If you think it's nerve-wracking on the wing, try being the one in the cockpit.
- By Debbie Gary
- Air & Space magazine, May 2008
(Page 5 of 5)
In 1975, Joe Hughes, who had one of the most spectacular wing acts of the decade, did get too close to the ground. Right before doing his act at Reno, where the high desert air is thin and quirky, a World War II T-6 trainer slammed into the ground during an air race. The show manager launched Hughes to keep the action going. All was well until he rolled over for an inverted ribbon cut. Then a fierce downdraft pushed the Stearman down. The wingwalker, gymnast Gordon McCollom, was killed when his body scraped the ground. The Stearman's rudder ripped off before Hughes could climb again, roll upright, and land the airplane.
Pilon and I flew only two shows. The first was at Joplin, Missouri, in June 2001, right after she and Jim Franklin got married; the second was at the Harley-Davidson rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, in 2002, shortly before they split up. Now she has her own act, Third Strike Wingwalking, with her own Stearman and three pilots she trains herself.
I haven't seen the Human Fly lately, but when I do, I owe him an apology.