA continues to shut down GA one slice at a time. This was low hanging fruit but soon they will be after the pancake fly-ins and beyond.

  18. Samuel Homer Mason Jr. 1917-2001
    Instructor in Civilian pilot training program in WWII in Stearman’s
    Airshow pilot in Stearman
    1950-1977 Lockheed test pilot and first pilot to fly a aerobatic airshow in a helicopter in the Lockheed “rigid rotor” helicopter.
    Aerobatic Instructor
    His namesake and grandson Sammy Mason, is an airshow pilot and aerobatic competitor as well as occasional corporate jet pilot based in Santa Paula. Sammy flies an Edge 540.
    Mike Mason is Sammy’s cousin.
    The FAA has no clue about what they have started.
    Regarding chutes, I know of an aerobatic instructor who didn’t believe in chutes. Neither he nor his students ever wore one. Decades of aerobatic instruction with no chutes and the FAA knew about it.

  19. The FAA has been harassing the fly in breakfasts and other small events for decades. That has actually declined because of the limited FAA travel funds.
    FAA does not always get things their way. I know of two ancient cases where individual FAA Inspectors initiated action against 135 operators, probably without the knowledge or approval of their managers. In the first case the inspector was fired. The second case a very undesirable transfer. The operators prevailed in both cases.
    The most famous of all where nearly an entire FSDO office was fired or allowed to resign-the aviation press maintained near complete silence. The press was terrified. One relatively obscure newspaper style aviation publication wrote about this. The FSDO manager held out for awhile but eventually resigned. Two sets of maintainence records airline captain who owned a 135 operation and broke every rule in the book with the 135 operation, etc etc.

    • Why in the world was the press terrified? Don’t they just live for this stuff?

      Or did you make that up?

  20. Search John Doster FAA. Mr Doster was the first FAA employee ever convicted of fraud. I had knowledge of the extensive fraud dating from 1967 to 1987. I chose not to do anything about it until a inspector from the Allentown Office threatened me on the phone with “removal of my ATP Certificate”, Shortly after that and prior to any action on my part, the Allentown FSDO was investigated by a team from DC. I had discussion’s with a Region attorney and agreed to testify. He stated that Mr. Doster had a large bank account and had no explanation of how the money was acquired. Nothing happened except that Mr Doster was assigned to assistant at Teterboro. He resigned and the entire issue went away. Four years later, with a new US president in office, the court case was restarted. Mr. Doster and the president of Northeast Jet were convicted of fraud. Doster did not go to jail but the Northeast guy served four years.
    Just the tip of the iceberg: Northeast was keeping two sets of maintainanence records as recommended by Mr Doster.
    Northeast was a Lear operator that flew celebrities and politician’s including three future US Presidents.
    Early in this process I talked to Flying Magazine and visited the office of Business and Commercial Aviation. The later response from BCA: we spoke to Richard Collins and “Torch” Lewis and they both stated that Mr. Doster is one of the finest people they have ever known and none of this could possibly be true.
    My earliest involvement with Allentown was a FAA 135 check ride in a airplane with a obvious issue with unairworthy condition. The FAA Inspector looked at the issue, shook his head and climbed in the airplane and we did two check rides. I still will not talk about who the management of that company was.

  21. I’d be interested to see exactly which regs were violated and how this operation fits into the
    “Commercial Air Carrier” category.

    • Your call, but consider just what I was questioning – your quote:

      “The press was terrified.”

      You directly accused “the press” of cowardice, yet you suggest that my questioning your assertion is actionable? I’ll phone in my defense.

  22. The one size fits all for the FAA is careless and reckless. I tell people that until the late 60’s the FSDO offices had really good people. It has gone downhill ever since.
    Still a few good people but mostly bad.