25 September 2017Last updated

Features | People

On a wing and a prayer!

Friday subeditor Tania Bhattacharya did something she’d never done before – wing walk

Tania Bhattacharya
3 Mar 2016 | 03:04 pm

So, for humanity, it’s not enough that there are enough worries plaguing the world. We have to take that one step further and redefine danger by strapping ourselves into five-point military harnesses atop the wing of a Stearman Biplane and fly off into the open sky. And no, that’s not enough. You’ll be caught on camera with a gaping mouth as the aircraft rolls, loops and nosedives in the name of adventure, and your cheeks will often appear as trying to leave your face for bluer pastures (the G-forces are very strong). What’s even more shocking/scintillating is that a group of drop dead gorgeous women performs gymnastics and hand stands atop said wing so audiences thousands of feet below live out their mad desires vicariously through them.

But, the sceptic side of a paranoid human, aka me, went quiet in awe, unfathomable joy and moments of undiluted fear as I flew over Dubai and the Arabian Gulf for nearly eight minutes. It’s crazy. It’s a pretty new sport, requires serious bravado (yes, I am patting myself on the back, whether anyone approves or not), and is quite unimaginable in scope when you’re down here on Earth.

When the invite came in, I jumped at the opportunity and spent the following two days researching wing walking – it’s all safe, Google said, and I was like, OK; even if I had to fall, I’d be going out with a bang.

Knowing well how my parents would react to such a preposterous idea, I didn’t call them for three days – which is very, very rare – because I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep this to myself. And on D Day, I very nearly decided to not go, making up excuses in my head to tell my editor, Karen. Turns out, she was shocked that I went anyway!

I still can’t believe I did it. Being harnessed to the aircraft-standard seat, awaiting my turn to fly, I tried really hard to relive the best and brightest moments of my life. And I couldn’t. I thought, I must be paralysed by fear, but I was actually alright. The take-off was simply spectacular – that feeling of literally taking to the skies like a bird, free and wings (metaphor for hands) untethered, is unparalleled. That’s when you realise that you can do anything. It’s all in the mind.

I was in no way as brave as my fellow fliers though. With about a minute or so to land, I put my thumbs down – I thought we were going to do more stunts, and my pilot, Martyn, thought I was going to faint – so we landed ASAP. I felt a bit like a wuss, but hey, I didn’t throw up in the air!

The highlight? When you’re upside down during a roll. For a few split seconds, it feels like you’re floating in space – the brief wave of nausea that swept over me was totally worth it. And you know it’s just once in a lifetime that you can claim to have defied gravity and kissed the sky.

Thank you Breitling!

Video edited by Partha Bhattacharya, a video e-learning coach at Visit

Music by Bobby Cole - Lounge Chilling

Interview with Breitling

How long are customers up in the air during a paid session?

Breitling: We only do paid wing walking experiences in the UK. Our customers are in the air for around 10 minutes. It costs 399 pounds.

What should one eat before flying? What are the dos and don’ts before a flight?

You should eat something before flying to increase your blood sugar level, but not a huge meal. This gives you best tolerance to G forces and more energy during the flight.

Why don’t wingwalkers wear parachutes?

We fly very low so we can’t use parachutes. The customers wear a five-point harness so they are perfectly secure.

What safety protocols are in place for the flight to go as smooth as possible?

A full safety briefing is given to customers beforehand.

Are the pilots equipped to deal with emergencies, such as if a customer gets ill in flight, etc?

We use hand signals to communicate with the customers. For example, if the passenger gives us the thumbs-up signal we know they are enjoying themselves and we do what we can to make sure they have a unique and fantastic experience. If, for any reason, the passenger is not having the time of their life and gives thumbs-down, we land as soon as possible, but this is very rare!

Are customers provided with body suits before a flight?

Yes, we provide all customers with a flight suit to keep them clean and to stop clothes from flapping around.

What conditions must be met for a customer to be suitable for wing walking – e.g. weight, height, health conditions etc.?

The ideal weight and height for wing walkers is under 1.8m and under 90kg, general good health and physically fit.

What’s the ideal weather for flying, and time of day?

The weather in Dubai! Clear skies and sunshine is perfect weather for wing walking, especially in the morning.