From Here to Wingternity!
The balls-to-the-wall Adventure begins!
By, Tracey Steele, Wing-walker & aviation writer
I had made up my mind to Wingwalk. I found the place and the people to make it happen. Now all I have to do is get my mind ready and get myself there.
I book my flight to Seattle and my rental car for travel to Sequim. I spend hours online researching and selecting the appropriate multi-layered outfits for my wingwalk debut. I study online videos by Lee Oman Airshows, and view other websites of WingWalking. My mind is filled with imprinted information. I am over-the-moon with excitement!
June approaches with a magnetic rhythm and speed, just enough time to wonder, and just enough time to want the month to be completed. The unknown keeps me thinking, and that which the footage imprinted on me keeps me from blinking!!
My Soul simmers with expectant Joyfulness….But I need to Complete It. I lock my mind into accomplishment-mode: A week from now, I will KNOW how I achieved this Dream!
This Adventure contains an intensely high degree of danger. I see it, sense it, think it, know it. Along my path to trip the wings fantastic, I can actually trip, fall, panic, perish. What if fear entraps me and glues me to my seat in the cockpit of the Stearman? What if the voice of excitement-to-achieve turns into a faint whisper, or worse yet a whimper of containment, and not my current lion-sized roar of belief? My determination to succeed is in the no-trip zone. Risks; check. Danger; check. I’ve highlighted and checked the possibilities. The possibility of this being the Grandest Adventure of My Life directs my mobility: I’m Full Steam Ahead!
Rich Perkins, my confidant and the Milky Way Galaxy’s Most Phenomenal Pilot, reminds me that this is no Ride. No one will be guiding my moves; I will be out on that wing alone. This is the First Adventure I have undertaken for which I will be solely responsible for my safety and the mission completion. Notwithstanding the pilot’s involvement in positioning the aircraft, I am the only one who can position me. No one but I will grapple myself from the cockpit and unto the wing. I am the key to this Accomplishment’s success.
I do not feel itchy apprehension, nor crawling fear. Now is my time to “Seize the day!” My singular concern is when to share my adventure with others.
A laundry list of phobias can be connected to aviation in general and to the specifics of wingwalking. From aviophobia’s fear of flying, to altophobia’s heights, to agoraphobia’s fear of leaving a safe place (i.e. the cockpit), to the fear of wind that trembles anemophobics. Then there’s the top-tier phobia, Aeroacrophia, which is the fear of open high places. That vivid one is most directly associated with wingwalking and the 3000 feet of altitude I’ll be looking at from the open air of the wing. That’s quite a handful of A-phobias, and I prefer not to carry everyone else’s fears with me, so I don’t tell everybody about my Adventure. That way, I won’t be encumbered with their fears. And they won’t have to worry.
* Adventurists come in all shapes, sizes, quantities and qualities. On land, highways, seas, cliffs. In classrooms, auditoriums, wilderness, one-on-ones. Above street levels, buildings, horizons. Adventurists venture within their personalized stages of life! I prefer zero comparisons of adventure abilities or capabilities. Each person’s resting state, mobilization efforts, and thresholds of risks are dynamically different from every other person’s levels: Viva la Difference! With utmost simplicity, Carpe Diem is the mutual emotion.
Walking the Wings is a singular sensation which legions of others have not attempted: I am overflowing with delight! I experience a Maverick vibe upon this path Onward, Upward, & Wingward!
This is my maiden voyage which will secure my internalized status of Doing, Becoming, and Being! It is an elite venture into something Daring, yes; Romantic, yes; and Pure Bliss, indeed and In Deed!
I roll towards the airport with my suitcase packed, repacked, and ready. I am in mission-mode, with robust relief in tow. Today is the day of reckoning the grandest of destinies. This is it: the start of my wingwalking journey.
My immediate travel plans are to first fly as a passenger of a 737 to Seattle International Airport (SEATAC) then drive a rental car to Blue Ribbon Airport located in Sequim, Washington. There I will meet Instructor Lee Oman and Learn. I will then embark upon the remarkable opportunity to meet, greet, and climb upon the beautiful Stearman bi-plane.
I will touch, train, and climb upon the Wings, my thoughts are Aerobatic…..Now, I just need to depart for O’Hare!!
Tickled with expectancy, I hail a taxi. On the ride, I maintain my silent secret that I will soon be a WingWalker. My taxi driver is unaware of the beats of my heart; he is simply happy that the sun is shining. A bright day beckons for each of us as our paths merge for the short ride to the airport. I mention how blue the skies are, and he concurs: It’s a glorious day! We both agree that the skies are beautiful! Our reasons might be varied, but an aligned Sky Agreement works for me! In my sky quest, it’s easy to translate everything as a token of winged faith, and a winged welcome mat easing my path.
Time is marching forward for some, and it is dancing forward for me.
I board my flight, aware that my life is Changing….a Change of Altitudes, and a Change of Possibilities!
Amazingly, the Emergency Exit seat is vacant; the window seat is mine! Another touchstone forbearing a fantastic future: I have a bird’s eye, soon-to-be WingWalker’s, view of the WINGS!
The only barrier restraining me from walking the wing of this 737–other than cabin pressurization on the hatch, 450 mph winds on the wings, no hand holds and a few regulations–is the hatch latch. Oh yes, that dandy latch, and the desire to Walk a Stearman’s wings rather than those of a Boeing. Oh, and the training I have yet to receive! I peer out of the window. I can’t ride these wings, but I will soon be riding other Wings! YIKES! WOW!! OMG!!! Rinse, repeat: YIKES! WOW!! OMG!!!
Nonetheless, I watch and mentally walk the right wing of the 737 during the entire 4.5 hours of the flight to Seattle International Airport (SEATAC). I view every rivet, every possible place to hold onto, I watch the Earth expand beneath the wing, the presence of clouds filling the voids.
My parallel universe of thoughts also determines that, if requested, I will be able to slip open the hatch, reseal it, and perform as the in-flight entertainment upon that gorgeous wing! Lofty daydreams cocoon me. With heart, mind, body and spirit, I am fully prepared to train!
Upon landing at SEATAC, I bid a faithful adieu to the companionship of the 737 wing. The routine action of disembarkation and baggage claim propel me upon the actual wings I will walk. Getting my luggage containing my WingWalk gear is cause for celebration. I feel relief as my massive luggage appears. It contains accouterments that are within my control: My outfits have arrived. They allow flexible movement for ground training, and armor for 3000 feet of fearlessness. The specialized purchases that aided in keeping the edge off during the previous months roll beside me. I triple-packed gear specifically selected for each winged routine, Top and Bottom Wing. Now in Seattle, my luggage and I have only a two-hour drive until my heightened imagination shall be the heights of reality!