Usually throwing large objects into the Delaware River is frowned upon. However, Red Bull’s Flugtag Philadelphia celebrated it.
Flugtag, pronounced “floog-tog” and German for “flying day,” was created in Australia, Red Bull’s country of origin, in 1992. Teams of no more than five people build human-powered aircrafts to be pushed off of a ramp into a body of water. Before take off, they must perform a skit to music that incorporates the theme of their aircraft. Teams are judged based upon three criteria — flight distance, creativity and showmanship.
“It’s interesting what causes people to gather together in these times. It seems to be these crazy, entertaining events,” said Max Finkel of Philadelphia, a first-time Flugtag attendee.
After an opening performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” three Red Bull Air Force members parachuted from a helicopter floating over the Delaware. Two landed perfectly on the ramp and the other, with a kayak attached, landed skillfully in the Delaware.
Naturally, the participants were as fun-loving as the nature of the event. Andrew Komito of Sicklerville, N.J., team member of “Boats N Bros,” pondered with his teammates what his aircraft would be named and themed for more than four nights. The group decided to take a break from brainstorming to watch “Step Brothers,” where they found inspiration in the movie’s song “Boats N Hoes.”
“That’s it right there,” Komito said, dressed in all white duds and large gold chains. “Boats N Bros. I mean, we don’t have any girls.”
Mike Studzienko of Allentown, Pa., contributed to his team’s aircraft, Drink Philly’s “Hindenfirkin,” by applying his career as an engineer.
“I didn’t bother designing a landing craft because I don’t think we’re going to land,” Studzienko said before take off. “We’re just going to float over. We haven’t decided whether we are going to go over the bridge or under it.”
The aircraft’s name is a combination of “Hinden,” an homage to the Hindenburg blimp, and “firkin,” meaning keg — explaining the keg attached to a blimp. Regardless of what the team would have liked to include in their aircraft, the keg was not real.
“Trust me, we asked,” Studzienko said.
Although the Hindenfirkin didn’t fly far enough to earn a trophy, other aircrafts had better luck. Finkel’s friends in “New Kids on the Dock” took home the first-place trophy. After a performance of the iconic “Hangin’ Tough” dance, the team’s pilot straddled a giant lobster that soared nearly 40 feet.
Second place went to the aircraft “Beast of Amis,” a giant flying sausage sponsored by the restaurant Amis Trattoria, located on 412 S. 13th St.
Third place and the People’s Choice Award went to “Hawkward,” a team of Saint Joseph’s University students who shook their tailfeathers to “The Bird is the Word” before sailing their aircraft into the Delaware. Their presence attracted a huge fan base of Saint Joseph’s University students, which was elated by their fellow Hawks’ success.
“I think it’s awesome. They worked so hard for it and I’m so proud,” said Kelly Sagastume, a Saint Joseph’s University sophomore.
Despite the sunny 74-degree weather, Saturday’s wind played a major factor in Flugtag. The wind blew against the aircrafts, causing some to fly backward, and earning the biggest negative distances in Flugtag history. The wind caused more serious problems than just shorter flight distances, however.
The pilot from “Brick House Bullies” fell backward off of her aircraft before it left the runway. The pilot was reported to be without serious injury, but was removed from the platform on a stretcher. As a safety precaution, the remaining aircrafts took off without a pilot due to the intense winds.
Even with windy conditions, many attendees stayed until the final flight, seemingly mesmerized by the oddity of it all.
For Finkel, who correctly predicted his friends’ victory, Flugtag offered a break from the usual weekend activity for Philadelphians.
“We [as people] seem to have a deep attraction to something new, to something different, and this is a time like that,” Finkel said.
Jenelle Janci can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.