The Breitling Wingwalkers flying into the Bahrain International Airshow
Time Out Bahrain staff
The Breitling Wing Walkers will be one of the star turns at Bahrain International Airshow, Freya Paterson tells us about life in the clouds.
Tell us about yourself, how old are you and where are you from? I’m 27 and originally from Liverpool but I live in Yorkshire now - in the summer I live in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, where the Breitling Wingwalkers are based.
Have you always been a wing walker and, if not, what did you do before, how did you get started? I have been a wing walker now for two years and will be doing the next season too.
I have wanted to be a wing walker for as long as I can remember!
I first saw the team at my local airshow when I was younger and was in awe of the ladies on the wing. The display was beautiful and inspiring. I knew then that that was the only job for me!
I contacted the team on several occasions, but being such an usual job they don’t often have vacancies.
Before joining the team I had always worked in the entertainment industry, performing as a character at Disney for example and dressing as fairies for children’s parties.
Towards the end of 2011 I rang the team again to see if they needed anyone new and couldn’t believe it when they did. I applied straight away and after Christmas found out I had an interview! Two interviews later and a wing walk, I got the job! I was ecstatic, I could not believe my dream had finally come true.
Have you always wing walked with Breitling? The team was sponsored by Breitling when I joined and I am always proud to say I am a Breitling Wing Walker. It is such an amazing company to have as a sponsor, especially with their aviation history.
What does the training entail and how long does it take? When you first join there is intensive training for over a month. We start learning on the ground - climbing around the stearman before we do it for real in the air. There is so much to learn about safety, the routines and the plane, it takes a long time.
It was so much fun though, learning all these new things and starting to wing walk. When I climbed from the cockpit to strap myself into the rig on the wing for the first time during flight was incredible. One of the highlights of my life.
Do you have to practice a lot? We practice constantly as we do around 80 shows a year and are always training.
Do you need to stay fit and was does this involve? Yes, we have to stay fit and strong to climb around the plane and battle against the strong wind force! All the girls have a fitness background, I did gymnastics when I was younger and that really helped with strength, flexibility and trying to look graceful on the wing.
What made you decide to become a wing walker? Everything about wing walking made me want to be a wing walker. It looked like the world’s best private roller coaster and it is!
I love displaying but I also love being part of a great team and having the opportunity to travel to amazing places like Bahrain and do what you love. It is not all glamour though, we get stuck in cleaning the bugs off the planes! There are not many people who can say they are a wing walker and I am so proud to say I am. I love it!
How safe is it? We are a professional team and It is a highly rehearsed display act that we perform. The pilots are very experienced, probably the most experienced stearman pilots in the world. At all times when wing walking we are attached to the plane by a safety harness even when we unstrap from the main harness. So I feel very safe!
How long will you be able to keep it up? I will wing walk for as long as I am able to do so. I never want to stop.