Red Bull brings Flugtag to Dallas for first time

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Ivanna Bond, Contributing Writer

 

Red Bull attempted to give contestants wings, but no one said they were functional.  –Photo by Peter Sampson
Red Bull attempted to give contestants wings, but no one said they were functional.
–Photo by Peter Sampson

When I pledged to make the most of my senior year and take advantage of as many on- and off-campus events as possible, I certainly didn’t expect my adventures to be as bizarre as Flugtag.

National Red Bull Flugtag is a competition involving homemade human-powered machines intended to fly (but that more often sink) when launched off of a ramp 30 feet above water. The event has been celebrated annually since 1992, when the first competition was held in Vienna, Austria. This year, for the first time, Flugtag occurred in five U.S. cities on the same day. Advertised as “the biggest splash in aviation history,” Flugtag at the Las Colinas Urban Center was a free public event on Lake Carolyn with an estimated 50,000 people in attendance, including many University of Dallas students.

The contraptions themselves were downright ridiculous, and thirty teams exhibited vehicles with Oregon Trail, Planet of the Apes, Big Tex, Goldilocks and the Three Bears and other quirky themes to an enthusiastic and encouraging crowd. The crafts were powered by teams of five, and each team prefaced their flight with a brief skit complete with elaborate costumes and choreography. All of this factored into the judging, which was based on distance, creativity and showmanship. Most teams took advantage of this and went all-out on their themes, since I believe most did not expect to perform well with regard to distance.

Indeed, almost every single craft took the plunge at a distance of 10 feet or less, catching no air and doing no more than drop straight down from the ramp. The audience was thrilled with the spectacular crashes.

The event celebrated do-it-yourself aspirations and epic failures over craftsmanship and ingenuity, emphasizing entertainment over functionality. Most of the models had not been previously tested, since they were built to fly only once.

Some of the crafts did in fact achieve flight distance, with the first-place winner, “Texas Tomcats,” sailing over 80 feet from the ramp before its inevitable crash landing. The world record for Flugtag was broken Saturday by the “Chicken Whisperers,” who “flew” 258 feet in a competition in California.

The second-place winner in the Las Colinas competition was the crowd-pleaser, “Duct Taped Dynasty.”

“It was brilliant to base the structure of a flying machine on an animal that is built to fly. It was also fun to chant ‘Ducks! Ducks! Ducks! Ducks!’ with hundreds of people,” said senior Mary Clare Mulhern.

The spirit of the event was lighthearted, and senior Joe Giallombardo called it aptly American.

“The indescribable spirit of the pioneer, the bombasticity of exceptionalism and the charm of good ol’ yankee ingenuity are beautifully made manifest in the act of shoving your friend off a cliff in a giant hat or porta-potty.”

Most UD students had not heard of Flugtag until just before the event. Junior Anthony Campise, however, was familiar with the event, since some of his high-school classmates had participated in a Miami Flugtag.

“I promised them I would be in it if it ever came to Dallas while I was going to school here,” Campise said, “but I forgot about it and then it came to Las Colinas!”

I thought Flugtag was simultaneously brilliant and inane, and I’m very glad to have been able to attend. The weather was perfect, the event was a blast and as Giallombardo put it, “when all was done, I realized that I’d crossed off an item I never knew was on my bucket list.”

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