There’s no event like it in the world. The Red Bull Flugtag is a unique combination of ingenuity and insanity for amateur thrill-seekers.
“Flugtag” is the German word for airshow. The event is a parade of aerodynamic floats, ending with a dismount from a 30-foot platform. Each performance is judged on flight distance and craft originality.
The signature moment of each teams lasts only seconds, but the time spent leading up to it is seemingly endless.
Darren Weirich and his team spent 3-months on this project. They designed the craft to look like a flaming “Big Tex,” paying homage to the State Fair of Texas icon. An electrical fire caused the iconic statue to go up in flames in 2012. A new version was revealed in September 2013.
"Big Tex is an icon of the state," said Weirich. "So this is the first one in North Texas and we really wanted to play it up. So we modeled our craft after Big Tex in that event. So we have some flames going along side of him. The head, we wanted to make it look as realistic as possible."
"I'm thrilled. We've had people come in who don't know what we're doing and have no clue what this is all about and the minute they walk in and say 'are y'all guys doing the new Big Tex?' No, it’s for flugtag."
In total, the craft took 2,000 work hours and $3,000 to build. Each flugtag has a weight requirement. The team elected Rob Cahill to be the pilot because he’s the lightest.
"I've lost 16 pounds now in the last 9 weeks, and like I said, I didn't have a lot to lose,” said Cahill. “It’s kind of crazy, but every pound I lose is a pound we can put into the machine and it only helps the team and our flexibility in this contest."
"I think all of us on the team are more nervous for Rob than Rob is for Rob," said Weirich.
"Between the winds, and the size and the shape that go into our materials that go into our craft, I don't know where I'm going to end up and how I'm going to end up,” said Cahill. “So yeah, I'm nervous about that a little bit, but it'll be fine."
Dressed in State Fair of Texas food costumes, Weirich and his team felt confident during the moments leading up to the dismount.
In front of 92,000 people gathered at Lake Carolyn in Irving, the Big Tex craft crumbled three feet before the end of the platform and went tumbling into the water. Pilot Rob Cahill went spinning, end-over-end and crashed into the water. It made for a thrilling fall, but a disappointing finish for the men who spent most of their summer putting the craft together.
"We had a catastrophic failure three feet before the end of the runway," said Cahill. "The entire cage collapsed inside the head to the left, I guess because of the weight and the wind.”
“And I tried to push it back up, to get to there, but then the wheel feel off. And so then I started going sideways, I started to do a back flip, I hit about ten things, I don't even remember."
"He said I'll make next year's blooper reel for the most death-like fall."