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wing walking also wing-walking

noun [uncountable]

the activity of standing strapped onto the wings of an aeroplane whilst it is flying

wing walker

noun [countable]

wing walk

noun [countable] verb [intransitive]

'Katie and Darren had themselves strapped to the top of matching biplanes, talked the Reverend George Bringham into strapping himself to the top of a third, and got married while wing-walking 90 miles west of London, England.'

Aero-News Network 8th August 2008

'The daring wing walkers had planned to sit on the edge of the top wing, directly above the plane's propeller, as they flew at 100mph.'

The Press and Journal, UK 28th July 2008

'Ms Plummer even did a wing walk – raising £2,728 for Cancer Research UK, while her brother Charlie Dyke and his family ran a half marathon.'

The Advertiser 7th August 2008

Have you scaled numerous heights, abseiled, bungee jumped and already tried zorbing? Is your adrenalin-fuelled psyche in search of something new? If you're a genuine seeker of high-altitude thrills, then you might like to consider trying a spot of wing walking.

sweethearts Darren McWalters and Katie Hodgson tied the knot whilst up in the clouds at a wing walking wedding

When you discover that, in wing walking, wing refers to that crucial aircraft component, you'll understand the height implications of this jaw-dropping activity. Walking is something of a misnomer however, as budding participants, dubbed wing walkers, start their experience strapped in a special harness to the wings of a light aircraft. The vehicle then takes to the skies to give them the ultimate in flying 'exhilaration'. More adventurous wing walkers may experience sharp twists and turns or even aerobatic stunts such as loop the loop (flying in a complete circle).

Incredible as it may seem to those of us with a more nervous disposition, wing walking is becoming quite popular as a leisure experience in the UK, sometimes arranged for pre-wedding stag or hen parties, or as an unforgettable treat for a special birthday. In early August 2008, British sweethearts Darren McWalters and Katie Hodgson tied the knot whilst up in the clouds at a wing walking wedding. With Katie strapped to one aircraft, Darren to another and the Reverend George Bringham to a third, the couple used a radio communications system to exchange vows whilst flying high above a Gloucestershire airfield.

Doing a wing walk has also become a popular alternative to parachute-jumping as a novel way to raise funds for charity. If you're interested in finding out more about watching (or participating in) this extreme sport, then check out the website of Aerosuperbatics Ltd, operators of the world's only formation wing walking team.

Background – wing walking

Wing walking has in fact existed since the very early days of aviation, and originally referred to the actions of daredevil aviators when they moved about on the wings of aircraft during flight. One of the world's first wing walkers was US lieutenant Ormer Locklear (born 1891), who, during his pilot training in World War I, just climbed out of the cockpit onto the wings in flight whenever there was a mechanical problem and fixed it! Locklear died in 1920 while performing a wing walking stunt for a film. However wing walking remained a popular performance during air displays throughout the 1920s, which were often referred to as barnstorming shows.

A more contemporary sense of the word barnstorming has been evident in recent press coverage of the US presidential election, where it refers to the activity of travelling to a lot of places and making political speeches in order to gain support.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 18th November 2008.

Open Dictionary

Dunning-Kruger effect

the phenomenon by which an incompetent person is too incompetent to understand his own incompetence

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