Sarah Wingwalking

Sarah Garden’s flight with the Breitling Wingwalkers cured more than her fear of flying.

Four wires. That was all I could think about as I stood on top of the plane. Four wires saving me from a nasty, nevertheless impressive, death.

As the engine of the vintage Breitling rattled, I was reminded of an old car my mother drove that took ten minutes, multiple key turns and a push to get going. Although reason told me this was an old vintage plane of the highest quality and it was meant to sound like that, I still felt anxious.

It’s unlike me to be unnerved in the face of something as exciting as wingwalking. Having been skydiving, bungee jumping, white water rafting and cliff jumping, I love anything that involves a disclaimer. But although I’m not scared of heights, I am scared of flying – a detail I conveniently forgot until I was stood on top of the plane. Also I’d had a particularly tough few weeks, and was feeling a little jaded with Dubai. As a result, I wasn’t my usual animated self, and being excited about anything was proving difficult. With a GoPro pointed directly at me (thanks team EW!), and a photographer on the ground with a large zoom lens, I faked my best can’t-wait-for-this-near-death-experience face. The plane headed for the runway.

Lifting off the ground was a surreal experience. It almost felt as though my feet had jets below them. My hands stayed firmly gripped on the pole behind me until we reached full height and started flying towards The Palm. The force of the wind was surprising, making it difficult to lift my arms in the air. As the plane traversed, decreasing the wind speed, I took my opportunity and threw them out wide. It was exhilarating, and as clichéd as it sounds, I felt like a falcon. Albeit a  tremendously ungraceful falcon with flapping cheeks.

I was able to spy my apartment, EW headquarters, Media City, and The Palm, from above, all without a windowpane separating me. Never has the phrase “bird’s eye view” been so accurate. It was as though I was on some sort of extreme sightseeing trip, strapped to a floating rollercoaster.

Just as I started to feel comfortable (or as close to comfortable as one can ever feel when strapped to the top of a plane), the pilot flew higher, before going into a nosedive and plummeting towards the sea below. I let out a scream of delight. As we spun around I realised that this was no roller coaster, I was at the mercy of a man I’d only just met. I didn’t even check his pilot’s license before I let him hurtle through the air with my life, literally, in his hands.

On our descent to the runway I had so much adrenaline rushing through me there was no need to fake the smile splashed across my face.

During my return flight from a trip home to Scotland, something amazing happened. I didn’t panic during turbulence. There was no need to practice breathing exercises on hearing “cabin crew, prepare for landing”. Instead I looked out of the window at the city that I had soared above weeks earlier, and the place where I had conquered so many fears. I felt ready to scare myself again. And I felt excited to be back.