How To Perform A Handstand...AT 150MPH!
Innovation28 February 2019
THESE DAYS, BEING GOOD AT YOUR JOB OFTEN REQUIRES SOME BLUE SKY THINKING, BUT THIS TAKES THE BISCUIT!
We’ve all had that stressful job interview – tough questions, formal presentations, a grilling from a stern-faced panel - but chances are you’ve never been strapped to the wing of an aeroplane and flown over The Cotswolds at 150mph to see if you’re employable. Kirsten Pobjoy has. And she passed with (literally!) flying colours.
As a member of an aerobatic formation wingwalking team, Kirsten must strike pose after pose during a 17-minute routine on top of a plane. Smiling like she hasn’t got a care in the world at all times!
AeroSuperBatics have been specialists in display flying for three decades. Kirsten talks us through what it takes to perform the mother of all handstands…
ON A WING AND A PRAYER
“The first time I was strapped to the top of a plane I genuinely didn’t feel nervous… until I heard the sound of the engine! It was so much louder than I was expecting – I couldn’t hear anything else – and as we trundled down the airfield all I could think was: ‘I don’t want to do this anymore.’ But as soon as the plane took off all my anxieties disappeared. It was the best feeling ever. The views were stunning and I remember thinking: ‘I have to get this job because I really want to do this again.’”
HOME FROM HOME
“Wingwalking is addictive. It is incredibly exhilarating and you get such a sense of freedom. I’ve done hundreds and hundreds in the last 15 months – too many to count – and for a 17-minute routine I can be on top of the wing for up to an hour. At some events, we’ll do three shows a day, so it’s like a second home up there.”
LOVING THE LOOPS
“The display starts off with a loop. The plane climbs to about 1,000ft before diving at 165mph. When we pull out of the loop we experience 4Gs of pressure. This is the most difficult manoeuvre to get used to, and in the early days I got a bit nervous before doing it, but it’s my favourite part of the routine now. When you’re on the wing of a plane the strength of the wind and the forces pushing against you are incredible. It is the most intense resistance training ever – it feels like your head is going to blow off. And you can’t really train for it – you just have to spend time in the air to get used to it.
WANT TO WINGWALK?
“It obviously doesn’t help if you’re afraid of heights. You have to be relatively short so you don’t bang your head on the wing when you’re in mid-air, and you also have to be flexible to perform the moves. I learned the trapeze when I was younger and went on to become a teacher in aerial and circus skills. We have to be very strong – so don’t try and arm-wrestle us! – and because we spend a lot of time on the ground at air shows meeting and interacting with members of the public, we have to be friendly. And while everyone sees the glamorous side of the job, a lot of time is spent maintaining and cleaning the planes, so you need to be a team player and get stuck in.”
READ THE SIGNS
“Safety is obviously our priority, so we wear special suits to move about on the planes. They’re thick and waterproof, and have a hidden harness that clips onto a safety wire so we are attached to the plane at all times. Once we’re airborne and preparing for the display, we get a two-minute warning from the pilot before we’re given the signal to climb out of the cockpit. Then, we can only communicate through hand signals.”
DOWN TO BUZZ-NESS
“We have a lead wingwalker, and everyone else must match what she does perfectly. When we’re on the wing and in position we attach ourselves to a secondary rig, which holds us in a variety of poses. The rig has a seat with a five-point harness that can rotate 180° in one direction and 45° the other way. We use that to help us get into the handstand position, but it still takes a lot of oomph to get upside down in mid-air!”
FANCY GIVING THIS A GO?
We have two wingwalks up for grabs (no, seriously!)
To stand a chance of winning one, go to whnmagazine.com/wingwalking to enter. Good luck!