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Gladys Ingle: The Daring Wing Walker Who Changed a Wheel in Mid-Air

The roaring twenties wasn’t just about flappers and jazz; it was also a time of tremendous innovation and daring in the world of aviation. Among the pioneers who took to the skies with unwavering courage was Gladys Ingle, a woman who defied both gravity and societal expectations.

Gladys Ingle: The Daring Wing Walker Who Changed a Wheel in Mid-Air

Born on March 28, 1899, Gladys Ingle was destined to leave an indelible mark on the world of aviation. Her early introduction to flying came through her involvement with the C.P.O. Aerial Circus alongside her sister Ann, where they performed daring parachuting acts from balloons. By 1922, Ingle had transitioned to performing stunts involving airplanes, including an airplane parachute race with her sister. This early exposure to the thrills and dangers of aviation set the stage for her future endeavors.

The 13 Black Cats

Gladys Ingle’s talents and fearless spirit caught the attention of the 13 Black Cats, an aerial stunt team renowned for their death-defying acts. As the only female member of the group, Ingle carved out a niche for herself, performing stunts that ranged from plane-to-plane transfers in mid-air to flying on the wing of a plane as it passed under bridges. Her inclusion in the 13 Black Cats not only highlighted her exceptional skills but also broke gender barriers in a male-dominated field.

The Legendary Wheel Change

The stunt that immortalized Gladys Ingle in aviation lore took place in January 1926. Filmed for posterity, the footage captures Ingle’s incredible feat of changing a wheel on Art Goebel’s aircraft mid-flight. The aircraft, Curtiss JN-4 biplanes, were part of a meticulously planned stunt that required precision and courage.

Gladys Ingle: The Daring Wing Walker Who Changed a Wheel in Mid-Air
Gladys Ingle is preparing to move from Bon MacDougall’s Jenny to Art Goebel’s aircraft mid-air, January 1926

Ingle, with a spare tire strapped to her back, took off on Bon McDougall’s airplane. Once airborne, she executed a daring transfer to Goebel’s plane, which had “lost” a wheel as part of the stunt. Climbing onto the top wing of McDougall’s plane and then transferring to the bottom wing of Goebel’s, Ingle showcased not only her wing-walking skills but also her remarkable composure and mechanical aptitude. She then meticulously climbed down to the landing gear, where she installed the wheel, all while the aircraft soared through the air.

Gladys Ingle: The Daring Wing Walker Who Changed a Wheel in Mid-Air
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Written by Matthew Green

Andrew's writing is grounded in research and provides unique insights into the cultural and historical contexts of vintage pieces. Through his work, he aims to foster a greater appreciation for the value and beauty of vintage items.

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