|N68405 at Hawke Field, Merced CA on September 19, 1977.|
Photo courtesy of Geoff Goodall, used with permission
After serving (and surviving) as an Army Air Corps trainer in World War II, the Stearman was surplussed into the crop dusting world (an old duster I once knew told me "If you want to be a crop duster and live to 50, start at 49." I presume that goes for the planes, too!). In the above right photo by Geoff Goodall (from his website), our girl is seen still hard at work in September, 1977 at the Flying M Ranch's Hawke Field near Merced, California.
|Production still from Airwolf as found on the "Wings-on-Film" Wikia|
Before Mason bought it, the old gal was owned by Eric Newman and was used in Independence Day. The original ending envisioned for the movie included a suicide mission inwhich the Stearman (instead of the F/A-18 used) was flown up into the evil alien ship (you can see that version in this YouTube excerpt).
|Photo by Brian Lockett, linked by permission|
Just as the name suggests, anyone with the $850 fee and an adventurous spirit can spend a day or two learning how to wing walk on top of this bright red Steaman. Mike does the flying, and Marilyn does the instructing. The world-wide population of wing-walkers is relatively small, as one might guess, and over 90% of them have been trained by Marilyn. One recent Academy student was Boston Marathon bombing survivor Megan Williams, and her experiences learning to wingwalk, profiled in an article in this great Sequim Gazette article, helped in her recovery journey.
It's wonderful to see this beauty still going strong a half-century after our feature photo was taken. One presumes that these days, Mason and crew keep a safer distance from power lines!
|Courtesy of Mike Mason, Mason Wing Walking Academy|