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Wing Walking Team Breaks World Record

Pilot Robert Ragozzino of Sausalito steers the biplane over the Golden Gate Bridge on Saturday. Photo Courtesy of: Paul Chinn / The San Francisco Chronicle
Wing walker Ashley Battles following the landing of a four-hour flight over the San Francisco Bay that made her the world record holder for wing walking. Photo Courtesy of: John Sebastian Russo / The San Francisco Chronicle
Wing walker Ashley Battles soars high above the bay on the top wing of a biplane piloted by Robert Ragozzino. Photo Courtesy of: Paul Chinn / The San Francisco Chronicle

June 20, 2010 —Dressed in three layers of ski thermals and a full leather suit that would make any Harley-Davidson rider proud; wingwalker Ashley Battles, EAA 788504, and pilot Robert Ragozzino, EAA 444845 have unofficially broken the Guinness World Record for longest wing walk duration.  At 4 hours, 2 minutes the duo broke the previous record of 3 hours, 23 minutes by flying Ragozzino’s 450 Stearman Yello Peril in a perpetual course over San Francisco Bay.

“I was completely overwhelmed—emotionally and physically”, Battles said after the wing walk was over. “I couldn’t stop crying; standing on the wings for four hours was intense.”

Time went by fairly quickly for Battles as she had plenty of scenery to gaze at like the Golden Gate Bridge, ships, sailboats, a Grumman Albatross, and her own personal tour of the notorious local landmark of Alcatraz.  Orbiting at an altitude of 1,000 feet over mostly water the greatest challenge was the weather as the ground temperature gave way to cooler temperatures aloft which were accelerated by the Stearman-induced wind chill.

Battles said that despite the care she took in dressing for the occasion the wind found ways to blow up her sleeves and down her neck. “It was a constant cold.  But with the pure adrenaline and excitement from the record attempt, the temperature didn’t matter”, Battles said.  “I had an eclectic mix of music in my iPod, from Country to Top 40 which kept me entertained.”

The record attempt took place in San Francisco in part, to promote Robert Ragozzino’s upcoming project The Spirit of St. Louis 2 which is being moved to the Bay area to be completed by John LaNoue who is also known for his work on a replica of the Vickers Vimy that visited EAA AirVenture in 2001. The Spirit of St. Louis 2 project seeks to replicate Lindbergh’s 1927 flight across the Atlantic Ocean. Ragozzino has extensive experience with long duration flying since he flew Yello Peril around the world in 2000.

Ashley Battles says that San Francisco was just a warm-up and Ragozzino is already modifying his Stearman with a larger propeller, and reducing the overall weight so that they can try for a record of five; possibly six hours next month at AirVenture 2010. It may take up to six weeks for Guinness to certify the record. 

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