Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Flugtag Comes to Portland

Two of my sons and I were three of 80,000 that gathered around the waterfront in Portland on Saturday for a very special event - the last one like it happened here in 2004. Obama rally? Nope, that was in May and only 75,000 attended that event.

No, this was the Red Bull Flugtag - the best-attended event held in Portland by many accounts. Think of it as our version of Woodstock, or another notch in the "Keep Portland Weird" belt.

Marketwire explains it best:

While Portland packed in the crowds in 2004, today's event set a new local record as swarms of Oregonians came out to watch the brave, creative and often slightly crazy launch human-powered flying machines off a 30-foot ramp at Tom McCall Waterfront Park. Though "Flugtag" means "flying day" in German, there weren't any average aviators today: a Chinese takeout box, a pot of gold and a giant wiener were just a few of the crafts that took to the skies.

While there has never been a limit on creativity, there were a few rules and regulations. First off, all flying machines had to be entirely human-powered (no external energy sources or stored power). Secondly, all crafts had to be less than 30 feet wide. And finally, no matter what they say, size does matter -- all crafts had to weigh no more than 450 lbs. (including the pilot).

The first Red Bull Flugtag took place in Vienna, Austria, in 1991. Since then, more than 40 Red Bull Flugtags have been held around the world -- from Ireland to San Francisco -- attracting nearly 300,000 spectators. The record for the farthest flight to date currently stands at 195 feet set in 2000 at Red Bull Flugtag Austria. The U.S. record stands at 155 feet set just last year at Red Bull Flugtag Nashville.

The story fails to mention that the 'crafts' launch off the ramp into the Willamette River, some 25 feet below. Taking into account that some of the crafts were more than ten feet high, you had crazy pilots launching themselves about 40 feet straight down into the suspicious waters of the Willamette, followed by their crews, who were also obligated to jump into the river per Flugtag rules.

For that many people, it was really well run and it was shockingly easy to get around.

I shot some good video but not as good as this guy:

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