In the early days of aviation, there were groups of daredevils who performed incredible stunts at high altitudes. One of the most well-known groups was the 13 Flying Black Cats. Founded in Los Angeles in the mid-1920s, this professional aerobatic team performed at air shows and for Hollywood and didn't use parachutes regularly until they became required by law in 1927. Gladys Ingle was the groups only female member after becoming just the fourth woman in the United States to earn a pilot's license.
A daredevil at heart, Ingle was known for her skill as a wing walker and regularly lept from one plane to another. Lucky for us, one of her most iconic stunts—where she changed a plane's tire in midair—was caught on film. The footage dates from 1926, when Ingle's skills came in handy. This time, the stunt wasn't planned. Fellow Black Cats member Art Goebel, who was one of Hollywood's top stunt fliers, was in the middle of a performance when the tire fell off his wheel. This prevented him from being able to land the plane safely.
Luckily for him, Ingle was able to come to the rescue. She simply strapped a new tire to her back and went into the air with Black Cats founding member Bon MacDougall. The footage shows how she moves with ease along the wings of MacDougall's plane and, once Goebel gets close enough, transfers to his plane. If that weren't enough, she then lowers herself down to attach the new tire, allowing Goebel to land safely. The Fresno Morning Republican published an article about the incident and noted that Ingle was swarmed by nearly 500 fans who had been watching the airshow once she landed.
Despite all of the risks involved, Ingle came away surprisingly unscathed. After performing over 300 midair transfers during her career, she eventually retired and raised a family in Southern California. She lived a long life, passing away in 1981 at aged 82. Her contributions to the Golden Age of Aviation have never been forgotten, and footage of her incredible stunts, as well as photos, are on display at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum.