Accessibility links

Breaking News

The Life of a Wingwalker

((Banner: Up in the Air))
((Reporter: Philip Alexiou))
((Camera: Philip Alexiou, Martin Secrest))
((Adapted by: Jacquelyn De Phillips))
((Map: Bealeton, Virginia; Lancaster, Pennsylvania))

((NATS/Sound under….))
((Jana-Leigh Sheaffer, Esthetician, Wing Walker))
I started out back in 1989. I became a nail tech and that was
the first thing I did and I had a love for that. I was very
young, my kids were very young, and I just decided that that
was something I wanted to do. I realized that I had a love for
esthetics, which is facials, and so I went to school for that to
become an esthetician. Then I had to go back to school for
massage therapy.
((NATS – Jana))
Jana: So nice you’re out with the girls today.
((Jana-Leigh Sheaffer, Esthetician, Wing Walker))
I have the full range of the spa and salon. I love what I do.
I'm passionate about it.
((NATS – Jana))
Jana: Well, I'll be doing your facial. Again, I'm Jana. Nice
to meet you.
((Jana-Leigh Sheaffer, Esthetician, Wing Walker))
So, I was thinking about why I love to pamper people.
Because that's really been a passion in my life, pampering
and bringing comfort to people. That probably stems from
my childhood. I had an abusive childhood growing up:
sexual, physical, emotional. And that was a lot to overcome,
and, I think, that that's why I take pleasure in just being
nurturing and comforting people. I could have chose to turn
to drugs, alcohol and choose that lifestyle. I just made a
decision that I'm going to live by my mom's advice when she
said, 'You know what Jan, you have to make the best of life.
Life is what you make of it.'
((NATS – Jana with client))
Client: So, are you ready for the show this weekend?
Jana: I am. The last show that we were going to go to was
canceled due to the weather, so....
Client: Yeah. Well, they're calling for great weather this
Jana: Yeah. So, I'm looking forward to it.
((NATS - Ambiance, Music from the Flying Circus))
Announcer: Give a hand, folks. Here come the pilots of the
Flying Circus.
((NATS - Ambiance, Music from the Flying Circus))
Announcer: That's the way to start an airshow.
((NATS – under for Jana))
((Jana-Leigh Sheaffer, Wing Walker))
I came to see my first show here at the Flying Circus in
2004. It’s like somebody is on the field. I don't know who's
doing what out there today. I came with a friend and he
thought that I would love this environment, which I do. I was
getting my private pilot's license at the time.
((NATS – Jana))
Jana: Well, we can go ahead and get the hangar doors
open meanwhile.
((Jana-Leigh Sheaffer, Esthetician, Wing Walker))
I never left. Basically I came and I saw the show and I was
captivated by the wing walking. There's really only about
roughly 10 active female wing walkers currently. I started
the training then, and it's all placement of hands and feet and
hand signals and where to step, because this is a fabric
wing. So, you have to be very careful as to where you place
your feet. Every so many inches are the wing spars, and
this is where you have to place the balls of your feet. And
then, of course, you go over the javelin which holds the fly
wires together there. So, it was all a matter of placement of
hands and feet and three points of contact at all times.
((NATS – Ambiance from the Flying Circus….))
Jana’s husband: Alright, see you back here.
Announcer: The wing walking came about at the end of
World War I, 1918, when hundreds and hundreds of pilots
here in America.....let's watch the takeoff.
((NATS – airplane taking off))
((Jana-Leigh Sheaffer, Esthetician, Wing Walker))
Every time I go up it's exciting. It's just freedom up there.
You can see for miles. It's just an incredible feeling. You
just feel like a bird especially when you're on the top wing.
That's my favorite part.
When I'm on the top wing and I'm just up there just with my
arms out and it's just, you know, the wind is just blowing
through my hair and it's just like an amazing feeling. Just a
freedom. I just love it. I love the feeling.
((NATS – Ambiance from the Flying Circus))
Announcer: The airplane will get closer. You're going to
see Jana climb out of the wing, out of the cockpit. No
parachute. No safety rope or harness. That's a wing walk,
folks. She walked to the end of the wing just using her
hands to hold on.
((NATS – airplane in flight))
((Jana-Leigh Sheaffer, Esthetician, Wing Walker))
People say, 'Well, you must be an adrenaline junkie' or 'You
must, you know, be a thrill seeker' and I'm actually really not.
I really like the peacefulness up there. I mean, it's loud.
This is loud, loud, loud, loud, loud. But when you're up
there, it's just a serene feeling. If you can put the loudness
out of your mind, it's just a beautiful ride.
((NATS – Ambiance from the Flying Circus))
Announcer: Alright, there's Jana on the top wing, ladies
and gentlemen. We're going to dive for speed and do the
loop. Are you ready? Here we go. We’re going to get up to
130 miles (209 kilometers) an hour and loop to Jana on the
top wing.
((NATS – Ambiance from the Flying Circus))
Announcer: Here comes a nice picture taking pass. And
then, Jana's going to come and get out of the airplane and
come sign your posters here. You could wave to her. Take
a picture.
((NATS – Ambiance from the Flying Circus))
Announcer: Alright, now this time around, she's going to
lower herself under that wing, and dangle by her feet, letting
go with her hands. So actually, let go with her hand, and
swing underneath the wing by her feet. Are you ready?
There she is. No parachute. No safety rope. And there she
is, folks. Woo!!
((NATS – Ambiance from the Flying Circus))
Announcer: You get your poster and she's going to sign
those posters in just a minute.
((NATS – under for spectator…..))
Spectator: I thought she was very daring. I had a little pit in
my stomach because I thought she
might make a mistake and fall, but I was very excited when
she got on the ground. It was awesome.
((NATS – Ambiance up and under for….Jana and
Jana: There you go.
Girl: Thank you.
Jana: Thanks for coming today.
Girl: You're welcome.
Jana: She's so cute. She treats it like gold.
((NATS – Ambiance up and under for…..Jana and
Boy: Hi. Are you Superman? I always wanted to fly one of
those airplanes.
Jana: Oh, okay.
Boy: I don't like all planes, only jets.
Jana: Okay. Really? You like the old-time planes. Alright.
Well, that's awesome.
((Jana-Leigh Sheaffer, Esthetician, Wing Walker))
The thing I like best is signing the autographs, because
you're inspiring the younger generation to either fly or to get
into any aviation or to even do something they might have
thought that they never could do, and just to inspire people
to actually want to attain more in life. That's important to me.
((NATS – airplane in flight))