Flying high! Woman, 22, who started circus school at 14 now makes a living performing acrobatic stunts on AIRPLANE wings – and admits she’s ‘addicted’ to the adrenaline rush
- Kirsten Pobjoy, 22, from Gloucestershire, is a self-confessed ‘adrenaline junkie’
- She performs aerobatic movements on the wings of airborne planes for a living
- Has attended circus school since age 14, and revealed her love of the spotlight
- She is now one of the only two full-time formation wing walkers in the world
A self-confessed ‘adrenaline junkie’ has revealed she loves ‘being in the spotlight’ after securing a career performing aerobatic movements on the wings of airborne planes for global audiences of millions.
Kirsten Pobjoy, 22, from Stroud, Gloucestershire, who joined the only formation wing walking team in the world, believes her thrill-seeking career was her destiny.
She began circus school aged just 14 and went on to teach trapeze before joining Aerosuperbatics in March 2018.
The 22-year-old, who still lives at home with her teacher mother Sue and office manager father John, gushed about the travel associated with her unusual career path.
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Kirsten Pobjoy, 22, (pictured) from Stroud, Gloucestershire, who is a professional formation wing walker, revealed how a love of the spotlight led to her unusual career
She said: ‘I’ve been lucky enough to perform in front of huge crowds at airshows as a wing walker. They attract crowds almost as big as those at football matches.
‘It’s such a privilege to be able to perform all over the world, too. I’ve travelled across Europe, been to China and to Mongolia with work. And being a wing walker doesn’t even feel like work to me – it’s just so much fun.’
A passionate performer, Kirsten said wing walking fulfills her thrill-seeking side and her love of entertaining as well as ‘putting on a show.’
She continued: ‘When I was growing up, I wanted to be an artist and liked graphics, but I suppose I just loved the spotlight more.
‘I loved performing and when I was younger, I’d appear in pantomimes. I wanted a career that fulfilled that need for thrills.
‘I’m a huge adrenaline junkie, too. Once you’ve had your first adrenaline fix it can become quite addictive and you’re always looking for your next thrill.
‘You’re strapped in when you’re wing walking, so it’s completely safe, but it’s still such an amazing feeling of excitement and adrenaline.’
Kirsten (pictured) is one of only two full-time formation wing walkers in the world and believes she was destined for the profession
Speaking about her career, she revealed what it takes to be part of the only team in the world to wing walk in formation.
‘The formation is made up of two teams of two people,’ she explained. ‘There’s me and a pilot on one plane and the same on a second plane.
‘So not only do I have to be in sync with the other wing walker, but the planes have to be in sync too.
‘There are actually only two people in the world who are full-time formation wing walkers – and I am one of them. The other wing walkers only do it part-time.’
When Kirsten joined the School of Larks circus school in Stroud at age 14, it was obvious she was never going to settle for an ordinary job. And while she was allowed to learn circus skills ranging from juggling and uni-cycling to hula-hooping and acrobatics, Kirsten ‘fell in love’ with trapeze.
She said: ‘Trapeze performing is when you have a short horizontal bar hung by ropes – and you can use the bar and the ropes to spin, swing or perform drops in the air.
‘I just fell in love with it because it’s both physical and creative. You have to make up your own routines and then you have to be strong because you’re holding your body weight in the air.’
The 22-year-old (pictured) said training as a trapeze artist prepared her for the role, which she learned about through a radio advert
Kirsten believes the strenuous training that was essential to being a trapeze artist prepared her for her career as a wing walker.
‘I was training for eight or nine hours a week – you need to be able to have a strong core and be flexible, so I was doing lots of conditioning training and had to do loads of drills,’ she said.
‘I didn’t really have to watch what I ate, because I’ve got a fast metabolism, and I was working out so much it didn’t really matter.
‘I started teaching trapeze a few times a week, too, so that prepared me for working in a team with other wing walkers. ‘
In 2017 Kirsten secured herself a spot to study for a degree in performing arts at Circomedia, a school for contemporary circus and physical theatre in Bristol. But her plans changed when, in early 2018, she heard a radio advert asking for those with ‘flexibility and strength’ to apply for a position as a wing walker.
Knowing her past experience meant she fitted the bill, as well as being keen to pursue a career in performing, Kirsten applied for the role and was subsequently invited to an interview.
