Flying Effects

The act of levitating any live creature on stage is LIFE-THREATENING. DO NOT DO IT, unless under the supervision of Flying by Foy, ZFX, Hall Associates, Branam Rigging, D2 Flying Effects, or another reputable rigging company specializing in theatrical flight effects.

Save a Life. Hire a Professional Qualified Rigger, each and every time.

Welcome to netHEADS!
The Occasional When-we-feel-like-it
Email Newsletter from Sapsis Rigging, Inc.

006 February 5, 2001

Memo from Uncle Bill: Flying People
What is it about the holidays that cause normal people to lose their minds?
Beginning in late October I start getting calls from community group technical directors, church deacons and high school music teachers who want to fly an actor in their holiday show. Invariably, the first thing out of their mouths, after they tell me what they want to do, is "but we don't have much money so it has to be cheap." These are intelligent, responsible people. People who probably pay their taxes on time, get regular dental check-ups and wear their seatbelts even when driving just two blocks away. What on earth would lead these fine upstanding citizens to believe that suspending their children from little ropes and wires over a stage for cheap was a good idea?

"We're only going to be lifting her 6' in the air" they say. "Fine", I respond. "Why don't you stand on top of a 6' stepladder, jump off and land on the base of your spine to see what it feels like. Then tell me if you want your kid in that position." Sometimes that gets their attention.

I hear it all. They want no supervision. They want me to sell them some rope, a pulley and a cheap harness and turn them loose on the Peter Pans and flying angels of the world. I have the same answer for each and every one of them. No.

People think that just anything tied around a person will work as a flying harness. They trot off to Home Depot looking for a 'safety harness'. The ever-knowledgeable salesperson (at Home Depot?) simply stares at them of course, not having a clue. That's when they call me. When I explain that all I carry are Fall Arrest or climbing harnesses, they ask if they can alter one of those. I tell them no and explain why these harnesses will not work; the harnesses aren't designed for this type of stunt nor do the manufacturers warrant their use in this manner. Then I recommend that they talk to one of the companies that makes flying harnesses. "Those people are too expensive", I'm told. Oh. What do you think that 6' fall is going to do to your kid's spine? Is it worth putting them in a wheelchair for life because you were too cheap to get the right harness? Some of the parents even listen at this point. For the others I move onto my next argument.
Experience. There's a difference between the bookkeeper that volunteers to run the fly rail once a year at the church pageant and the professional who's been running a fly system for years. That difference is, among other things, focus. Let's look at a possible scenario. Poindexter, the volunteer is running the rail. He is 17 and a senior in high school. He has a girlfriend, and she just walked backstage to chat during a rehearsal. Is this kid giving his total attention to the show or is he showing off for his girlfriend? Go ahead; think back to when you were 17. Right. He's more easily distracted because he's in unfamiliar surroundings and he doesn't really understand the repercussions of a mistake. Amy, the professional, does know what happens to someone dropped from 6' or run into the wall. She also knows that she can wait and take her boyfriend out for donuts after the rehearsal.
The professional also knows when to call it quits. When a flying effect works, amateur directors tend to act like they invented it all by themselves. They want to do it everywhere and all the time. Flying is an extremely tiring job, both for the performer and the technician. You've got to know when to draw the line and stop working before someone gets hurt. It's also smart to understand that not everyone in the cast has to fly. Cap'n Hook, played by somebody's paunchy dad, never looks good careening around on a wire.

Eventually I get through to most of these folks and they either call in a professional or don't do the gag. But I'm willing to bet there's plenty of others who don't bother to call and are blithely flinging their kids around a stagehouse. If you happen to know anyone like that let him or her know just how foolish their actions are and try to get them to stop. It'll be your good deed for the week.

Tsin yea quai la
(Happy Chinese New Year)
Be well & be happy
For more Uncle Bill visit our archives at:
Uncle Bill Talks...

See also this article from the March 2009 issue of Stage Directions: Flying Requires Real Grounding.
See this thread:, for some workable alternatives to actually flying a performer.
See also this blog entry: Amateur rigging can result in injury, or death. | Backstage at | Life behind the scenes….

See also the Collaborative Article Why Not to Fly, DIY.

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