No safety gear, just pure gumption.
If you’ve ever been astounded at the repairs and precise instruments used on modern airplanes then you might also be interested in how the opposite was true in the early days of flight. Planes back then were smaller, had open cockpits, and a distinct lack of instruments when compared to today’s aircraft. Yet, pilots and mechanics became sensitive to every little change in their planes, even making repairs in mid-air in some cases.
In this thrilling clip from 1926 we see a talented and agile mechanic literally jumping between planes mid-flight. What was so dire that they would risk their life? One of the wheels for landing needed to be changed. What makes this short clip even more fascinating is that the mechanic in question is a woman.
According to some sources the jumper is one Gladys Ingle, a stunt performer with the 13 Flying Black Cats, a group of professional daredevils that jumped between planes, played tennis in the air, and would “do anything in aerial stunts”. Located in Los Angeles their talents were often used for Hollywood films (like the 1927 film, Wings), but were also used extensively for newsreels. These stunts, along with weekend air shows, were said to be the bread and butter of their operation.
It’s incredible to watch and know that this was but one of the many tricks this group performed. It wouldn’t pass any kind of stunt safety plans today, but in the 1920s it was a very different story. Ingle was able to safely make it through all her jumps and went on to retire and have a family following her stunt career. What stories she must have had!