Can you do a handstand… at 1,000ft? The fearless female trio who are the world’s only aerobatic wing-walking team
- Daredevil women dance, do handstands and hang upside down from outside of plane, strapped in only by a harness
- Sarah Tanner, Danielle Hughes and Stella Guilding describe the experience as like being on the ‘ultimate rollercoaster’
Defying death with a series of outlandish stunts on the wings of a plane thousands of feet in the air wouldn’t be everyone’s idea of fun – but it’s all in a day’s work for these girls.
Members of the world’s only aerobatic wing walking team, Sarah Tanner, Danielle Hughes and Stella Guilding perform a series outrageous manoeuvres while strapped to the wings of a plane, as it loops and rolls through the sky at 150mph.
And there’s no denying the pretty trio of Breitling Wingwalkers have a head for heights as they dance, wave, perform handstands and even hang upside down from the wings of a vintage biplane.
Brave…or plain mad? Sarah Tanner, Danielle Hughes and Stella Guilding perform a series a death-defying stunts as their Breitling aircraft hurtle through the air
Fearless: One of the wingwalkers clings on as she appears to pose for the camera as her plane lurches into a roll. She is one of four members of the world’s only aerobatic wing walking team
Daredevils: The intrepid trio wave, dance…and even perform handstands thousands of feet up in the air as they power through the sky with only harnesses keeping them secure
The fearless females perform up to 100 wingwalks a year as their aviation adventures take them to events across the UK, Europe, China, UAE and most recently Australia.
Chief stuntwoman Sarah Tanner, 31, said she’d dreamed of being a wing lady since she watched them at a display with her family when she was a child.
She said: ‘Wingwalking was something I’d seen at an airshow as a child and was really inspired to see women doing it.
‘I’ve always loved dancing and wing walking is like dancing in the sky, but it wasn’t until I was 24 that I first joined.
‘I came across a group of wingwalkers at an event and decided to find out more.
‘One thing led to another, I auditioned and got the job. I’ve been doing it for seven years now.’
Sarah, who lives in Cirencester with her pilot boyfriend Richard, 35, previously enjoyed a career in event management but said she was delighted to have bagged her dream job.
One of only a handful of professional wingwalkers in the world, Sarah not only performs some of the team’s most daring stunts but is also responsible for training the team’s new recruits.
She said: ‘To be a wingwalker you can’t be taller than 5"4 or weigh more than around eight-and-a-half stone and have to have a head for heights.
United: Sarah Tanner (left) and Stella Guilding (right) are perfect for wingwalking, both being under 5ft 4ins and under eight-and-a-half stone
Dream come true: Danielle Hughes told her dad she wanted to be a wingwalker when she was just six-years-old and says the realisation of her ambition is a dream come true
‘The plane travels at around 150mph so you’re battling a lot of pressure on the wings and need to build a lot of core strength at the gym.
‘We perform a lot of manoeuvres as the plane loops and rolls in the sky. We climb out of the cockpit and onto the wings where we do handstands, lift our legs, hang upside down, wave at the crowd and basically just dance on the plane’s wings.
‘My favourite manoeuvre is climbing down in front of the pilots and waving, it’s a great feeling to be standing at the front of the plane, waving to the crowd below.
‘People are always amazed when I tell them what I do for a living. A lot of people think I’m joking at first but they’re always really intrigued about my unusual job.
‘With all flying there’s an element of danger but we’re professionals, we train hard and everything is so well rehearsed.
‘We always wear a harness and the wire is quite short so if you do slip there’s no danger of you being left hanging from the plane.
‘When you’re climbing around the plane you are hanging on for dear life, you really need to have a firm grip and I’ve been lucky enough not to have slipped before.’
Graceful: The girls do a passable impression of ballerinas in some of their stunts, which require intense concentration and balance
Ultimate thrill: Danielle says the job is like being on the perfect rollercoaster. ‘One plane turns upside down above another and I reach down and hold hands with my team mate in one move’
Commanders : David Barrell (left) and Vic Norman (right) have the enviable job of flying the plane while the glamourous girls strut their stuff on the outside of the aircraft
Fellow daredevil Danielle Hughes said being a wing walker was a childhood dream come true.
The 24-year-old from Wiltshire has been a wing lady since she auditioned for the team six years ago.
She said: ‘I basically saw wingwalking when I was six and I remember turning to my dad and saying ‘that’s what I want to do when I grow up.
‘When I was 18 a job came up and so I went for it. I had a series of interviews and then had to audition on the wing. I was excited when I first did it, it was such a thrill but it was daunting learning how to climb from the cockpit to the wing.
‘The top speed of the plane is 160mph, if you can imagine the feeling of sticking your head out the window while doing 70mph on the motorway, it’s twice as much pressure on the wing.
With just the open air separating the from the lush English countryside below, the girls have to have nerves of iron as they perform their daring moves
Soaring success: The girls perform up to 100 wingwalks a year as their aviation adventures take them to events across the UK, Europe, China, UAE and most recently Australia
‘It can be difficult at times, particularly if we have to perform in the rain, the rain really stings, it feels like you’re being pelted with hail and can really hurt.
‘We need to go to the gym regularly as you need to build strength but wing walking is a workout in itself.
‘When I’m on the wings I feel really free and it’s nice to be able to stand on the wing and wave to the crowd below, particularly if your friends and family have come to watch.
Unforgettable: Danielle says the first time she did a stunt was one of the most memorable moments of her life
‘It’s like the ultimate rollercoaster, it’s such a thrill.
‘My favourite manoeuvre is climbing up from the cockpit and back down at the end, I love climbing across the plane.
‘We also do this move where one plane turns upside down above another and I reach down and hold hands with my team mate on the other plane.
‘The first time I did that was one of the most memorable moments of my life, such a good feeling and one I’ll never forget.’