Reader’s advisory: Parents who won’t let their children out of the house without wearing a helmet might not wish to read any further about 8-year-old Tiger Brewer, whose idea of fun is to ride an airplane at 120 mph 500 feet in the air — standing on top of the wing.
Two days after becoming the youngest-ever wing walker, Tiger tried to explain to TODAY’s Ann Curry Friday what he was thinking when he found himself soaring over the English countryside strapped to the top of his grandfather’s 1942-vintage biplane.
“What was going through my mind was why I’m doing it,” the lad said in a live interview with his proud mum, Zoe, from England.
OK, Curry said: Why?
But Tiger, who seemed more intimidated by the television camera than he had been by his historic flight, only shrugged.
Fortunately, his mother jumped in to explain that wing walking is in the family blood. Her father, 61-year-old Vic Norman, runs the SuperAeroBatics, the world’s only formation wing-walking team, and Tiger had been begging for his chance to experience the ride of anyone’s life.
“He’s wanted to do it since he was a little baby,” Zoe Brewer told Curry. “He’s been asking my dad every year when he could go up there. He had to wait until his feet reached the wing — until he was tall enough.”
Until Tiger took to the air, the youngest-ever wing walker had been Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason's son, Guy, who did it in 2001 at the age of 11.
On Wednesday, Tiger lowered that record by three years. With two official witnesses on hand from the Guinness World Records, the diminutive daredevil donned his flight gear, which looked remarkably like his hanging-around-the-house clothes: baggy, knee-length pants, sneakers and a black T-shirt. His head unencumbered by a helmet, he wore just a pair of goggles to protect him from the wind — and whatever bugs might be in his flight path.
Members of Norman’s wing-walking team strapped Tiger to a stanchion fixed to the middle of the upper wing of Norman’s red-and-white 1942 Boeing Stearman biplane.
“My dad took his pilot’s license on his 17th birthday,” she said. “He’s been flying all his life. He has a wing-walking team that he’s had for many years. I’ve been wing walking when I was 18.”
Though it looks scary, it’s actually quite safe, Zoe Brewer said. Although it’s called wing walking, it’s really wing standing; once Tiger was strapped in, he couldn’t have walked anywhere if he wanted to.
“There’s no way I would have let Tiger do it if I didn’t know it was completely safe,” Zoe assured Curry. “It’s actually much safer than driving down the motorway in the car or any other thing that he does every day. There is a lot of health and safety, and he’s strapped in really, really tight. My dad, although he’s a stunt pilot, is Mr. Health and Safety, so I knew he was going to be completely safe with him.”
Although Tiger was camera-shy Friday, he did talk to reporters after his record-setting flight Wednesday. “It can’t be beaten,” he said of the sensation that no amusement park can provide. “It was cold and windy. You don't have a parachute, just a pair of goggles.”
Not that there weren’t some nerves involved. His grandfather told reporters, “He was nervous, and although he acts like a big man, he is only 8. But he just kept repeating his mantra, ‘Go away fear,’ and he did it.”
So, Curry asked, “Will you do it again?”
Tiger’s face lit up like the Las Vegas Strip. “Yeah,” he said, nodding emphatically. “Yeah.”