UNH alumni compete in ‘flying’ competition
Published: Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, September 24, 2013 01:09
A group of recent graduates attempted to fly up to the Greek gods this past weekend. Far from a joke, five UNH alumni banded together to represent the state of New Hampshire at the National Red Bull FlugTag event in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 21.
The team of UNH grads: Matt Golde (‘11, ‘13), Eric Doe (‘11), Chris Wood (‘10, ‘12), Kit Quay (‘11, ‘13) and Tom Zakarron (‘11, ‘13), adopted the name “Zero to Hero,” inspired by the Disney movie, “Hercules.”
The German word, FlugTag (pronounced flooh-tahg) originally translated to “flying day,” but is now synonymous with a worldwide event hosted by RedBull. The first event was held in Austria in 1992.
More than 20 years after the original day of flight in Vienna, teams from across the country are attempting to soar through the air as they push their craft and chosen pilot 150 feet down a runway.
Crafts can be any sort of mechanisms that teams choose to build. The only guidelines are that the wingspans be 28 feet, and that the craft not exceed 400 pounds, pilot included.
While preparing for the event, the team of UNH alumni was apprehensive, but seemed ready.
“The wings [of Pegasus] really work,” Golde said. “We think we’ll get a good float for a second.”
“[We’re] more excited than nervous,” he said in the days leading up to the event.
“My goal [for the craft] is 20 feet of flight,” Wood said.
Golde’s goal was a little more extraneous.
“[My goal is] not having it completely explode before we get to the end of the runway,” Golde said. “Again, it’s call a craft because there’s so many options and variations to what people build. Some people build planes, some people build horses.”
Before pushing Pegasus down the runway, the team was supposed to perform a small skit or dance on the runway. Zero to Hero dressed in ancient Greek attire.
“We made up our dance the night before, in our hotel room,” Golde said.
Quay was dressed as Hercules, the other four men as the singing choir.
“We just made up some dance moves, and practiced it maybe ten times,” Golde said.
It was from there that Zero to Hero muscled its Mount Olympus craft, the combination of a 28-foot-wingspan Pegasus and Giza-pyramid-esque wheeled “mountain,” down a 150-foot runway at National Harbor.
“Alright, they’re ready to do a Herculean flight,” the announcer said.
And then they fell: 30 feet down into the National Harbor. More precisely, Quay and the craft nose-dove into the water. Like many of their competitors, their craft “failed” to fly and crashed.
“I didn’t know what had happened,” Quay said. She had been sitting atop Pegasus as the sole pilot. The other four teammates were the manpower (no pun intended). “Seeing the video was just like oh my god … that’s what we did.”
“I believe in the flying business that’s what they call a teeter-totter,” the male announcer said.
According to RedBull’s official event videos, Zero to Hero’s performance was less than spectacular points-wise, their craft “flying” between approximately 30 and 40 feet.
“They’re not meant to go far,” Wood said.
In fact, the record for FlugTag is 150 feet of flight. Regardless, teams’ crafts range in creativity from flying animals and planes to more obscure structures.
Golde said that one year a team built a boxing ring and boxed while going off the edge of the runway.
After the exhibition, Zero to Hero’s craft was hoisted up via a giant crane and thrown into a trash compactor. Months of work burned in the incinerator.
“It wasn’t too sad,” Quay said. “If it flew really well then I think I would have been more upset, but since it crashed it was good riddance.”
The reason for pursuing such an odd challenge?
“We’re engineers,” Golde said. “It’s in our blood to build things.”