Complete with giant guitars and feathers, our rockin’ aircraft won 4th place in the Chicago People’s Choice Award!
By Megan Deppen

What has wings, wheels, and a pilot? A giant tooth? A red go-go pump? A grill? A Chicago-style hot dog? At Red Bull’s 2013 Chicago Flugtag, the answer was all of the above.

Approximately 60,000 spectators crowded into Burnham Park on Chicago’s South Side Saturday, Sept. 21, to see their favorite crafts roll from a 30-foot high ramp into the waters below. The winners, team Chicago Duck Hunt, flew 39 feet and wooed the crowd with a replica of the 1985 Nintendo game, Duck Hunt.

To anyone who has never been to Flugtag, it may seem hard to imagine. DePaul senior Angelika Giatras has worked two years for Red Bull, and described what the unusual event looks like.

“Flugtag is, I guess, playing off of the whole ‘Red Bull gives you wings,’” Giatras said. “[The event is] super self-mocking, because obviously, the goal is for [teams]to make the [crafts]fly. I guess, it’s basically who can get the farthest distance.”

The world record for the longest distance was set in Mainz, Germany last year at 228.97 feet, but was replaced on Saturday in Long Beach, Calif. by The Chicken Whisperers team with 258 feet.

Though distance was impressive, showmanship and creativity were two other vital components to winning gold at Flugtag.

Team Dirty Pterodactyls from Saint Ansgar, Iowa dressed in mock leopard pelts, bare feet, and carried plastic clubs.

“[The team name] was more of a “why not” thing,” a team member said. “I mean, [pterodactyls]jump off cliffs to get their ground speed anyway. We kind of just wrote it on the application and went with it.”

A group of dentistry students from Marquette University made up Team Frequent Flyer Smiles. Dressed in blue paper smocks and armed with giant inflatable toothbrushes, they scrubbed passerby while the tooth fairy danced atop their giant white tooth with wings.

At 1 p.m. however, the teams were forced to curb their enthusiasm and wait more than two and a half hours. Heavy waves and wind made safety teams decide to reconfigure the evacuation procedure for pilots after they landed in the water. After the first two hours of the wait, James Kolstad of the Frequent Flyer Smiles shook his head and said, “I can’t believe this.”

Teammate Tim Gainey said, “[They] gotta put safety first. [But] I’m anxious to go.”

Red Bull crewmembers said the wave conditions were a concern because pilots ran the risk of being tossed into the concrete wall just a short distance away.

Teams were especially anxious because the Chicago Flugtag was cancelled last year for similar reasons, high winds and low water levels.

Dave Sineni of the drag-dressing team Hell on Heels shook his head while watching crews install extra supports on the ramp two hours after the expected start time.

His team was one of many to go home last year before getting the chance to fly their craft.

“At least last year they cancelled in the morning. Now it’s 1:00 and we were ready to go,” Sineni said.

Between 3:30 and 4 p.m. however, safety crews gave the thumbs up, and the crafts started falling, with style.

Jim Obos, of team Stellar Edge from Huntley, Ill. said they felt honored to fly in the Flugtag.

“We’re one of hundreds of teams across the world that got chosen,” Obos said.

Team Stellar Edge, outfitted in tight pants, 80’s wigs, and leather, were excited to bring their group of rock-scene enthusiast friends together for their first Flugtag.

“We’re rockin’ it man,” Obos said. “All guts just for the glory.”