Most Read

Top stories


'Adrenaline Junkie' Describes The Thrill Of Performing Stunts As Part Of The Only Formation Wing Walking Team In The World

'Adrenaline Junkie' Describes The Thrill Of Performing Stunts As Part Of The Only Formation Wing Walking Team In The World
Kirsten Pobjoy (Aerosuperbatics/ PA Real Life)

A self-confessed “adrenaline junkie" who joined the only formation wing walking team in the world – performing aerobatic movements on the wings of airborne planes for global audiences of millions – at the age of 21, said she loves “being in the spotlight."

Attending circus school aged just 14, then teaching trapeze before joining Aerosuperbatics in March 2018, Kirsten Pobjoy, now 22, of Stroud, Gloucestershire, England, believes the unusual career was her destiny.

Still living at home with her teacher mom Sue and officer manager dad, John, 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 traveled across Europe, been to China and to Mongolia with work," she added.

“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 and “putting on a show."

Kirsten Pobjoy (Aerosuperbatics/PA Real Life)

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."

Kirsten Pobjoy (Salty Lens Photography/PA Real Life)

She added: “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."

But Kirsten is not just a wing walker – she is 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."

Kirsten continued: “So not only do I have to be in sync with the other wing walker 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 when she was just 14, it was obvious she was never going to settle for a run of the mill job.

Kirsten Pobjoy (Jasper Pluim/PA Real Life)

And while she was allowed to learn circus skills ranging from juggling and unicycling to hula-hooping and acrobatics, Kirsten “fell in love" with trapeze.

“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," she said.

“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."

And 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."

She continued: “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.

Kirsten Pobjoy (Sterkenburg Media/PA Real Life)

Knowing her past experience meant she fit 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 on to 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."

Kirsten Pobjoy (Aerosuperbatics/PA Real Life)

She added: “For them it's important that you love the experience – if you don't it's probably not the job for you."

But, despite her thrill-seeking nature, she admits to being scared before the plane jetted into the sky.

“Just before we took off, I was so nervous, but as soon as I was in the air all my anxiety just melted away."

She continued: “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."

Kirsten Pobjoy (Aerosuperbatics/PA Real Life)

Kirsten added: “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 said.

“My aerial trapeze background certainly helped, but the training process still proved grueling.

“Our routines involve all sorts – climbing from the cockpit up to the top wing, swiveling around at speed, performing handstands on the wing and doing various moves right on the leading edge – so it's a lot to learn."

She continued: “It was important that the routine became like second nature and something you could do on autopilot before going up in the air."

Having completed her training, Kirsten is now a dab hand at doing handstands in the air.

“Doing a handstand on a plane that's in the sky is actually really confusing," she said.

“It never gets any less weird seeing the world and the sky the wrong way round," she continued.

“But getting to see amazing views around the world is definitely my favorite part of my job.

“We did a sunset show in Mongolia and, honestly, it was the most magical moment."

She added: “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, typically British, Kirsten 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.

“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."

She explained: “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 synchronized.

“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," Kirsten continued.

“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."

She continued: “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.

“People want to do it for loads of different reasons – birthdays, charities or just for fun," she said.

She added: “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.

She concluded: “I honestly couldn't wish for a better job. 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 click here.