Air Show Wing Walker Loses Grip & Plunges 200 Feet to His Death

airplane air showThe chance of witnessing an accidental and tragic death is exactly why I steer clear of air shows and other risky gravity-defying entertainment acts. That's why this story is one of my worst nightmares come true.

A veteran stunt wing walker, Todd Green, fell 200 feet to his death Sunday after losing his grip on the wing while climbing from a plane to a helicopter at the Selfridge Air Show in Michigan. At first, the crowd of 75,000 people below thought the fall was just part of the stunt; but when emergency crews began rushing toward the scene, they were horrified to realize something had gone very, very wrong.


In fact, Green's death is just one of three air show tragedies that occurred over the weekend -- an aerobatic flyer crashed and died at an air show in Kansas City, Missouri, and a British Royal Air Force "Red Arrows" pilot crashed and died at an air festival in England. Now, many people are questioning whether air shows should be banned given that they carry the potential for such devastating risks. And, of course, some of the more callous readers have even suggested that Green (and other stunt people like him) are "idiots" for attempting such reckless maneuvers.

But here's the thing to remember about Green and his fellow professional daredevils: Even though they well aware of the ricks involved in such a performance, they do it anyway simply because they live for entertaining fans. After all, the whole point of watching an air show (and other similar acts) is the thrill of watching people braver than we are attempt dangerous feats and the relief when (most of the time) they emerge safely and triumphant. Knowing that something can go wrong is part of why people watch in the first place. Performers not only know this -- they thrive on it.

Green's friends have mentioned, in particular, how much he loved performing. Not only that, but he was excited to be following in the footsteps of his father, Eddie "The Grip" Green, who was a legendary wing walker and skydiver. His death is a tragedy, yes, but his family and friends can take some comfort knowing he died doing exactly what he loved most.

There's video of the fall here, but please be forewarned it is likely heart-wrenching and disturbing (although, I don't know for sure because I couldn't bring myself to watch it).


Image via sam_churchill/Flickr

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