• Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Instagram
  • Youtube
Helicopter Flight Training Sponsors
 Search

Categories

 Search

Wing walking business grounded, FAA revokes owner's license

The FAA has taken action against the owner of a wing-walking business in Washington, revoking the owner's pilot license and claiming he operated his business without authorization and in violation of many air safety regulations. Mike Mason has owned and operated Mason Wing Walking with his wife in Sequim, Washington for over a decade. The family-owned business will take people up to walk on the wings of the plane with no experience, performing thrilling aerobatic feats for just over $1,000. In recent years, the company has faced a lawsuit from locals regarding the noise, moved their business to a small airfield by their home and faced an FAA investigation on whether the operation has been properly authorized. The Seattle Times reported that the FAA revoked Mason's pilot license on March 18 in a Letter of Emergency Revocation.RELATED STORY:Wing walking business faces lawsuit, FAA investigation "Administrator has determined that an emergency exists related to safety in air commerce and that immediate action to revoke your Airline Transport Pilot certificate is required," the letter said. His operation has now been declared unsafe, despite earlier claims from Mason that an inspector cleared his business to operate over 13 years ago. After a lawsuit in 2022, the FAA began looking into this claim, opening an investigation into the operation. The Virginian Pilot reported that the FAA ruled that the business "advertised or offered passenger-carrying aircraft operations to the public without authorization." Participants who brave a full-day course will have four to five hours of coaching and practicing before they take to the sky. A classic, red 1940s Stearman biplane will climb to 3,500 feet and the participant will climb on the wings, tethered to a cable. Then, the participant would be strapped into a harness on a fixed rig while the plane performs a series of aerobatic maneuvers, including rolls and hammerheads. The person would disconnect from the wing, still tethered to the cable and lay on the wings, according to the Virginian Pilot. The average flight is roughly 25 minutes, including two sets of aerobatics - one on the upper wing and one on the lower wing. The Seattle Times reported that participants sign waivers before flying, agreeing not to sue the company. The letter said the operation, "demonstrates you presently lack the degree of care, judgment and responsibility required," according to the Virginian Pilot. The Masons live in a small rural pilot community at the Blue Ribbon Farms development in Sequim. Many homes in their community have a hangar attached or are arranged around the airstrip. The Chair of the Blue Ribbon homeowners board Mark Long told The Seattle Times that only about 10 of the 130 residents still regularly fly out of the airstrip. As a pilot-friendly community, some rules allow for frequent takeoffs and landings and prohibit noise complaints. As the Mason business grew, neighbors began to grow discontent with the frequent low-flying. In May 2022 the Board sued the Masons to stop them from flying around the community. The Clallam County Superior Court sided with residents and ruled that the Masons violated the resident's covenant and barred them from using the airstrip and hangar for their business. The Masons then moved to the Sequim Valley Airport a few miles away. Additionally, the Blue Ribbon Farms Property Owners' Association took action, claiming that residents learned the business did not comply with FAA regulations. They alleged that the Masons had no liability insurance for the business that would cover injury and protect the board and residents from liability claims. The Seattle Times reported that the FAA then rescinded permission for the Masons to fly where they had previously, in a small aerobatic practice area, after the noise complaints from locals. The Masons received another letter from the FAA, informing them that the initial investigation found no violation. A second letter regarded the fact that participants do not wear parachutes, which Mason said was sorted out with the FAA years ago. Mason is a pilot, flight instructor, airline mechanic and a former FAA safety inspector, on top of an expert aerobatic pilot. He is a third-generation aerobatic pilot/wing walker. His wife Marilyn also shares a passion for wing walking, and according to their website has trained over 90 percent of the small global group of wing walkers. The Masons have two children, one of whom is disabled, and this business is their livelihood, according to the Virginian Pilot. The Masons still have an appeal pending in the Clallam County Superior Court, but the FAA ruling may put a stop to the business for good. Long told the Virginian pilot that they did not want their complaints to cause the FAA to go after Mason's license. "We're pilots," Long said to the Virginian Pilot. "We feel bad whenever we hear somebody's had their ticket, their license, revoked. That was never our intent. We know it's his living. We hope he gets it back."
Created 77 days ago
by RSS Feed

Tags
Categories HeliNews Headlines
Categories
Print