2015 Flugtag is in Portland OR. To all of you competing... May the wind be in your favor, and no water go up your nose. Good Luck!
Red Bull's Flugtag event is a huge carnival. An estimated 92,000 people attended the festival on September 21, 2013 at lake Caroline, Irving Texas – the event I took part in. (http://blog.iavm.org/red-bull-flugtag-the-wright-brothers-meet-the-marx-brothers/). And you and four friends could be on center stage as you show off your majestic flying contraption on the next FLUGTAG!!!!
Red Bull treated the flight teams very well, we attended several parties, were provided first class accommodations the entire weekend of the event, ALL the Red Bull you can drink (including red bull cocktails), and meals.
In addition, we met celebrities, got airtime on TV and received individual press coverage from our local newspaper.
So how do you become one of the elite flight crew? How do you get chosen to compete among the hundreds of applicants? And once you are chosen, what do you do next?
Flugtag is not just about the 60 seconds on the platform and the 5 second plummet into the water. A lot of things happen months before the main event. Just remember that if you do get chosen as one of the 30 teams that will compete, to squeeze as much fun as you can out of those months.
I hope this guide provide you with success in Flugtag.
Attached is a PDF of the "Pilot Handbook" handed out to all the teams. Feel free to check it out.
Step 1: Materials and Tools
Time and Money and Creativity.
Actual materials needed will depend on how you want to make your flying contraption. Examples of materials include PVC pipes, plastic film, plywood, assorted screws, wood dowels., aluminum, steel, duct tape, assorted glues, rope.
Basic tools would be needed. Hammer, nails, screws, drill, screw driver, wrench, rubber mallet, heat gun, hot glue gun.
Some of the flying machines were made of welded steel or aluminum.
In my teams case, the plywood ribs that made up the wings were cut using a computer numerically controlled (CNC) router.
Step 2: Get Red Bull to Notice You
The email address we used was firstname.lastname@example.org. We sent several messages to that email address until someone responded. We basically made a pest of ourselves for a few days until we got someone to respond. We sent pictures of our team, diagrams of our plane, storyboards of our skit, and endless emails begging to be considered.
Create Facebook.Twitter, Instagram and Youtube accounts for your team. Get people to like and subscribe to those accounts.
Pay attention to the red bull website. Look for promotional notices that they are taking applicants for contestants. The teams will need months to build their aircrafts, so Red Bull will start promoting the Flugtag team search in the spring. Once you know the date applications will be accepted, the next step is to locate and contact the regional event promoter. Get someone from the email above to give you the name and direct contact of the regional promoter in your area. The regional promoter will be your ally up to the very end of the event. Make good friends with the regional event promoter/manager. Making him/her like your team will go a long way towards getting chosen as a contestant, getting good placement and promoting your team during the event. The event manager we contacted for the Texas event was Kendre Hoggard. She told us when deadlines were, locations for meetings and parties, booked our hotel, got us our swag, promoted us to local media, etc, etc.
Step 3: Create Memorable Characters and Make a Video
You have to stick in their minds. You have to catch their attention in the first five seconds and drill into their heads that your team will give tens of thousands of people a lot of good fun. And you will provide Red Bull with great, quirky, crazy promo video material. So have fun and create a theme and characters that is crazy, wild, fun, memorable and can be used to promote red bull.
Then make a 1 minute video showcasing that craziness.
Why just one minute? Because the judges have to sit through hundreds of videos to pick out 30 teams. Don't give them diluted material that is 10 minutes long. They will stop your video a minute into it and forget you. The first 5 seconds should make them think or say out loud “WTF!” and keep them wanting to see more. End on a high note or a cliffhanger. Make them want you. Here is our video.
For our experience we submitted the video above on May 21, 2013.
This was the response May 24 from one of the reviewers.
Sent: Friday, May 24, 2013 2:21 PM
Subject: RE: FW: FlugTag Dallas/Ft. Worth Entry Question about theme
OH MY GOODNESS!!!
I LOVE YOUR VIDEO!!! I am cracking up over here. Seriously, AWESOME. Great job!!!!
