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At Flugtag, you'll believe a pig — and other things — can fly

Pigs, dutchmen and more will fly — or at least try to — during Saturday's Red Bull Flugtag competition in downtown Tampa.

About 36 teams, each consisting of four pushers and one pilot, will launch human-powered aircraft from a 30-foot-tall ramp set up along the Tampa Convention Center waterfront.

Each team will perform a skit before launching their handmade contraption into the air, or sea, as it may be. A panel of five, including Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Chris Hovan, will judge teams based on distance traveled, creativity of the craft and showmanship on stage.

The winning team will receive a pilot's training course, the second-place team will get skydiving lessons and third place will learn to paraglide. All teams will take home a trophy.

Red Bull began Flugtag (German for "flying day") in 1991. Since then, the energy drink company has sponsored more than 40 competitions worldwide showcasing everything from flying pigs to a 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.

This marks the first Flugtag in the Tampa Bay area. Here are some of the teams.

Booty Snatchin' Pirates

You'd think a group of brainy engineers would have the edge in an aeronautics competition. Greg Roth, the team captain, would like to think so, but isn't taking bets. His team of civil engineers specializes in construction work sites, not flying machines.

Still, they are eager to test Petey the Projectile Pirate Parrot on Flugtag day. The team chose a pirate theme in honor of their adopted city.

Transplants from Michigan and Ohio, the guys will toss beads and shake their booties before launching their wooden pirate ship and glider.

Team Tampa Baywatch

Keith Humphrey refuses to rely on luck and a good breeze to keep his craft in flight.

To prepare for Flugtag, he took four days of glider training, watched hours of video and even flew in an ultralight. His secret weapon? Mr. X, a glider expert in Central Florida who competed at a Flugtag event in Australia.

"We're not in it to crash and burn," he said. "We're in it to win."

Most of the team met as lifeguards at Adventure Island in the late '80s and are big fans of Baywatch. Humphrey, 38, volunteered to pilot because most of the guys are married and have more to lose, he joked.

m 91st Air Refueling Squadron

Andy Reichard (not pictured) and his Flugtag bunch, including Nickolas Harkness, left, and Omar Ellis, aren't strangers to difficult and seemingly dangerous aviation endeavors. As members of the 91st Air Refueling Squadron at MacDill Air Force Base, they make a living refueling planes in the air. Reichard saw the Flugtag advertisement on ESPN and thought it would be fun to get a military squadron involved. Next week, Reichard, 27, leaves for Iraq.

The team's plane looks like a red gas tank with wings because "that's kind of what we are," Reichard said. "We're like a flying gas tank."

The team selected Harkness, the smallest — and, therefore, most aerodynamic — member to man the controls. "He's the guy who goes skydiving," Reichard said. "He doesn't mind being pushed off in a rickety aircraft."

m Tampa Bay Derby Darlins

Brooke Haller, center, isn't afraid to get bumped, bruised or even broken. As a member of the Tampa Bay's all-female roller derby team, she's used to it. The Tampa Bay Derby Darlins, with Haller, Ryan Smith, top, Kelli Ryman (a.k.a. Mae Lest) and Maria Smith (a.k.a. Drew BuryEm'all) won't bring their skates to Flugtag, but they plan to "fight like girls" during the skit.

"I'm not afraid of getting hurt," said Haller, 26, who goes by Spank Sinatra in the rink. "So what if I break something? I'm just worried about the crowd not liking us or doing a bad job on the skit."

UT Spartans Flying Minarets

University of Tampa senior Kyle Wright figures he has walked by the minarets thousands of times during his college career. So it was only appropriate that he and his teammates dedicate their Flugtag machine to Tampa's iconic rooftop emblems.

Wright and his team of UT students and alums will dress up as Spartans, the school mascot, and do their skit based on the movie 300.

Wright, 22, has high hopes for the event, but not their contraption, which was funded by UT's student government.

"We've almost given up on making it fly," said Wright, an international business and political science major. "We just want to make a great minaret."

UT Spartans — Flying Minarets

University of Tampa senior Kyle Wright figures he has walked by the minarets thousands of times during his college career. So it was only appropriate that he and his teammates dedicate their Flugtag machine to Tampa's iconic rooftop emblems.

Wright and his team of UT students and alums will dress up as Spartans, the school mascot, and do their skit based on the movie 300.

Wright, 22, has high hopes for the event, but not their contraption, which was funded by UT's student government.

"We've almost given up on making it fly,'' said Wright, an international business and political science major. "We just want to make a great minaret.''

>>if you go

Red Bull Flugtag

Tampa's Red Bull Flugtag is Saturday behind the Tampa Convention Center. Gates open at 11 a.m. Flights run from 1 to 3:30 p.m., followed by an awards show and jump by the Red Bull Air Force skydiving team. Admission is free.

Parking and viewing information, 7B

>>if you go

Viewing, parking information

Viewing is from the Convention Center, Jackson's Bistro and along Bayshore Boulevard and the Platt Street and Harbour Island Boulevard bridges. Parking is available in downtown lots, or ride the streetcar in from Ybor City. The event will air live on Catch 47 from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. For more, visit

redbullflugtagusa.com.

At Flugtag, you'll believe a pig — and other things — can fly 07/17/08 [Last modified: Thursday, July 17, 2008 11:25pm]
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