Saturday was Red Bull’s Philadelphia (actually, it was Camden) Flugtag. Not familiar with flugtag? This is a series of events, held around the world, where teams enter their own homemade flying machines in a contest to see whose device can fly the farthest.
There was very little fluging. I’ve heard that the farthest flight was an astounding 35 feet, which is just barely better than the world record for long jump without a 30-foot-high barge and fake wings to help you. Based on the devices I saw, they are not allowed to be powered at all–just a glider. Also based on what I saw, a rational possibility for actual flight is not required and possibly even actively discouraged. Most teams seemed less interested in trying to come up with something air-worthy and more interested in standing there in silly costumes trying to attract attention to themselves, before shoving their papier-mache thing into the Delaware River in front of some of their friends and a whole bunch of other people who showed up for the free Red Bull.
I hate to say it, but it was boring. Watching people I don’t know shove poorly conceived and constructed wrecks off a barge just lost its appeal really really quickly. Some of the teams had clever ideas, but none of those clever ideas were aeronautical. And then there was the incessant press of humanity, and one knows how I just love the assholes-and-elbows type crowds.
The walk back over the Ben Franklin Bridge was very enjoyable, though, and it afforded great views of the size of the crowd, including the armada of small motorboats that had the best vantage point for la gran fracasa.