Local wing walker set to soar at the Gatineau Airshow
Carol Pilon has two very different jobs.
For most of the year she is the Produce Manager at her family’s grocery story in Masham Quebec, north of Gatineau.
But for a few weekends each summer she takes to the skies as Canada’s first, and only, professional wing walker. As the name suggests, she literally climbs out of the cockpit of a two-seater biplane and walks out onto the wings freehand, striking poses as the plane dives and rolls through the air.
“I saw wing walking on an ad for my local airshow. At the time it would have been the Ottawa International Airport Airshow. And wow, it was love at first sight.”
That was 20 years ago. Since then Pilon has become one of the best wing walkers in the world. She is currently the only wing walker ever to walk on a jet plane. Admittedly, it is a small fraternity. She is one of just a handful of wing walkers in North America.
It is, quite understandably, very dangerous. The wind and the wash from the plane’s propeller threaten to tear Pilon from her perch. "You know what it's like to put your hand outside your car at 100 kilometres and hour. Imagine 200 kilometres an hour and it's your whole body out there," says her pilot, Marcus Paine.
Or the plane itself could crash, it’s aerodynamics altered by Pilon’s presence. A similar act crashed at an airshow in Dayton Ohio in June, killing both the wing walker and her pilot. Pilon knew them both. "I've never fooled myself about the reality of what a bad day at the office is here," she says.
Remarkably, Pilon says she is not afraid. She trust her abilities, her pilot and her plane - trust that is tempered with healthy doses of preparation and common sense. "When it all comes together, I mean, it's a state of grace. My little world shrinks down to my next hand-hold, my next foot-hold."
Pilon is making a homecoming of sorts this weekend. The team is performing at the Wings Over Gatineau-Ottawa Airshow. The show also features demonstrations and displays of dozens of vintage and specialty aircraft. It runs Saturday and Sunday from 10AM to 4PM at the Gatineau Airport.