Wing walking thrill rides shut down, pilot/operator loses license

Hunter Handsfield

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Hunter Handsfield
"The Mason Wing Walking business in Sequim that allowed paying thrill-seekers to clamber over the wings of a 1940s Stearman biplane while in flight is no more. The Federal Aviation Administration has revoked the pilot license of Mike Mason, who flew wing-walking flights for the past 12 years in Sequim in summer and in California in the winter."


HHH

States Flown.jpg
 
Not really interested in the barnstorming/FAA angle. That's just another "flat-billed palmer coulda told ya..." Tuesday morning in kango court USA.

But residential NIMBYs are why everything sucks here anymore. Zero solidarity across any spectrum; pilots very much included in the offending demographic. With friends like these...
 
Hmmm...

Based on multiple wing walking flights in Sequim last summer and further such flights in Santa Paula, Calif., in December, “you have advertised or offered passenger-carrying aircraft operations to the public without authorization,” the FAA ruled.
During these flights, each lasting about 25 minutes and costing $1,000 to $1,400 for the thrill ride, the wing walker climbed out of the cockpit, tethered to a cable, at about 3,500 feet up.
He or she strapped into a harness on a fixed rig, standing atop the wings as the bright red biplane performed aerobatics, including flipping upside down so that the person’s head pointed straight down at the ground.
Then, disconnecting from the rig but still tethered to the cable, the wing walker climbed out onto the wings and lie astride a pole fixed horizontally between the upper and lower wings of the biplane, flying Harry Potter-style.
The FAA investigation determined that those flights “were careless or reckless so as to endanger the life or property of another.”
The letter states that in addition to operating his business without authorization, Mason violated air safety regulations by performing acrobatic flight maneuvers when the paying passenger had no parachute.
 
Not really interested in the barnstorming/FAA angle. That's just another "flat-billed palmer coulda told ya..." Tuesday morning in kango court USA.

But residential NIMBYs are why everything sucks here anymore. Zero solidarity across any spectrum; pilots very much included in the offending demographic. With friends like these...
What courts, in your opinion, aren't kangaroo?
 
Yeah, I actually witnessed this activity at KSZP about two months ago. It seemed so crazy at the time, I thought I must have misunderstood what was going on.

Glad to hear the FAA stepped in before someone got hurt.

C.
 
Yeah, I actually witnessed this activity at KSZP about two months ago. It seemed so crazy at the time, I thought I must have misunderstood what was going on.

Glad to hear the FAA stepped in before someone got hurt.

C.
I mean if someone wants to do this as stupid as it might seem, why deny them the opportunity?
 
Sounds safer than a motorized rickshaw in India…

When they say to keep all hands and parts INSIDE, they mean it.
 
I saw this a few years back at the Sequim Airport hosted Olympic Peninsula Air Affaire & Sequim Valley Fly-In. I thought those folks doing it were nuts, but it was an activity between consenting adults. Hell, both Washington and California have legalized deadly drug use. Wingwalking seems safer than smoking or injecting God-knows-what.
 
Having money to burn for a thrill and intelligence aren’t always the same. There are a lot of NTSB reports to that affect.
 
the wing walker climbed out of the cockpit, tethered to a cable, [...]
disconnecting from the rig but still tethered to the cable, the wing walker climbed out onto the wings
One has to wonder how long this tether is and how someone would get back on to the airplane while hanging from it...
 
One has to wonder how long this tether is and how someone would get back on to the airplane while hanging from it...
Here’s his video.

Tether is visible, and includes the inverted flight and “Harry Potter broomstick ride” from the article.

 
like this
Amazing how what seems to be clear communication by the speaker can be so grossly misunderstood.

John Kazian had a similar escapade in Japan when the flaming wall he went through was made of 2x4s instead of lathe.
 
I'm not saying the stunts are stupid... different people have different tolerances and definitions for that. But thinking the FAA wouldn't' eventually drop the big hammer... now, that seems stupid to me.
 
Yeah, I actually witnessed this activity at KSZP about two months ago. It seemed so crazy at the time, I thought I must have misunderstood what was going on.

Glad to hear the FAA stepped in before someone got hurt.

