Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Woman completes thrilling wing walk for RAF charity

Woman completes thrilling wing walk for RAF charity

A WOMAN from RAF Benson completed a wing walk on a vintage biplane to raise money for the Royal Air Forces Association.

Nicola Bell, 34, who works in the distributed cyber protection team, took part in the challenge to mark her 15 years in the RAF and the centenary of the service.

She was strapped to the upper wings of the Forties Boeing Stearman for the 10-minute flight from RFC Rendcomb Airfield, near Cirencester.

The pilot performed a series of fly-pasts, zoom climbs, dives and banking turns over the Gloucestershire countryside.

Mrs Bell, who is an RAF liaison officer for the association, signed up for the wing walk in March when she was based at RAF Henlow in Befordshire.

“It was on my bucket list,” she said. “I used to be in the air cadets when I was a teenager and did a lot of gliding, hang gliding and parascending as well as starting my private pilot’s licence.”

Mrs Bell, who has previously completed a parachute jump for charity, said she was excited rather than anxious about the challenge before take-off.

She said: “You get strapped to the biplane with a harness and you put a pair of goggles on and put in some ear plugs because it’s quite noisy with the engine and away you go. There’s no parachute or anything like that. The rush of adrenaline is the first thing you feel. It’s a bit like a very, very long rollercoaster.  You feel really free — kind of like a bird. Everything below looked like a jigsaw.”

She had spent months in the gym building up her upper body strength so she would be able to cope with the G force she was to experience.

Mrs Bell said: “It is actually very hard to move your arms in the air because the wind is about 130 mph.

“An aerobatics team make it look very easy but to pull your head up is a real struggle.”

She was watched from the ground by her parents Basil and Charmaine Sing-Key, partner David Briscoe, her children Sophie, three, and Oliver, seven, and Mr Briscoe’s children, Ollie, six, Lewis, nine, Emily, 11, and Jamie, 14.

Mrs Bell raised £1,070 for the association, which offers support, help and friendship to serving and veteran RAF personnel and their families. The donations came from family and friends as well in the form of sponsorship for taking part in a colour run at RAF Henlow.

Mrs Bell said: “It’s a good charity because it supports a lot of serving and ex-members. We [liaison officers] bridge the gap between serving personnel and people who have left the service.”

She plans to undertake another wing walk next year with more daring acrobatics such as loops.

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