Going Airborne

Louisville team ready to make a big splash at Red Bull Flugtag

Unusual event coming Aug. 27 to Louisville waterfront

(August 2016)
Read previous Don Ward columns!
Don Ward

LOUISVILLE (August 2016) – When Matt Coleman heard the announcement last spring that the Red Bull Flugtag competition was coming to Louisville in August, he said to himself, “We have to do that!”
By “we,” he meant his group of boating buddies at the Harrods Creek Boat Owners Association in Prospect, Ky. Coleman, 49, who is self-employed with his own finance company, recruited several friends and engineers to help him design a craft and put together a “push team” of strong, young men, plus a 19-year-old pilot and motorcycle racing friend, Jacob Walp, who only weighs 125 pounds. The weight of the pilot is key, since part of the judging involves just how far the craft will “fly” after it careens off the ramp into the Ohio River. Teams are also limited to 400 pounds per entry, including pilot. The “push team” includes Coleman, Greg Platt, 56, Brad Curry, 33 and Zack Fry, 41 – none of whom are allowed to jump into the river with the craft during the competition.

Red Bull Flugtag

• Saturday, Aug. 27, at Louisville, Ky.’s Waterfront Park

• Admission: Free for spectators

• Information: www.RedBullFlugtag.com

Together, the group has formed a team they call HCBOA (the acronym for the boat club) and are meeting regularly through the month of August at an airplane hangar at Bowman Field to build their craft and organize their presentation at the Aug. 27 all-day event, scheduled to take place at Louisville’s Waterfront Park.
Teams from nearly 10 states across the nation will dare to defy gravity with their human-powered flying machines at Red Bull Flugtag Louisville. After reviewing hundreds of applications, 40 teams were selected to participate in the quirky flying competition. Teams like Mercy-no-Mercy, Kentucky Flying Colonels, Millennial Falcon, U of L Sustainability and Team Zissou will entertain the crowds as they launch their crafts with hopes of soaring across the Ohio River.
Since 1991, Red Bull Flugtag (which translates to “Flying Day” in German) has made stops around the world challenging competitors to build and pilot homemade human powered flying machines. Some previous events have attracted as many as 100,000 spectators. With the backdrop of the Ohio River, the outrageous flying competition will make its Midwest debut at Waterfront Park.

Photo by Don Ward

The Harrods Creek Boat Owners Association team for the upcoming red Bull Flugtag includes Louisvillians (front row from left) Matt Coleman and Jacob Walp, and (back row from left) Greg Platt, Brad Curry and Zack Fry. The team is sponsored by the boat owners club and Wick’s Pizza.

Flugtag is a competition in which teams build and pilot homemade, human-powered flying machines. When it was announced in February that the event would be held in Louisville, Mayor Greg Fischer described it as “creative, authentic, energetic, weird.”
Red Bull Flugtag Louisville will feature a variety of crafts, ranging from a flying toilet paper roll to supersized blowfish, built by participants ranging from college students to aviation experts. Half of the selected teams, including Thrilla In Lou-villa, Bourbon Flight and The Ville-ociraptors, to name a few, originate out of Louisville itself, with other participants traveling from homes as far as Oswego, Ore., and Jupiter, Fla. Each team of five will need to bring out their inner daredevil in order to truly make a splash against a wide array of talent.
Selected competitors will take the plunge off the 22-foot-high flight deck in front of thousands of roaring fans as they attempt to break the 258-foot distance record, set in 2013. In its first visit to Louisville and the only Red Bull Flugtag in the Midwest in 2016, the pressure is on for this year’s Flugtag flyers to blow that record out of the water.
Coleman’s team is counting on a large contingent of fans cheering them on, considering the boat club is the largest in Louisville, Coleman says, with 200 boats and 1,200 people on the mail list. Boat club members have arranged to dock more than 100 boats at the nearby River Park Place Marina during the competition.
“We had a good chance of being selected because of the large number of people we will bring to the event,” Coleman said. “But we want to do more than just show up; we want to win.”
In addition to creating a craft that will “fly,” the team plans to dress as pirates and come up with a short sword fight “performance” in the one minute or so that each team has just before “pushing off” into the river. Platt, a part-time musician, plans to play the familiar “Call to Post” with his bugle.
Coleman says his group, which also is sponsored by Wick’s Pizza, will likely spend just under $2,000 to build the craft.
“Our entire design plans have changed from the one we originally submitted,” Coleman said. We just didn’t have the time and money to do what we wanted. Now we are going for flight, and that’s why we recruited Jacob.”

Photo by Don Ward

A “flying craft” careens off the ramp at a previous Red Bull Flugtag event. The contest is coming to Louisville’s Waterfront Park Aug. 21.

Walp, who works as a photographer, races motorcycles and says he water ski jumps and has ridden in small airplanes with friends. But he has never piloted a craft like this – or one that crash lands into the Ohio River. “I’m not nervous about it. It should be fun.”
Coleman says Red Bull has added lots of required safety equipment for participants over the years to avoid injuries.
All the crafts will be on display the morning of the event at Waterfront Park, Coleman explained. A large video screen at the event will show interviews that each team did back in May as a way of introducing each team to the stage.
Teams will be judged on three criteria: flight distance, creativity of the craft and showmanship. Coleman says he is hoping the pirate performance will help give them an edge in the showmanship category. He thinks the light-weight Walp will be able to achieve good distance in the air. As for creativity, that was still in development as of late July as the team continued to design and build its way to a winning entry.
“We have high hopes of making a big splash,” Coleman said. “Either way, we are going to have fun in the process.”
Gates open at 11 a.m., and the first craft launches for flight after noon. For more information, including rules, photos, and video footage from past Red Bull Flugtag events, visit the Internet website: www.RedBullFlugtag.com.

• Don Ward is the editor, publisher and owner of RoundAbout. Call him at (812) 273-2259 or email: info@RoundAbout.bz.

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