June 24, 2013

Fatal air show crash in Ohio: Why be a wing walker? Thrill, risk, lure of sky

The dozen or so practitioners in the U.S. receive extensive training, but three have died since 2011.

By AMANDA LEE MYERS The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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Wing walker Jane Wicker performs at the Vectren Air Show, above, Saturday in Dayton, Ohio. Moments after the picture was taken, the plane made a quick turn and nosedived, below.

Photos by The Associated Press

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Additional Photos Below

She also answered a question that she said she got frequently: What about the risk?

"I feel safer on the wing of my airplane than I do driving to the airport," she wrote. "Why? Because I'm in control of those risks and not at the mercy of those other drivers."

An announcer at Saturday's event narrated as Wicker's plane glided through the air.

"Keep an eye on Jane. Keep an eye on Charlie. Watch this! Jane Wicker, sitting on top of the world," he said, right before the plane made a quick turn and nosedive.

Some witnesses said they knew something was wrong because the plane was flying too low and slow.

Thanh Tran, of Fairfield, said he could see a look of concern on Wicker's face just before the plane went down.

"She looked very scared," he said. "Then the airplane crashed on the ground. After that, it was terrible, man ... very terrible."

From 1975 to 2010, just two wing walkers were killed, one in 1975 and another in 1993, Cudahy said. But since 2011, three wing walkers have died, including Wicker.

In 2011, wing walker Todd Green fell 200 feet to his death at an air show in Michigan while performing a stunt in which he grabbed the skid of a helicopter. That same year, wing walker Amanda Franklin died after being badly burned in a plane crash during a performance in South Texas. The pilot, her husband, Kyle, survived.

FAA spokeswoman Lynn Lunsford said the agency is often asked why wing walking is allowed.

"The people who do these acts spend hours and hours and hours performing and practicing away from the crowd, and even though it may look inherently dangerous, they're practiced in such a way that they maintain as much safety as possible," he said. "The vast majority of these things occur without a hitch, so you know whenever one of them goes wrong and there's a crash, it's an unusual event."

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The fiery crash killed the pilot and Wicker instantly, authorities said.

  


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