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Wing walker who is scared of heights to perform at Old Buckenham Airshow

PUBLISHED: 11:45 13 April 2018 | UPDATED: 14:12 13 April 2018

Sarah Niles, of the Aerobatic Tactics display team. Picture: Phil Whalley/AVpics

Sarah Niles, of the Aerobatic Tactics display team. Picture: Phil Whalley/AVpics

Phil Whalley/AVpics

She’s a paramedic and a mum. Sarah has a crazy secret - and admits she’s just a little bit crazy. Why? Because Sarah Niles is possibly the only wing walker who is scared of heights.

Sarah Niles, of the Aerobatic Tactics display team. Picture: Phil Whalley/AVpicsSarah Niles, of the Aerobatic Tactics display team. Picture: Phil Whalley/AVpics

Strapped to the top of a Second World War biplane, wing walker Sarah Niles will be waving and smiling to the crowds at the Old Buckenham Airshow this summer. But her knees will have been knocking as she prepared for the death-defying stunt.

For full-time paramedic and mum Sarah has a crazy secret.

“The difficult thing is climbing up on to the wing – because I am scared of heights,” she says. She says getting on to the wing, which is higher off the ground than many people expect, is the most nerve-wracking part of the display for her. “It’s the worst bit,” she says. “I’m fine once we take off.”

A seasoned professional in the rare world of stunt flying, Sarah loves wing walking with the Aerobatic Tactics display team – once she’s up in the air – and is the first wing walker for more than a decade to fly at Old Buckenham.

Wing walker Sarah Niles, who says climbing on to the top wing of the biplane is the most nerve-wracking part of her act. Picture: Paul Carpenter/www.paulcarpenterfilms.comWing walker Sarah Niles, who says climbing on to the top wing of the biplane is the most nerve-wracking part of her act. Picture: Paul Carpenter/www.paulcarpenterfilms.com

The airshow display on July 28-29 will see the Boeing Stearman, with Sarah strapped to the top, fly an exciting display as she waves and shows off various poses.

“It is the most bonkers thing I’ve ever done. It’s crazy standing on the top of a massive aircraft. You are really high up looking down on to that huge engine,” she explains. “I love it.”

Sarah says take-off and landings are really smooth, but once in the air she faces 100mph wind and intense G-force as the aircraft is put through its paces.

The wing walking aerobatic team operates from Damyns Hall Aerodrome in Essex and Headcorn Aerodrome in Kent and cannot wait to fly for the Norfolk crowd.

The aircraft is piloted by Tony Richards, who has flown everything from gliders to Second World War fighters. He has a commercial pilot’s licence, flight instructor rating, display pilot authorisation and is a display pilot examiner.

He communicates with Sarah while flying by waggling the plane’s wings and she responds with a thumbs-up – or, sometimes, thumbs-down.

“You can hear yourself shout and scream, though,” she adds.

The Old Buckenham Airshow on July 28-29 will have more in-air action than ever before, with at least 12 flying acts each day.

They will range from the remarkable show-stealing Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Sally B to the high energy aerobatic superstar pilot Chris Burkett in his superlight carbon fibre Extra, being chased around the sky by a model Extra mirroring his manoeuvres.

Also jostling for top of the bill position at the show will be a Second World War P-51 Mustang fighter, more aerobatic acts, the most famous Spitfire flying today and a Douglas DC3.

The ground displays include a host of classic cars, stalls and stands, the Food Village including Norfolk produced ice-cream, the chance to ride in a tank and an executive helicopter or even take control of the powerful Second World War Harvard trainer.

Tickets are available now at www.oldbuckenhamairshow.co.uk

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