¡TRAINING TO WING IT!
Tracey Steele continues her journey
to become a Wingwalker
By Tracey Steele, Wingwalker, aviation writer
Wingwalking. I had made up my mind to do it as my personalized Birthday Adventure present to myself. I did my homework, consulted the experts, made my plans, packed my bags, and winged my way from Chicago, Illinois to Seattle, Washington.
I am eyes wide open and heart beating like a lion. I am aware of a new level of confidence. A spirited purposefulness encourages my every footstep forward.
At SEATAC I check in for my rental car. Thank goodness I will be driving the few hours to the Blue Ribbon Airport located in Sequim. The highways and byways will distract my tunnel-visioned-upon-the-wings focus.
I contact Lee Oman and tell him that I am on my way. The calm upbeat pattern of his voice calms me. He isn’t over anxiously exuberant, which would make me think that handily flying a Stearman was new to him.
I had done my research about Lee and to my grand impressions; HE IS A LEGEND!!
He is well known for his Adventures & Courageous Audacity as a WingWalker, and even had a mid-air occurrence which adds to his story, his history and his legend status. (Article dated July 1, 1991 http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20115428,00.html)
He has my AWE for his fortitude to mentally hang in there when the going got T-O-U-G-H. I am also soothed since I will not be attempting his signature maneuver of hanging from the landing gear of the airplane (at least Not Quite Yet…)
Lee and I talked a few times ascertaining that I was driving toward the Blue Ribbon Airport with ease, and I already felt a kind-hearted kinship sharing with him.
I am an energetic person with a level of robust consistency that many are not familiar with. Happy Dances are my love affair, and I am passionate. I have no problem with my enthusiasm for life, as it is within my own skin and my own realizations.
Although some get energetic and get beyond their words, I am energetic, enthusiastic, and stay focused on achieving!
I pull up to Lee’s home and the Plateau of Play: Excitement is at my fingertips. The countdown I had lived since I decided upon WingWalking is coming closer and closer to fruition, and everything After my WingWalk will be labeled AW!
I am in Before WingWalk mode as I curve into the driveway; I am now in a territory of training, learning, Seizing, Carpeing and Achieving with a Legend.
Lee and Marion greet me with hospitality and care. Marion is Lee’s wife, and an exceptional wingwalker. They help me get situated in the cozy, clean and filled-with-creature-comforts hangar apartment.
I call Rich, as he has been within voice range via cells since my drive from the airport to airport. It greatly calms me that I have two Aviators in my corner. They are ideal to talk to, and to share my excitement. They are also beacons of the Sky who encourage my Quest!
I am tucking myself into the hangar, and although it was my first time in a neighborhood with its own airport, it bears a beautiful calm. It brings aircraft within the scope of the every day touch, and every day feel, and every day flight within the skies for recreation, pleasure and pursuits of the heart!
Sleep did not come easy that evening, as the next morning at 8:00 a.m. the True Journey was to begin!
That particular Wednesday, June 13, 2012, may be a standard morn to many living ordinary schedules and workplaces, but June 13, 2012 is a day of rare & wondrous qualities for Me!
The 8:00 o’clock hour dawns, delights and soars my spirit. It is within that hour that Lee and I are to meet within footsteps of the hangar. And meet there we divinely did and there was the Red Stearman in all of its Glory!
Thank goodness I Love Aircraft, because she is easy to become familiar with.
The Stearman is a sturdy biplane, and a Chariot!! She will be my Chariot to Courage, as well as the stage of performance, and Living My Dream!
Lee begins my training by introducing me to the Stearman and having me step onto the wing and into the Cockpit!!
He is pointing out the nooks, crannies, and the path I would follow!
He is making it Logical!
He is an interior decorator for so many people’s dreams who had come to him for WingWalk Training. His gentle and direct communication delivered his purpose of Teaching, and is soothing my nerves.
The air around is consumed with my thoughts, and his explanations. The only thing I hear is his voice, and the patterns of the tactile touch of the Stearman.
Lee demonstrates my footsteps and hand grabs, explaining every caution, care and concern.
Prior to beginning the training, as I rationalized how much training it would take to get from land to skies: Would it be hours of Training? Quantities of repetitions? What if Lee did not think I would make the easy transition from passenger to WingWalker???
All of those questions/queries/thought-bubbles are light years away from my mind, as the rote/route became My Routine!!
We run though it over and over and over some more!! There are specific points of contact, and I was to remain forever with three points of contact both while I ascend up to the Wing and descend my body positioning back into the cockpit!!
What was intricate was the use of the waist brace once atop the wing. THE SAFETY BELT OF ALL SAFETY BELTS!
It brings me HUGE COMFORT that it is an old school compression of metal against metal!! Getting it to fit snug, tightening myself into the brace and standing atop the wing as Lee instructed from his standing point in the cockpit is heavenly……….He then described what the lay of the land might look like!!
Here comes the bevy of butterflies, because here he is, DESCRIBING WHAT I WOULD SEE & FACETS OF WHAT I COULD FEEL!! DIRECTLY TO ME; DIRECTLY TOWARD MY IMMEDIATE FUTURE!!
