By Andrea Romano
February 06, 2019
Courtesy of United Airlines

William Shatner was right. There’s...something on the wing.

But don’t worry. It’s just a flight attendant celebrating her 50th birthday.

Sabrina Swenson, a daring, Germany-based flight attendant who celebrated turning 50, wrote in a blog post on the United Airlines website about her exciting idea to become a “wing walker” by walking on the wing of a plane mid-flight.

According to her post, Swenson first got the idea to take a ride outside the airplane about eight years ago while visiting her mother in the U.S.

"We stopped at a small airport cafe for breakfast. While looking over the menu, certain dishes had nicknames like 'the pilot,' 'the flight attendant,' and there it was…'the wing walker!' I thought, 'Hmm, that would be fun!'," she wrote.

After some research, Swenson found a company that actually specializes in taking people to the sky while safely strapped to the wings of the plane, even as an amateur.

As Swenson described, the company allows people to be strapped standing position on the very top of a Boeing Stearman biplane (yes, you have to stay there the whole time). Of course, this is the position Swenson chose, and she “enjoyed it immensely.”

But for her 50th birthday, she wanted to go bigger. That's when she found Mason Wing Walking Academy, an operation two hours from Seattle where she could actually learn to professionally wing walk.

Oddly enough, Swenson didn’t have to spend weeks studying for this stunt, just a morning. "The entire morning was spent reviewing and practicing the wing walking moves I would make. Over and over, I practiced learning what to do and not to do in flight," she wrote.

In the afternoon, the pilot arrived with a Boeing Stearman biplane and they were ready for take off over the Olympic Peninsula and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

"Upon reaching the appropriate altitude and slowing down to just above a stall speed, the pilot wagged the wings, letting me know it was time to get out," Swenson wrote of her experience in the air.

"I left my seat and grabbed the two hand holds above me, fighting the wind the entire time. I carefully made my way up between the cables above me to the pole on top of the plane. I leaned against it and buckled into the four-point harness," she continued, later noting that she was strapped to a safety harness the entire time, just in case you were worried.

But of course, the pilot wasn’t going to go easy on her. Swenson said he started doing "loops, barrel rolls and hammerheads" as she was strapped to the wing. But after the first loop, Swenson said, she felt confident enough to throw out both arms.

After some "aerobatics" and other maneuvers, Swenson returned to her seat.

"I could have spent all day in the sky, but soon enough my time was finished,” she wrote. “The pilot brought us back to the grass strip and the hangar as I smiled from ear to ear." She added that it was one of the best days of her life.

Wing walking is a daring activity for thrill seekers, but you don’t have to be a trained stunt person to do it. Back in 2018, a 91-year-old woman became the oldest person to wing walk. Even Elon Musk has done it, not that we're surprised.

Read a more detailed account of Swenson’s experience on the United Airlines Hub.