On June 12 we received this email.
Sent: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 1:18 PM
Subject: Red Bull National Flugtag; AND THE WINNERS ARE...
Hello Red Bull Flugtag Dallas/Ft. Worth applicants!
Let me be the first to tell you THANK YOU for your amazing applications. Out of the 368 applications we received for Dallas/Ft. Worth -yes, three HUNDRED and sixty-eight, and 1400 nationwide- almost all of them were incredibly creative, well-thought out applications. With that being said, let me also be the first to tell you this:
Your team has been selected to compete in Red Bull Flugtag Dallas/Ft. Worth 2013!!
You are now part of a very select group – and will be part of Flugtag history on September 21st.
If you do things right you too will get an email like this on the next Flugtag event. Good luck
Step 4: Design Your Plane
Here is what we learned from our experience. Don't go too big. Keep it simple stupid (KISS). Don't follow the rules and guidelines they give you (or be very loose in interpreting those rules). Wing span is overrated. Make it light. Use lots of duct tape and packaging tape. Try to go as cheap as possible. Airfoil and aerodynamics is overrated.
Big plane also means BIG Headache transporting it to the event site.
Our plane did not do well, it was huge and impressive and flew like a brick. Actually, it flew worse than a
brick. I am quite sure a brick would have flown three times further than our plane did. Why? We went BIG. The wingspan was 20 feet. What we did not count on was one of our pusher hurting his knee and a headwind that kicked our plane's butt. The end result was we could not get enough forward speed. Learning from our mistake, go smaller, slimmer, nose heavy, and have pusher with good knees.
I'll just give you lots of pictures of our “plane” and some build videos. Have fun making your own
Step 5: Some Build Videos
Here are some videos of us building our craft...
CNC of wing ribs.
Assembly of the wings part 1.
Assembly of the wings part 2.
Step 6: Rules?! Screw the Rules!
Here are the plane design rules we were given:
- dimensions are 20 feet long, 28 feet wide and 10 feet tall.
- Total weight to be 400 pounds including the pilot.
- Pilot to be positioned on TOP of plane.
- Pilot can not be enclosed.
- Pilot cannot have walls or bars around him/her higher than 1 foot above ankles.
- No SEATS.
- Pilot must be STANDING our crouched, NOT seated or straddling.
- Pilot cannot be strapped or tied to craft.
- Craft will be operated by one pilot and FOUR pushers.
- N0 fireworks, pressurized effects, fire or projectiles.
The record breaking plane broke a couple of the rules above. Most of the planes that went off the ramp had at least one rule infraction. Don't try to adhere to the rules they give. One of the rules we followed to the letter was the weight limit. We were under the weight limit with a lot of engineering and sacrificing. When we got there, they did not even weigh the plane. The judges asked us the weight, we told them, and they took our word for it. Rule 9 was ignored. Like I said, we lost a pusher. We later found out and saw that the Red Bull Safety crew on the flight deck were helping the other team push off the ramp. Some planes had 6 pushers. Turns out all we had to do was ask. So, like I said, do not be a stickler when it comes to rules.
Step 7: Extra Credit Work
As you build, Red Bull will enlist you to give them promotional material and social media traction. We found this to be very distracting to the real challenge of getting our plane completed. We were told to compete with other teams to get the most likes in Facebook, the most followers in twitter, the most likes in youtube, the most number of celebrity endorsements, etc, etc. Each task was given with a deadline. The winner received a “Badge.” Don't let this distract you from the main task of getting the plane done. Do the absolute minimum on these extra promotional tasks. The badges are pointless. If your plane flies the farthest, you win. Even if you are dead last on popularity votes. Get the plane done, and done right.
Here is a video of one of the extra credit work we had to create. It was a youtube video to promote Flugtag. It was a hot day in the summer in Texas. What we really wanted to do was be inside the building working on our plane. you can tell we really were not inspired to make this video.
Step 8: Exercise - Get in Shape or Get Hurt
Everyone on the team needs to be in good shape.
