RedBull ended summer with a splash on Saturday at the national Flugtag event. Teams of daring individuals competed by taking a plunge into the Long Beach Rainbow Harbor in their man-made flying machines. One team flew their craft 258 feet off of the 30 foot “flight-deck” and into record-breaking history.
Flugtag, pronounced ‘floog-tog,’ is translated from the German pronunciation for flying day. This event fully lived up to that name with more than 150 teams composed of 750 ambitious aviators from Washington D.C, Miami, Dallas, Chicago, and Long Beach.
Flugtag has been an iconic event worldwide since 1992 although this was the first time any country attempted to put on five in one day. And what is to be said after such a successful and groundbreaking day? Just one thing: ‘Merica.
Over 110,000 spectators watched in awe and laughter as the teams took to the skies in their personalized flying machines at Rainbow Harbor. Brain power and courage were tested in this wacky event as teams were judged on creativity and showmanship, as well as the most important, distance.
The 30-foot flight deck proved to be too much for most teams’ flying machines, with flights that either back flipped or took a nose-dive straight into the murky waters below. There was one team that verified that the impossible was surely possible.
The intrepid Chicken Whisperers from Palo Alto, California managed to glide their flying machine off of the deck and ahead 258 feet, breaking the previous record set in Germany in 2012, by 29 feet.
“I was lucky to catch a nice wind after takeoff and I was able to steer the craft, using grip-controlled rudders in the back of the structure, to go even further,” said The Chicken Whisperers’ pilot, Laura Shane.
To participate in this competition takes a little more than gut and spontaneity. In order to compete in Flugtag, you must have a team of four people, one craft, and a cart with a wingspan of less than 28 feet and a height of no more than 10 feet. After that, imagination fuels the creation. Three of the team members push the craft on a cart, while the other member is the pilot and, hopefully, makes a nice smooth landing.
The viewers admired the many ingenious, hilarious, and complete off-the-wall participants as they performed prior to takeoff.
One team who called themselves “Illumi-Naughty” dressed up as Chippendale’s dancers and flew their homemade cardboard and PVC pipe creation straight down into the cold waters below.
The team from Chapman University consisted of five friends, Austin and Ryan Huffman, Jordan Opel, Steven Wilcox, and Pat Schoenberg. The fearless five competed in the RedBull Soapbox race together last year. “Today, though, has been a blast,” stated team member Schoenberg.
“We knew we had a horrible chance at winning but it was about getting together with good friends and making a memory, and that’s what we did. We will remember this for the rest of our lives,” stated team member and pilot Austin Huffman.
Austin Huffman described the take off as an adrenaline rush fueled by natural instincts. “It all just came naturally. I had so much adrenaline and I just thought to myself ‘I can’t believe I’m doing this in front of 110,000 people!’”
No matter the intent, there is no doubt that RedBull put on yet another remarkable event.