He ideally was sharing that I could raise my arms if I was feeling that type of exquisite vibe. He also alerts me of upcoming maneuvers, a wiggle of the wings, and thumb’s up acknowledgement from me, and Here We Go: Maneuvers, Maneuvers, Maneuvers!!
Knowing that communication was never-ending upon the Wings was a vital sense of peacefulness, harmony and awareness.
It was the ultimate in Teamwork, and it creates a Belief that he believes in me!!
He infused Positivity with his words, his smile, his courage in me, and an easy laughter that seams together our dynamics of sharing.
Repetition is the name of the game, and repetition was the rhythm of the Training. Over and Over. Over and Over. Out of the cockpit, into the cockpit, getting a comfort of myself upon the Stearman, and the Stearman accommodating me!!
Lee then fits me for the waist harness which is the lifeline of attachments, sanity and security. He measures the safety brace, and all the while I simply keep ascending and descending the Wing! Finding my own Rhythm.
It makes perfect sense, every placement of hand or foot makes perfectly pristine sense!!
It is succinct, and fills my brain with information, and my Heart with its 5th chamber.
I am feeling confident. I am feeling composed. And at 1:00 p.m. Lee informed me that the Skies were ready and so am I!!!
Preparedness is measured by Lee’s impeccable intuition and keen observation of each student’s fluidity in motion, spatial awareness and body positioning, both in and out of the cockpit. Typical training hours, as quoted by Lee during the initial sign-up process, were to be 8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. If he feels and sees that I am ready, and I, fully without qualms, hesitations nor fears, know I am ready: It’s time to Fly the Skies!
It is time to switch into my WingWalk attire, which I carefully completed and all of the selected gear, feels correct. I feel elevated by my attempt to succeed, and I would soon be a True Flyer of the Skies: without a cockpit to confine me!
I am geared up and the waist harness is again measured and tweaked. It is time to get a true vibration of what it will feel like to envelope the wind gusts that would be ever-present at 3000 feet.
The time is now to wingwalk through the steps and hand grabs with the aircraft on the ground, but with the propeller turning! The prop will create a hundred mile per hour tornado that I have to work against. And there is always the danger of falling forward into the spinning prop. I am in the cockpit, and as Lee cranks the engine I am Ticklish, Radiant, and it is Ferociously Real!!
Lee revs the engine to nearly full power. With his high-sign, the time is nigh for me to depart the cockpit and climb out and up! I am calm. He indicates with his thumb’s up, which, when we’re airborne, will pinpoint that we are the proper altitude. I am a Woman on a Mighty Mission! Hesitancy on the ground during practice sessions, was never a part of our training nor my strategy to succeed, therefore I had no reason to hesitate now. Yes, the strong propeller blast is another factor in play, but this wind aided me in focusing. What is BEST is KNOWING the STEPS!
The tether was also attached to the front of my waist harness, and attached to the Stearman as they both were my teammates of safety and managed containment! I will not be saddled with a parachute. There’s room for me and the tether: I’m Good to Go!
I feel stellar, and it feels in symmetry! It also feels purposeful! In my book of bravery, when those three feelings are aligned, Dreams Become a Reality!!
Fluidity in movement continued: Out & Up, Down & In! Repeat, Absorb. Absorb and Repeat!!
Lee was Confident of my Training. The time to get into the air was Now.
Throughout all of the training, the belief of Rich surrounds me. If not in sight, he is in mind, and his being in the sky doing aerobatics all day every day, confirmed that he was the true blue professional to have in my corner, and drumming a beat in my ear!
So Let’s Start this Party!!
Lee is uniformed in his gear, me in mine. Marion mounted the GoPro cameras for phenomenal footage, and the prop is twirling for the skies: My Proving Ground: The Sky as a Playground!
We taxi, and a few neighbors come out to enjoy the show! What a True Delight are those who love the skies, as they also love to share the Skies!! And I, a wannabe WingWalker on my maiden flight am humbled with delight. They rallied my Pep, and I rallied theirs, as I would soon be back, but with an entirely new and wondrously halcyonic frame of mind!
I am scooting as close to the edge of a newfound Adventure, my biggest, and the only thing I felt was: READY, SET, GO!!
I wave as we taxi, and keep waving during the take-off into the Wide Blue Yonder of the Sky!!
I love ascending above the weight of the Earth. Soon I would be my own personal kite on a high wire of Winged Style, Awareness and Belief!……And AEROBATICS!
I am SOOO EXCITED and touch my seatbelt as we ascend, knowing that soon, I will unbuckle it and go against the regulations of standard flight, against the norm of staying Indoors, I will be in the Great Outdoors, and a First-Person Narrative was about to be Celebrated within My Soul!! My time of Superhero heroics was t-minus 15 minutes………………………
By Tracey Steele, Wingwalker, aviation writer
I AM READY TO ROCK, ROLL & WALK THE WINGS…..ONLY 3000 FEET TO GO!
By Tracey Steele, Wingwalker, aviation writer