The pilot needs to have a strong core.That means abdomen and specially your back and shoulders. When the
plane crashes into the water, the back, shoulders and neck will be the areas that could get injured if it is weak.
The pushers need strong legs, arms and backs.
The pushers should work on sprints, pushups, legs press and squats. You want speed off that ramp.
Step 9: Prep Day
The day before the event, all teams show up and are given a designated 20' x 20' space (the hanger). You will also be given a window of time to show up. No matter what time they tell you to show up, just show up in the morning. You will need that entire day to assemble you plane and make final preparations. Show up in the morning. Be ready for any weather. It rained when we were building our plane. The ground was so muddy, everyone kept loosing their shoes in the mud.
Remember to bring all the necessary tools to assemble the plane. Hammers, drills, bits, screws. For our team, we had 3 cordless drills, two hammers, a rubber mallet, two power screwdrivers, a saw and a set of wrenches. Even then we still had to borrow a tool from a neighbor.
ROPE, bring lots of ROPE. Red Bull will supply the duct tape. The plane will spend the evening in an open field in your “hanger.” Don't worry, there will be armed guards watching over them. The evening prior to the event, there was 15 mph wind. That is why we had rope.
Once the plane is complete, go check in to the 5 star hotel Red Bull booked you in, take a shower, and locate
the bar and grill Red Bull reserved for the evening for the pre-flight party.
Step 10: Flugtag = Flight Day!!! (part 1)
On flight day, you hang out in your hanger as they let the spectators in. The spectators are allowed to visit all the planes and talk to the teams. This is the time to have fun. You will have 2-3 hours of people talking to you and taking lots and lots of pictures. Red Bull will cater lunch for all the teams. I think I drank 4 red bulls that day. Red Bull employees kept giving them to me. Work up the crowd. Make them love you. Have fun in the spotlight. Have FUN.
Then the spectators are told to leave the hanger area. The hanger area is sealed off from the crowd. And the teams are guided one at a time towards the ramp that leads to the flight deck. 40 feet long, and 30 feet above the water. This is when the nerves kick in, the adrenaline courses through your blood (or it could be all that Red Bull). I was the pilot. I climbed atop my craft, our music began...
60 seconds later, I feel the craft lurch forward and the edge approached in an instant... and I am past the edge.
We made it to the Dallas "Best Crash" collection.
Step 11: Flugtag = Flight Day!!! (part 2)
Like I said before, you need to learn from my experience. Go lighter, smaller, slimmer, with fast pushers and short wings. Be under the wing, not over it. Have the center of gravity under the wing. The pilot is the heaviest thing on the plane. So where ever the pilot is will be the center of gravity. Ask the safety crew on the deck to help your crew push and guide your plane off the ramp. It is very critical that the plane is properly guided off the ramp. Especially if the wind is not in your favor. It does not hurt to ask, and they will most likely do it.
We did not ask. A very strong gust of wind hit my right wing just as I was going past the edge. The right
wing lifted very high prematurely and the left wing crashed into the deck. I hit the water a second later. Official numbers says 6 feet, looking at the footage, I am guessing more like 10-12 feet. They don't measure where the plane lands, they measure where the pilot enters the water. As soon as I surfaced, I tapped my hand on the top
of my helmet – signaling to the safety crew and the crowd that I am OK.
Once the plane is clear and the water is safe, the pushers are allowed to jump in. One of our pushers with the bad knee opted out. What we were not told was that there is a point deduction for each team member who does not jump. So I guess it is also important to have team members who are fearless, or crazy, or stupid. What ever it takes to take that 30 foot fall into the water. As the pilot, I am not fearless, but I am the latter two.
After your flight/crash, have a small speech ready. As soon as you get out of the water, there will be a camera crew and an interviewer in your face asking you questions. Have something funny and fun to say. Why? because Red Bull has a Jumbotron and lots of huge speakers and a live video feed for the 90 thousands people watching you. Spotlight – Have FUN!!!
Step 12: Conclusion
I hope your team gets accepted. I also hope you enjoyed the pictures and videos I shared. Now go find an adventure!!!!!!!!!!!!!