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Wingwalking is an aerobatic discipline with shows such as this one. The definition of wingwalking from Wikipedia gives no other alternative than using biplanes:

Wing walking is the act of moving along the wings of a biplane during flight [...]

(source: Wikipedia, as of 26 February 2020)

When searching for images on the web, I can only find biplanes, mainly stearman but also other biplanes.

For me, it seems that any aircraft with high wings or parasol wings can do the job, so why do they only use biplanes?

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    $\begingroup$ I'm pretty sure I saw a monoplane wing walk at Oshkosh when I was a kid, but it is rare. $\endgroup$ – GdD Apr 21 at 8:51
  • $\begingroup$ @GdD why is it so rare? I cannot find any occurrence in the last three decades. $\endgroup$ – Manu H Apr 21 at 10:39
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    $\begingroup$ I don't know, but I suspect a high wing keeps the walker out of the rudder's airflow. $\endgroup$ – GdD Apr 21 at 10:43
  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps walk on biplan is more easy than on monoplane! $\endgroup$ – L'aviateur Apr 21 at 12:37
  • $\begingroup$ digg.com/video/james-bond-stunt-octopussy $\endgroup$ – Solomon Slow Apr 21 at 19:33
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It doesn't only use biplanes, searching "wingwalking monoplane" provides these examples, of some low wing monoplane and high wing monoplane. Whatever the aircraft, it has to be able to fly slowly.

enter image description here (source) (not 100% about this one but it looks like one Klemm aircraft)

enter image description here (source) (Here one quite rare danish SAI KZ III equipped with a hatch behind the wing, allowing acrobat Palle Johnson to get out.)

jaromir wagner (source) (Jaromir Wagner, Czech wingwalker holding speed record wingwalking at 270km/h here on a Britten-Norman Islander aircraft)

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3 reasons:

  1. The really obvious one; biplanes had the interplane structural network to hang on to when doing the wing walking. It's a heck of a lot safer for the wing walker. Even today, most of the wing walker acts use Stearman or Waco biplanes.
  2. They generally have lower wing loadings than comparable monoplanes so could fly slower.
  3. They were readily available as WWI surplus in the 20s when the whole Air Circus business was getting underway. Equivalent monoplanes would be new production and much more expensive to acquire.

So while there are/were monoplane wing walker acts, they weren't true "wing walkers". The original wing walkers walked out from the fuselage to the wing tip, and the usual trick on the Jenny was to get down and hang from the wing tip protector hoop that extends down below the interplane struts. It was only possible on a biplane because there was structure and wires to hang on to.

The monoplane acts are great stunt acts, but they aren't true wing walking acts because no, you know, walking along the wing, goes on. They have a brace to let someone stand up above the fuselage, but you won't see any of them walking out along the wing to the tip without any kind of aids, as you do on a biplane.

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    $\begingroup$ The interplane bracing is the wrong side of the wing, beneath their feet where they can't reach it. $\endgroup$ – Guy Inchbald Apr 21 at 16:29
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    $\begingroup$ @Guy Inchbald Look at any wing walker act on a Jenny or such from the 20s. They are moving between the wings hanging on to the rigging, not along the top one. $\endgroup$ – John K Apr 21 at 17:11
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    $\begingroup$ Yeah, any realistic wing-walking requires some sort of rigging to hold onto, at least intermittently. In the pictures of monoplane walkers that rigging has been added specifically to enable the walking. $\endgroup$ – Hot Licks Apr 21 at 17:23
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    $\begingroup$ One more point for biplanes: there are many more biplanes with the combination of open cockpits (necessary for the acrobat to get into and out of a seat for takeoff and landing), aerobatic capability, and slow flight than there are monoplanes. Additionally, today, the look of the act is heavily tied to biplanes. $\endgroup$ – Zeiss Ikon Apr 21 at 19:24
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    $\begingroup$ It's an obvious one when it comes to the advantage of using a biplane. Try walking out to tip of the wing of a monoplane even one with bracing wires going half way out, without special modifications. A Jenny didn't and only cost a couple hundred bucks. $\endgroup$ – John K Apr 22 at 21:09
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I'd offer that it's due to the speed of the plane. I have seen it done with mono-wing planes as well, but it's rare, as others have also mentioned. The rationale for biplanes is likely twofold:

  1. There's a nostalgia element to be considered, now that the style of plane is out of fashion, and has been for some time.
  2. Two wings means more aerodynamic lift. The additional weight in the plane or just the stress on the plane itself combined with lower airspeed means that the plane needs all the help it can get to remain airborne, especially when stunts are involved.
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    $\begingroup$ "Two wings means more aeronautical lift." Errr, what? $\endgroup$ – Mike Brockington Apr 22 at 10:36
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    $\begingroup$ @MikeBrockington: Presumably he meant "more aerodynamic lift". Which is true - a biplane's greater total wing area does provide more lift than that of a monoplane of equal wingspan, chord length, and wing shape (although, due to interference between the airflow around the two wings, nowhere near the twice-as-much that one would intuitively expect). $\endgroup$ – Sean Apr 22 at 19:58
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    $\begingroup$ thanks @Sean, yes. that's what I meant. I just jump into different SE forums from time to time to learn about things I'm not normally into. $\endgroup$ – Jeremy Apr 23 at 0:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Sean But what advantage to wing-walking does a shorter wingspan mean? Due to the intimate relationship with drag, no plane is going to have significantly more overall lift than it needs - they are designed for a specific payload, regardless of one wing or two. $\endgroup$ – Mike Brockington Apr 23 at 8:39

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