‘It was quite a different type of job interview,’ she laughed. ‘It’s not every day that you get strapped onto the wing of a plane and just left there while it takes off.
‘The assessors wanted to see how I’d react to being on top of a plane when it’s in flight. For them it’s important that you love the experience – if you don’t it’s probably not the job for you.’
Kirsten (pictured) was strapped to the wing of a plane as part of her job interview for the role at Aerosuperbatics, and said the experience left her hooked
Despite her thrill-seeking nature, Kirsten admitted to being scared before the plane jetted into the sky.
She continued: ‘Just before we took off I was so nervous, but as soon as I was in the air all my anxiety just melted away.
‘It was probably the worst brain freeze I’d ever experienced in my life, but I didn’t care. I’d had a taste of what it was like to wing walk and I was just hooked.’
Her assessors were clearly equally impressed, as they offered her the position of a professional wing walker that same afternoon – leading to a month of intensive training.
‘We had to spend around eight hours a day climbing all-over and getting to know the aeroplane – which was still on the ground, thankfully,’ she recalled. ‘My aerial trapeze background certainly helped, but the training process still proved gruelling.
‘Our routines involve all sorts – climbing from the cockpit up to the top wing, swivelling around at speed, performing handstands on the wing and doing various moves right on the leading edge – so it’s a lot to learn.
‘It was important that the routine became like second nature and something you could do on autopilot before going up in the air.’
Kirsten (pictured with Aerosuperbatics co-workers) revealed weather is one of her main concerns when performing
Having completed her training, Kirsten is now a dab hand at doing handstands in the air.
She continued: ‘Doing a handstand on a plane that’s in the sky is actually really confusing. It never gets any less weird seeing the world and the sky the wrong way round.
‘But getting to see amazing views around the world is definitely my favourite part of my job. We did a sunset show in Mongolia and, honestly, it was the most magical moment.
‘We were performing over an oasis while doing a loop the loop as the sun was setting – it was stunning. How many people can say they get to see such beautiful views from such a unique perspective? I’m so lucky that I get to do it as part of my job.’
Despite being fearless when it comes to performing in the sky, Kirsten revealed she does worry about the weather.
She said: ‘If I see a big black cloud in the sky and I know it’s going to rain I get worried.
The 22-year-old (pictured) told how the formation performers are each expected to look the same and must wear waterproof make-up
‘When you’re performing in the rain it can feel like needles are going into your skin – but you still have to smile and look elegant while you’re being battered by the elements.
‘That’s why we need to make sure we’re so rehearsed in what we do. It’s our duty to be there and give the best possible show, even if it is raining. We’d only ever stop if the rain was so heavy it was deemed to be too unsafe.’
As with all formation performers, even though Kirsten’s routine takes place up to 1500 ft above the ground, she still needs to be perfectly synchronised.
‘Because we perform in formation, I need to look identical to the other wing walker,’ she said. ‘People have these huge cameras that can zoom in really close – so they can see every detail.
‘We have matching outfits, shoes, bags, and both have our hair in plaits. We wear a matching shade of lipstick and put the same amount of eyeliner on too.
‘Our make-up needs to be waterproof, because when you’re up there you get covered in all sorts of nasty stuff like spit, or snot, and your cheeks are flapping like no tomorrow – it’s not very glamorous.’
Another part of Kirsten’s role is, as part of Virgin Experiences and Aerosuperbatics, is to take members of the public up in the air, strapped to the wing like she is.
Kirsten (pictured) revealed her role involves meeting people of all ages and she is set to take a woman on a flight for her 100th birthday
‘People want to do it for loads of different reasons – birthdays, charities or just for fun,’ she said. ‘You get to meet all sorts of people from all backgrounds. We take people from 18 to 100 up – there’s no upper age limit.
‘We’ve got a lady coming soon who wants to do it for her 100th birthday. But we can tailor the flight to suit the person. If they want crazy acrobatics then we do that, or we can slow the flight down and they can just take in the views.’
While it may not be conventional, Kirsten has no complaints about her chosen career.
‘I honestly couldn’t wish for a better job,’ she said. ‘I want to do it for as long as I can because I’m still just as excited as I was the first time, I took a flight. To me, being a wing walker doesn’t feel like a job, it’s a lifestyle.’
To find out more visit www.virginexperiencedays.co.uk/wing-walking?_br_psugg_q=wing+walking
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