In Remembrance of the Tennis Match Played on the Wings of a Plane

Andrei Tapalaga
Gladys Roy and Ivan Unger play tennis on the wing of a biplane in flight, 1925Photo byHistory of Yesterday

Tennis is and always will be a highly popular sport that electrified spectators all around the world for those who participated. Tennis used to be regarded as the most well-known sport in the world, namely in 1925. Due to two stuntwomen, Gladys Roy and Ivan Unger, who competed in a tennis match on the wing of a biplane at an altitude of more than 1000 meters (3280 feet), this sport became well-known throughout the entire world.

Ladys Roy, who is less well-known today than she was a century ago, stunned the world by leaping from incredible heights without fear. Her bravery also fueled the growth of the aircraft industry by convincing people that humans could fly using modern technology.

She has always enjoyed the rush that extreme sports provide. When she jumped out of a parachute for the 13th time (what a bad turn of events based on the date), she hit an air pocket about 100 feet above the ground and crashed, suffering severe injuries.
Ivan Unger and Gladys Roy after their stun playing tennis on wings in 1925Photo byHistory of Yesterday

Ivan Unger wasn’t as famous as Roy, but what made her famous was the stun the two performed in 1925. The stun was supposed to have the two stuntwomen pretend to play tennis on the wings of a biplane to represent a historical act, as physics would not permit anyone actually to play tennis on a biplane going over 100mph.

This wasn’t the first time neither of the two women tried such a stun. This was called wing walking, which was permitted at the time due to the biplanes going slower than pre-modern planes seen just before WW2. However, what made this event very popular was the image taken, which reached every corner of the world overnight, making the two women extremely famous.

Due to the stunt's enormous popularity, Roy and Ivan had requests from all over the world to put on exhibits. When Roy was requested to do an exhibition in Rome in 1927, her journey from New York to Rome was scheduled with Lieutenant Delmar Snyder.

Roy ignited the biplane's engine just before takeoff, got out of the aircraft, and unintentionally walked into the propeller while posing for a photo that the Ohio beauty contender had requested.

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