Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Flugtag Invitation

I believe I've blogged in the past about the insanity that is Flugtag. It's a shameless corporate event dreamed up to publicize Red Bull energy drink, I guess playing off their slogan, Red Bull Gives You Wings. Flugtag is an event where people "fly" homemade "gliders." The scare quotes are because I would expect that a person would have to drink something considerably stronger than Red Bull before they would believe that most of these so-called aircraft would have a glide ratio better than that of a brick.

Check out the video on the official site. Even if you don't usually bother to make your computer pay these things, this one has to be seen to be believed. Various gliders, among them a B747, a dolphin, an eagle, and a submarine are pushed off a ramp and with few exceptions experience complete structural failure within seconds. It looks like a hell of a good time. I received an email last week from an intern, promoting the event, asking me not, as I expected, to publicize it, but to actually enter.

I told the intern I wasn't that crazy, but maybe I lied. There's something inspiring about watching so many improbable aircraft launching off that ramp and then PLUMMETING into the water. It almost makes me want to get a team together. I wish I'd had more than a couple of weeks notice before the deadline. I suppose the idea of giving a short application deadline is to require you to charge up on Red Bull and just go for it.

Maybe next year. It would certainly be fun. What would you like to launch in? A unicorn? A replica Avro Arrow? A Silver Dart? A giant badminton birdie? A flying saucer? A birthday cake? The emphasis is clearly on the bizarre craft, and not the nominal distance-to-glide competition. From the entry form we see the entire aircraft, including pilot, must weigh in at or under 200 kg, with a maximum wingspan of nine metres. It must be entirely human powered with no stored energy, so this opens the possibility of a Gossamer Condor type entry, except we have the added challenge that all components must float. I wonder if this is a new addition, because I see bicycle parts in the videoclip. You can find more clips by searching for Flugtag on YouTube.

It would be a truly glorious moment. Who is in the Ottawa area and wants to help design, build and fly an insanely stupid glider? I don't know if I'm serious, but I'm pretty sure most of the actual competitors aren't serious, so I don't know if that matters.


Tina Marie said...

We actually went to see it in person in Austin last year. It was very amusing.

It seems to me there are only two things you'd need to win: enough structural stability to make it to the water intact, and a basic knowledge of CG computations. Almost everything we saw violated one or the other (sometimes, both!) principles.

Of course, it's likely they're not looking to select the things most likely to fly - I suspect they select things least likely to fly but most likely to cause a spectacular, crowd-pleasing splash.

I'd offer to join you, but I'm a long way from Ottawa.

Anonymous said...

I'm ALL OVER this idea. I think it's a great show and I'd love to be part of the crew. So long as you promise to be the one who gets wet "flying" it! I am local to the o-dot and even have a bit of aeronautical knowledge (mind you this will likely be a detriment) but hey, We can test launch the craft at CYRO's boat ramp!

Anonymous said...

Moomba, one of our festivals in Melbourne has what is called a Birdman Rally - the same thing. Can be hillarious.

Someone won it a few years back with a properly designed wing with carbon fibre spars.

At a youth camp I used to attend we had our own birdman rally off the jetty. It is a lot of fun.

Anonymous said...

It seems like a winning entry would be one that looks really impressive, flies a long distance, and then makes a really big splash at the end. Personally, I don't think that I could bring myself to design something that I knew had no hope of gliding some distance or would be structurally unstable. I'm probably not any fun, though.

nec Timide said...

I got one too. Ottawa is within striking distance for me, and I know lots of pilots who are easily lead, but two weeks is way too short a deadline to "get my affairs in order" to make an attempt. Though on further reading the event is on Aug 3rd. So we have two weeks to decide to be fools, then 9 or 10 to consummate the contract.

@viennatech, I think testing goes against the spirit of the thing ;-)

Anonymous said...

I'll keep this in mind for next year, as I'll be busy with my video astronomy star party that weekend.

I might be able to make it back on time to watch, though. It's less than 10 minutes from where I live...

Anonymous said...

A "Lawnchair Larry" remake seems to be allowed by the rules... Do we have a source of Helium?

Jim said...

I know where I'm going to be on August 3rd, since I live in Ottawa.

If there is a team to be formed, count me in!!! Sorry, I don't have a tutu, but would be willing to wear a loaner.

We only need to put in a proposal by May 30th, and I suspect that any relationship to reality needs to coincidental at best. Aerodynamics optional, though structural integrity and a reasonable CG might be useful unless you want to name the bird "the flying anchor".

We need a theme.

Unknown said...

I dunno, if you're going to make something remotely aircraftlike, I think you should go for a Dash-8, complete with wheels falling off!

Dunno, though... will the crowd get it?

silver horde said...

I'm sure I've mentioned the Bognor Birdman rally on here before. It's sadly been cancelled this year as the pier has been shortened and now it is too shallow at the end to jump off safely. But that was an event that even the Virgin guy took an interest in for an all too short time.

Fly Me Friendly said...

The gang at the Temora Air Museum went in the Flugtag with a replica of their Spitfire. Totally hillarious:

The team

Taxi to the ramp


If you're in Australia, it's well worth going to one of their flying weekends.