C.
Yeah, they had been doing it for 12 years apparently without hurting anyone. He obviously hadn’t put any thought into what he needed to do to reduce the risks involved.
 
The acrobatics without a parachute seems like an easy regulatory issue - upside down requires a parachute and everyone who has done and intro lesson in a Citabria has experienced.
 
How was this allowed (from a regulatory standpoint) to last for 12 years anyway?
I am the pilot, I have the plane and I offer it (for money) to passengers.

At least all the warbird rides were trying to pretend the ride was free and you were only making a donation to the foundation.
Speaking of, I wonder if the 909 crash was the tipping point for this.
 
An unconfirmed rumor from Sequim Valley Airport is the local FSDO was working with him when the DC bureaucrats overrode the locals.
 

No one in Western Washington goes to jail for simple possession of anything. Local prosecutors routinely decline or dismiss misdemeanors.
Prosecutors declining to prosecute is not the same as the state legalizing it. And it seems like the law has changed since that article.

 
Still, no one is going to jail for simply possession.
 
The acrobatics without a parachute seems like an easy regulatory issue - upside down requires a parachute and everyone who has done and intro lesson in a Citabria has experienced.
Parachutes are not required for aerobatics in Australia. Even if they were, I don't think there would be enough time to exit and activate parachute from the back seat of eg. Citabria.
They also mess with w&b.
 
Customer video review of the experience below, with multiple GoPro angles.

1st half is training, 2nd half is their flight experience.

Interestingly to me, acrobatics also were done in the “Harry Potter broomstick” position, with no restraints other than the trailing tether wire. Customer just holds on.

The top wing activities had the customer hip-belted to the vertical support frame.

Also much care to have the customer walk out to their position without stepping on the fabric. There appears to be wing-walk patches on the ribs, with instruction not to lose footing in the wind and punch a hole in the wing fabric.

 
Here’s his video.

Tether is visible, and includes the inverted flight and “Harry Potter broomstick ride” from the article.

That video is from 7 years ago. At $1500 for a 30 minute trip I guess the guy might not be too bothered that he can't do it any more:cool:
 
This is off another forum from a well-known contributor there. I post it anonymously, because I did not ask for permission, and I do not think they participate here.

We have a unique perspective since MIke and Marilyn Mason ran the SoCal operation out of Santa Paula. I regularly walked past training sessions on my way to the flight school. The training lasted most of the morning. Students practiced every aspect of what they were going to do, repeatedly. I watched Art’s son, and later my son, go through the training, take off, climb (tethered) onto the wing, strap themselves to the stand-like thing on the top wing, and let Mike know when they were ready for aerobatics. I also saw the extensive preflight and lengthy run-up. I saw how precise and controlled the flights themselves were.

As is the case with almost any small GA airport, lots of things that happen at SZP might be deemed “careless” or “reckless.” But the Masons’ wing-walking business is not among them.
 
What apparently brought all of this into the gaze of the “Eye of Sauron” included a fly-in community who claimed this was a noisy commercial operation in violation of their covenant.

Followed by a series of creative counter-arguements.

…neighbors grew tired of the noise from the flights. The couple lives in a small rural community called Blue Ribbon Farms in the Olympic Peninsula. The community is home to many former pilots who have small airplanes of their own. However, they say that over the years, the noise from the wing-walking flights has disrupted the community.
The community board also brought up issues regarding FAA compliance and that their commercial operations were a violation of the homeowner’s covenant. However, the Masons pushed back saying that their flight operations are “noncommercial.” The Masons explained that they only bill their customers for the three-hour ground training that takes place before the flight. The wing walking that happens after the training is “free of charge.”

Also:

…This notice takes issue with FAA regulations that require each occupant of an aircraft to have a parachute during aerobatic flights. Currently, the wing walkers that Mason takes up do not wear a parachute during the flight.
Mason has shared that an FAA official assured him that once a wing walker steps out of the plane cockpit, they are no longer considered an “occupant” of the flight, and therefore the regulation shouldn’t apply.

 
This is off another forum from a well-known contributor there. I post it anonymously, because I did not ask for permission, and I do not think they participate here.
Another comment, referring to the noise complaints, said the flights were so high, you didn't even know the plane was there. And the wing walking supposedly took place well away from the airport. This guy has really good eyes, probably.
 
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