Pioneering Female Aerobat Leaps from One Plane to Another to Save Aviator in Distress

Gladys Ingel Wing Walker

Photo: Unknown author via Wikimedia Commons (Public domain)

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.

Check out this colorized footage of wing walker Gladys Ingle changing a tire in midair to save a fellow aviator in 1926.

Related Articles:

11 Trailblazing Women in History You Need to Know

New Evidence Suggests Amelia Earhart Survived Her Plane Crash

Barbie Unveils Aviator Bessie Coleman Doll in ‘Inspiring Women’ Line

WWII Brides Wore Wedding Dresses Made From Their Fiancé’s Parachutes

Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Staff Editor and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
Become a
My Modern Met Member
As a member, you'll join us in our effort to support the arts.
Become a Member
Explore member benefits

Sponsored Content