x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Three flying catwomen wow Al Ain Airshow crowds

Swedish wing-walkers were a big hit at Al Ain Aerobatic Show this weekend.

The Scandinavian Airshow Catwalk  performs during the Al Ain Air Show on February 5, 2011.
The Scandinavian Airshow Catwalk performs during the Al Ain Air Show on February 5, 2011.

AL AIN // Three Scandinavian women – a tour guide, an illustrator and a student – donned catsuits to purr and hiss at Al Ain Aerobatic Show spectators this weekend.

The trio seemed at first like they would have been more at home on a fashion runway than an air strip.

That’s until they climbed atop – not aboard, but atop – three Grumann G-164A biplanes and strapped themselves to the wings before take-off.

The Skycats, a team of Swedish wing-walkers, thrilled spectators on both days of the show, which ended yesterday.

Hella Stening, Lisa Henriksson and Emma Alexson also spent time on the ground signing autographs and posing for pictures with children, when not in the air. The most common question they were asked was: “How do I become a Skycat?”

“We are all skydivers,” said Ms Alexson, 27, a tour guide when not wing-walking. “I had met Jacob Hollander, the air show pilot, and he said he was looking for wing-walkers. I laughed because it sounded funny and unreal, but when Scandinavia Air Show called me two months later, I decided to give it a try.”

Ms Stening, 28, an illustrator and horse-trainer, said skydiving was what made them comfortable being outside an aeroplane.

“It takes lots of practice on the ground at first,” she said. “We are always tethered to the plane by at least one cable and depending on the manoeuvre we are performing, have to attach and detach the other cable. The wind is a challenge as well as the g-forces.

“There is an element of danger but, like in sky-diving, with lots of practice it’s pretty safe.”

For Ms Henriksson, the most exciting manoeuvre is the loop. “At the top of the loop you are weightless for a moment and that is a lot of fun,” she said.

The trio have performed extensively in China, Norway, Sweden and other European countries, but their only performances in the Arab world have been in Al Ain. They do not get paid for their stunt work, but all their expenses are paid for as they travel around the world.

“We don’t do this for the money, we just do it because we love the interaction with the crowds,” they said. “From up in the air we see the camera flashes going off and see people waving at us and we wave back.”

ealghalib@thenational.ae