Jana Leigh McWhorter of Sequoia Farms is not the average person. She has two distinct talents — wing walking and country-music singing.
As a country singer, McWhorter was a first runner up in the Colgate County Showdown in Staunton, Va., on July 4. She sang ‘Inside The Circle,’ which she wrote herself.
“‘Inside The Circle’ I wrote after one of my visits to Nashville," she said. "After touring the Country Music Hall of Fame museum, I was inspired to write about the famous eight-foot circle on the Grand Opry stage."
The floor boards in the circle were carved out of the old Ryman auditorium stage where all the great performers — Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline used to sing. An eight-foot section was taken out and then built into the new stage at Grand Ole Opry. She has been singing and playing the guitar since age 16.
WHEN SHE'S NOT performing music, McWhorter is wing walking in a flying circus act with husband Jim, a pilot in the Flying Circus Aerodrome in Bealeton, Va.
In May of 2004 she went to see the air show.
“It fascinated me and I inquired if they were looking for a wing walker and they did — they needed a female," she said.
"After I started, it was more difficult than I thought,” said McWhorter. "It takes a lot of upper body strength.”
To audition for the job, she sat on the wing and did sit ups and pull ups to see if she could pull her weight from the cockpit to the top wing during flight.
“You learn the routine and don’t waiver from it," she said. "There are three points of contact at all times — everything is timed out in placement. Once you’re up in air you have to time it from point A to point B.”
She trained every Sunday under Johnny King and Chad Jacobs — who are also wing walkers with the circus. “The scariest, nerve-wrecking part is getting to the cockpit," she said. "The funnest time is being on the wing doing a ‘hammerhead’ — or stalls (when the plane goes straight up and the engine cuts off and the planes turns and goes down). It’s a pretty dramatic and wild ride.”
She added: “Communication is key, and we communicate with hand signals and eye contact.
THAT’S WHEN we do loops and ‘Qs’ and 8s’, etc. all those maneuvers are when we’re on top. I think it’s more dramatic.”
When she is doing her act, she is supported by a piece of rope and nothing else. Her favorite part is when she does the "photo pass,’ where the pilot wings towards the crowd and she blows kisses. "Blowing kisses is one of my signature moves,” she said.
Jana and her husband Jim were married at the Flying Circus during the airshow in June 2006.
Visit her Web site at www.janaleighmusic.com, and for more information about wing walking, visit www.flyingcircusairshow.com.
Show times for the wing walking act at the Flying Circus Aerodrome are on Sundays from May-October at 2:30 p.m. The Flying Circus Aerodrome is located near the Warrenton and Fauquier airport.