Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

New challenge for wing walker, 94

Tom Lackey will be back in harness as a wing walker at the age of 94

The world's oldest wing walker is preparing for his 33rd performance and has vowed to keep going until he "kicks the bucket".

At 94, and having suffered a minor stroke, Tom Lackey is showing no signs of taking life easy as he prepares to step atop the wings of a bi-plane at the Bournemouth Air Festival on August 28.

Mr Lackey did his first successful wing walk over a decade ago, raising money for charity following the death of his wife.

He has since raised more than £1 million for various causes including Cancer Research UK.

Before wing walking he was an aerobatics pilot, but decided to broaden his horizons by stepping out of the cockpit.

The former builder - who said he hates the word impossible - said he has no plans to hang up his flight suit.

Speaking in his back garden in Shirley in Solihull, West Midlands, he said: "People ask me 'is it the end?'

"And I say there's no point in giving up now, I don't want to give up."

Describing himself as "mad-cap", Mr Lackey said he never gets nervous, while admitting his first wing walk was "terrifying".

He first strapped himself to the wing of a Boeing Stearman bi-plane after the loss of his wife - who did not approve of his flying despite her Second World War service with the RAF - saying he wanted to prove to her that he could do it.

Mr Lackey still carries a photograph of soul-mate Isabel in the pocket of his flight suit, and proudly remarks she has been up more times than him, as he lends his overalls out to other wing walkers.

He had a minor stroke in 2004 which left him "with a drop foot", but remarked that since then he has ended up setting eight Guinness World Records.

"I'm not an overly religious person, but I do believe in people," said Mr Lackey, who needs a mobility scooter to get about.

"I've got faith in people that I meet, pilots, the people who look after the engine - I'd be lost without them - and so many others."

Not always entirely satisfied with simply wing walking, he admits to getting "rather fed-up" at one point, prompting him to carry out a successful bid to cross the English Channel, from Dover and Calais.

The next year, he did the same trip there and back without stopping, setting a new record.

"The only way to prove I can do it, is to do it - and I did," he said.

"My mother always used to say 'tell Tommy not to do something, and he'll do it' and that's true."

Mr Lackey, who has a daughter, is pragmatic about the risks he takes flying out on the wing, and said: "I like to do as much as possible to keep the adrenalin going.

"I want to keep on doing it until I kick the bucket.

"In any case, if anything happens - what a way to go."

His older brother Harold Lackey was an RAF bomber crewman killed in May 1940 during the Battle of Britain, after his airbase was strafed by the Luftwaffe.

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