SLUG REPORT > Flight machines fueled solely by human power are hard to come by these days. But last Saturday, Nov. 10, San Francisco’s McCovey Cove welcomed a carefully selected 35 teams that tried their hand at human-powered flight. This year’s event was the 10th anniversary of Red Bull’s Flugtag, which in German, translates to “Flying Day.”
Since 2002, teams have jumped at the opportunity to launch their homemade human-powered flying machines off a 30-foot high flight deck in San Francisco. This year, however, was a noteworthy one for Santa Cruzans because a team of UC Santa Cruz classmates and friends competed. Their team, When Slugs Fly, represented our Surf City and the university by dressing up in banana suits and performing a skit prior to pushing their giant banana craft (with the pilot onboard) into hopeful flight.
“It’s such a challenging and fun concept—creating a theme, building a craft and executing it [skit and all],” says Greg Gerschenson, pilot of the When Slugs Fly team.
Gerschenson says that they first began building their flight craft in early October and that “being together as a team has given us a one-of-a-kind experience that hardly anyone else can say they’ve had.”
So how did the team’s craft handle the 30-foot drop? Not well, reports Gerschenson.
“I believe it went in upside down about 18 feet from the starting point,” he says, adding that he then was able, as pilot, to go about 30 feet, “which was a lot more than a majority of the crafts that had wings.”
The team did not place among the winners, although Gerschenson reports that the judges liked the banana craft.
“I believe [our loss] was a result of not having wings at all and being in a huge banana made out of a shopping cart,” he says. “The teams that won deserved it, though—they truly got their wings and were able to glide.”
Even though they walked away without a win (or a successful flight), the When Slugs Fly pilot says the team got a lot out of the experience.
“The competition was a lot of fun,” he says. “I think our whole team really appreciated it and we had the most fun we’ve ever had together. There was a lot of rallying for votes, dressing up in silly costumes and waiting for the jump. To see the response from so many people that were from Santa Cruz or from our school up there was spectacular.”
He recommends everyone give the Flugtag a go.
“If you have the chance, do a Red Bull Flugtag,” he says. “It is such a crazy experience and, in the end, everyone walked away winners. It’s the memories you get from this event and being able to do something noone else can say they did that makes the event special.”
Find info about the competition online at redbullflugtagusa.com.