Two Daredevil Women Playing Tennis Over 3000 Feet Above and On a Moving Plane More Unbelievable Stunts On Airplane Wings! (1)

Two Daredevil Women Playing Tennis Over 3000 Feet Above and On a Moving Plane | More Unbelievable Stunts On Airplane Wings!

In the 1920s, a period marked by rapid technological advancements and a newfound sense of adventure, the world of aviation was no less than a playground for the brave. Among those who carried challenging roles was Gladys Roy. Gladys performed many different stunts but one, in particular, stands out. She played tennis on the wings of an airplane with fellow stunt performer Ivan Unger. This incredible stunt was done over 3000 feet up above and on a moving biplane. She carried out more unbelievable stunts up in the skies and later approached the movie industry as an actress. Let’s take on a journey back in time to relive the extraordinary stunts of this forgotten heroine. 

Gladys Roy’s Tennis on Wings!

Born in 1896 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Gladys Roy grew up in a time when the world of aviation was just taking off. With the Wright Brothers’ first powered flight occurring just years before, Roy’s destiny was intertwined with aviation. 

Her brothers became pilots for Northwest Airlines and were even placed in the Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame. Roy carved her own path in the skies. She was not a pilot, but a barnstorming (Wingwalker) stunt performer!

One of her most iconic acts involved playing tennis on the wing of a biplane with fellow stunt performer Ivan Unger. They carried out the act over the city of Los Angeles in 1925 and around 3200 feet (1000m) up in the air. They just acted like they were playing tennis on the wing of the biplane. It was nearly impossible to keep the ball on track with the wind. Therefore, they held their racquets and acted out as if they were playing. At the time the biplane’s speed was at a moderate level to support the daredevils in their stunts. 

Another plane flying close to the biplane captured the shot of these two women in mid-air. Roy faced the camera and was ready for a serve. Gladys and Ivan did not pass balls as in an actual game. But this “match” became world-renowned. The photograph spread across the world overnight. 

Image source: Steemit (Gladys Roy on the right and Ivan Unger on the left – after performing the tennis stunt mid-air)
Image source: Steemit

The Art of Wing-Walking: More Unbelievable Stunts

Gladys first captured attention as a parachute jumper before transitioning into the daredevil world of wing-walking, where she introduced audiences to breathtaking stunts never seen before. Roy’s stunts were varied and innovative. They went from dancing the Charleston on the wings of a plane to executing the world’s lowest parachute jump. She even walked across the JN 4 aircraft’s upper wing while being blindfolded.

Roy moved to Los Angeles in 1921. In November of the same year, she attempted to break the world altitude record for a parachute jump by a woman. She wanted to leap from 16,000 feet above and it would be her third time in a parachute. The Los Angeles Times mentions Roy’s attempt. However, her success or failure isn’t recorded. By 1924, Roy’s letterhead declared her as the holder of “the world’s low record parachute jump.” Her low record jump was made from just 100 feet. 

“Needless to say, I don’t care to make the jump again,” she told the Times in 1925.

gladys roy
Image source: Hennepin County Library

Roy was earning a fair amount from her stunts. According to sources, she made $200 to $500 per performance. However, she wrote in a 1924 letter to her brothers, “My expenses are very high and it takes everything that I have to keep going.” 

The Western Vaudeville Managers’ Association took part in her journey as her agent. Gladys reserved her place at fairs, real estate exhibitions, and even auctions. She did stunt work for the Lord Motor Car Company and show work for John P. Mills Real Estate as well. 

In a December 1924 letter to her brother Chad, Roy wrote, “When I loop I stand on the center section with both hands in the air. Yesterday the photographer tried to get a picture of it though I don’t know if he succeeded or not.”

Her stunts required not just physical agility and courage but also creativity to keep the audience captivated. Roy once shared her feelings about the relentless pursuit of innovation in an interview. She hinted at the ever-present risk of accidents in her line of work. Her performances used the Curtiss JN-4 “Jenny,” a popular aircraft post-WWI. She favored it for its reliability and suitability for stunts.

Image source: Getty images (Gladys Roy walking on the wings while being blindfolded)

From Daredevil to Silver Screen: Gladys Roy’s Career in Movies!

As the popularity of stunt performances reduced, Roy transitioned into the movie industry. She faced new challenges, including a significant injury on the set of “The Fighting Ranger.” Despite the fall in stunt work, Roy’s adventurous spirit never faltered. She carried it until her untimely death during a photoshoot in 1927.

Gladys Roy’s groundbreaking stunts have left a memorable mark on the world of aviation entertainment. It has inspired generations of wingwalkers and aerial performers. Her daring stunts paved the way for women in aviation and stunt performance. 

gladys roy
Image source: Smithsonian Magazine / Hennepin County Library

Unfortunate Death of Gladys Roy

Roy died in Ohio on August 15, 1927. The brave stunt woman accidentally walked into the spinning propeller of a parked aircraft. Her unfortunate death came for her while she was posing for pictures in an airplane with a local “bathing beauty” contestant. At the time of her death, she had also been planning a flight from New York to Rome with Lt. Delmar Snyder.

gladys roy
Image source: Getty Images


Gladys Roy’s life is a testament to the power of those who dare to dream. It pushes beyond the confines of what is possible. Through her contributions to aviation and entertainment, Roy not only entertained millions but also inspired a legacy of explorers, daredevils, and dreamers who continue to push the boundaries of human achievement. As we reflect on the pioneers of early aviation, let us remember Gladys Roy and the indomitable spirit of those who soared beyond the bounds of the imagination.

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