Air Show History

Saint Michael's Angels Aerobaic WingWalk Team  DAVID-BRADLEY-HENRY

As a kid from Brooklyn I never imagined that one day I be performing in Air Shows, but life has its' many twist. It started  one day when after leaving an Airborne assignment, I decided that I wanted to keep jumping So I joined a strange band of adventures in a small club called ...

St. Michael's Angel

Saint Michel's Angels

(Me in the top center)

 

We jumped at a place called the Flying Circus Aerodrome in Bealeton, Virginia. We shared the field with with a group of Aviators that performed each Sunday afternoon in the fall season.  They performed the 1920's-30's barnstorming. It was here that I learned parachuting and in time performed the opening jumps in the Air Show.

Opening jump (Flag Jump) in the Air Show

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Then one day, I was asked to be a understudy for a fellow St. Michael Member, that was developing a new act for the show ...Wing Walking. At that time there was only one wing walking team in the country (see Francis McCollum & Joe Hughes below), we would be the "other" team, more of the east coast team. Before the act could get off the ground, my friend (Billy Fitzsimmons) was injured in a jump. The duty of testing and developing the act fell to me. Though having never seen a wing walking act, I approached the adventure with an open mind. After all how hard could it be, as I have been climbing out of airplanes for a while? I was fortunate enough to be paired up with a great pilot and exceptional aviation historian, Ron David. Ron and I put our heads together and we developed a true wing walk act. As there were some "Wing Riding" around the country at the time, we wanted ours to be a true wing walking not a wing riding act.  Our goal was for me to get out of the cockpit and walk around on the aircraft - Wing Walking. We understood that we would fly together and if we screwed up, we would died together. We came up with some basic safety rules, methods of communication and an understanding that in wing walking, we were a team. After practicing  my climb out routine a few times in the hanger, we rolled out the shinny white Sterman 450 on morning of 19 May 1975.  I decided to try my hand at Wing Walking. The first time up, I decided to wear a parachute and asked Ron to take me through the moves we planned. Once that went well, I asked him to try and shake me off of the wing as I held on. Once I assured myself that, I could hold on "no matter what," I performed the practice without a parachute and the Wing Walk team of "DAVID - BRADLEY" was born.

First Season; ...just simple top wing activities (the FAA was watching us like hawks)

 

The show was a hit, partly inspired by the movie just released about a month before we opened called, "The Great Waldo Pepper." Ron and I were interviewed by many news agencies and were featured in many magazines and papers. We were on Good Morning America, Military AFRTS and numerous local stations. Success never went to our heads as we were serious about the dangers we faced. Once in the season, I was climbing up on the wing and the zipper on my jumpsuit failed and the suit inflated like a giant sail. I dove for the wing and hung on. I wanted to climb back into the cockpit but needed for Ron to pull back on the power. But unbeknown to me, Ron needed to add power as we were losing altitude. I tried to communicate with him by kicking on his windshield. I tapped to get his attention but he added power, I tapped more and he added power more. I tapped hard, but still he was lying on the power. Finally my foot crashed his windshield. In a short time he had enough altitude to cut the power to give me the time to climb back in. That was only some of the few close calls we had.

Second Season; Fully Aerobatic (with FAA approval) and lower wing stunts

 

 The second year, we got approval from the FAA to make the act fully Aerobic. It is also the year we started moving from the top wing to the lower wing tip. It was exciting to say the least. We did Loops, Barrel rolls, I would climb all over the plane and wave. But as all good things must come to an end, my time in Army would require me to move soon. So I choose Hank Henry, a Marine that I  jumped with, that was a member Saint Michael's Angels to be my understudy. Hank, was a natural, to say the least. He was comfortable in the air and was in great shape. Plus being smaller and lighter then me made Ron happy. Soon the Aerobatic team of  "DAVID - BRADLEY - HENRY" was born.

Aerobaic WingWalk Team  DAVID-BRADLEY-HENRY

The Team

The Aerobatic

Routine

Hank & I

in Uniform

Hank

Hank & Ron

 

In time, I passed the act to Hank and moved on with my Army Career and I still kept Jumping, but that is another story.

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Other Wing Walkers Teams of the time

Francis McCollum

& Joe Hughes

Francis Killed in Air Show

Johny Kazian &

Jimmy Franklin

Johny played Waldo Pepper

 

History of WingWaking

Ormer Locklear Flying Circus poster Four wing walking photos Wingwalker Ormer Locklear poses atop his plane's wings

Ormer Locklear, the first Wingwalker, poses atop his Curtiss Jenny, 1920.

 

JamesRBradley.com