Mandy Latimore has always had a love for flying. She first flew with her father in a Tiger Moth at the age of three, and that’s what started it off. It never stopped.
As she grew older she heard about “wing walking” and asked her father if she could try that one.
“He said I would have to wait until I was older. At 19, I was disabled and thought that I would never be able to realise the dream – how would I be able to climb out of the cockpit with my disability?”
She stayed with flying, though, and is an active aviation fan through and through; she enjoys “getting adrenalin fixes doing aerobatics with friends.”
Then she saw a TV programme showing Stu Davidon’s Boeing Stearman taking Top Billing’ Michael Mol on a wing walk. The PE Air Show was coming up. She phoned Stu Stearman:
“He suggested I get photo’s of the rack (the structure that holds the wing walker in place) from Shaltham Aviation at PE airport, where his aircraft is hangared. They were extremely helpful and once I received the pics — I was convinced I could do it. The big question for me was how to load me!”
But first the costs. Mandy (for those who’ve met her) has a well earned reputation for persistence. Stu said he would cover costs provided a donation was made to the MTR Children’s Haven, the beneficiary of the PE Air Show, and through Peter Wise, she received Sasol sponsorship for flights from Johannesburg to PE, accommodation, and for a donation to the charity. Contact was made with the Guinness Book of Records, and the organisers of the PE Show were glad of the pre-publicity for their event.
Finally, the day before “Dreamwalk Day” and a practice “loading”: “I met Helen, Stu’s regular Wing Walker, the most delightful lady who seemed as confident as I that this would all work.” Finally she was in place and some adjustments were made to the rack for comfort and body position.
“Now it was time to come down. Barry hoisted up the pallet and I just leaned forward and lay down on my tummy – a much easier and less stressful way to travel!”
Next day and Mandy was hoisted and in place in the modified rack and “ready to rock and roll!”
“I cannot describe the feeling of the vibrations through my body as the plane’s engine revved higher. My thoughts kept turning to my late dad, who I knew was with me in spirit.”
From her regular flying she was used to the view from an aircraft. But this was different!
“Now you are above the plane with a 360 degree view and standing up there with this wide runway in front of you is an amazing sight. Within a short space we were airborne and the wind rushing past. My smile was so huge that my lips kept sticking to my teeth! “
The flight was unforgettable; and a complete success. Mission accomplished.
“Landing was even better than take off and after taxiing back to the Sheltam Aviation hangar I didn’t want it to end. I could have stayed up forever. It really is like flying with the angels!”