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Carol Pilon: America's Last Great Wingwalker

In the 1920s and '30, barnstorming pilots and wingwalkers got the world excited about airplanes and flying in general. You could make a good living risking your life this way, but most of the stunt artists did it for the thrill, the adrenaline rush, and the love of flying. Those old-time wingwalkers died out -sometimes literally. Only a very few remain that dare recreate the stunts of the early days of aviation. One is Carol Pilon.

Pilon has been wingwalking for 17 years, and she is among the few who sought out the sport — as opposed to coming from an aviation background, or through a relationship to a pilot. Pilon resists giving her age, but begrudgingly allows that biographical details suggest she is in her 40s. She grew up in rural Canada and had been casually taking flight lessons when she saw a commercial on TV for an air show in Ottawa. Wingwalking, she said, “just came and picked me up, right by my backbone. I had no education about flying, about aircraft. But that stuff just sang to my soul.”

She immediately began contacting wingwalking teams. “I hounded them, I stalked them,” she said, eventually taking her first walk in 2001. That same year she contacted air show veteran Jimmy Franklin, owner of the air show acts collective Franklin Flying Circus. “I said, ‘Hey, I want to do this, let me try.’ And I ended up marrying him.”

Pilon performs with her own plane and pilot, and was the only professional wingwalker in America until she started teaching younger women how to do it. Read about this extraordinary woman's life and career at Buzzfeed.

(Image credit: Mike Bradley/Buzzfeed News)

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