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ONE OF the more imaginative events I covered for R&T was the September 2003 Red Bull Flug Tag competition at the Santa Monica Pier. There’s a similar event planned for Long Beach in August 2013. Red Bull has set up www.redbullflugtagusa.com to disseminate details as they evolve. Entry is by invitation.
Events of Flug Tag, German for Flight Day, are a satisfying mixture of a high pier, high jinx, human-propelled gliders—and gravity. Held all over the world, there’s not a great deal of “flying” involved, as each team must push its solo-piloted design off the pier into space.
The glider is team-constructed, in the U.S. competition with maximum wingspan of 30 ft. and all-up weight, pilot included, of 450 lb. As water is its inevitable destination, the craft must be unsinkable and environmentally friendly. And to forestall any heavy sponsorship, advertising space is limited to 1 sq. ft.
Judging is based on distance, creativity and showmanship. The current Flug Tag distance record is an amazing 229 ft., set in 2012 at Mainz, Germany, with more than 60,000 people in attendance. The 2012 Cape Town, South Africa, event holds the attendance record thus far, at 220,000.
Generally, most flights make more like 50-60 ft. away from a 30-ft. pier. Whereas they’re not exactly nose-diving, it surely must feel like this to the pilots.
Creativity—and I suspect Red Bull—runs wild. One of the more elaborate teams at 2003 Santa Monica was an entire Wizard of Oz entourage, complete with Dorothy aboard a Flying Monkey and other cast members doing the launching.
Prior to departure, each team has an allotted time in which to demonstrate their showmanship. These varied from highly choreographed playlets to a couple of guys standing around and peering apprehensively off the pier’s end. Then came the push/launch.
It’s part of the Flug Tag tradition for pushers/launchers to take the leap themselves occasionally, in evident sympathy with their pilot and craft. Rarely do these people soar more than a few ft. from the pier.
A squadron of organizer-provided ski-boats performed the necessary retrieval of pilots, craft and sympathetic team members. All this was done with remarkable alacrity and efficiency.
And, evidently, a good time was had by all. See you at 2013 Flug Tag in Long Beach in August? ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2013