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Pilots line up to take flight (and take cover!) at Flugtag

They have dreams of soaring through the air in contraptions even the Wright brothers would hesitate to fly in. Where they land is a matter of design, craftsmanship and luck.

Thirty local teams will compete in this year's Red Bull Flugtag competition, which comes to Tampa this summer for the first time. Each will build a human-powered flying machine that they'll launch from a 22-foot-tall ramp at water's edge. Judges will give awards based on distance traveled, creativity and showmanship.

Teams have until May 16 to apply for the July 19 contest behind the Tampa Convention Center. Entrants must submit a drawing of their proposed aircraft, which can't exceed 450 pounds, pilot included.

Josh Anderson of South Tampa sent his application for team Air Gilligan in a bottle. The 31-year-old had seen commercials for the event on ESPN and thought it would be fun, if not ridiculous, to give it a try.

He recruited four team members and decided on the Gilligan's Island theme after the TV show he watched every day after school as a kid. He secured a warehouse and materials to build the device — mainly bamboo growing in his sister's back yard.

If selected, which is likely, Anderson will play Gilligan, the pilot. The "pushers'' will double as the Skipper, the Professor, Mary Ann and Ginger, who will actually be a guy. Lovey and Thurston Howell III will cheer from the sidelines.

"I think we have pretty good shot at flying this thing,'' said Anderson, a telecommunications consultant who is training to be a real pilot at Peter O. Knight Airport on Davis Islands. "I'm eager to get in it.''

With a helmet, of course. More often than not, crashing quickly is part of the competition.

Red Bull began Flugtag, which means flying day in German, in 1991 in Vienna. Since then, the energy drink has sponsored more than 40 competitions around the world showcasing aircraft wild and weird, from a flying Wonka Bar to a flying popemobile.

The record for the farthest flight — 195 feet — was set in Austria in 2000. The U.S. record, set last year in Nashville, is 155 feet.

Andre Zamudio, 31, thinks his Flying Crawfish can beat that. A manager and marketing rep for Harry's Seafood Bar & Grille in Tampa, he submitted plans for an airborne crustacean that has claws for wings. His pushers would throw Mardi Gras beads. Someone dressed as a chef would chase the crawfish with tongs.

"As soon as I heard Flugtag was coming to Tampa, I could envision a flying crawfish,'' he said.

At 5 feet 4 and 115 pounds, Zamudio says he might have the aerodynamic edge over other contestants. Whereas others might drop like a rock off the end of the ramp, he'll glide gently over the water in his crawfish of 2 by 4s, PVC piping and nylon. At least, that's the plan.

Red Bull Flugtag

To watch the Top 10 Flugtag crashes or to download an application to take part in Tampa's Flugtag event on July 19, go to

Pilots line up to take flight (and take cover!) at Flugtag 05/15/08 [Last modified: Thursday, May 15, 2008 11:53am]
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