Sophie Bolich

Launching Homemade Aircraft Into Lake Michigan

Meet the teams competing in Milwaukee's first Flugtag, sponsored by Red Bull.

By - Jul 5th, 2022 05:26 pm
Red Bull Flugtag Vienna, Austria 2021 Flight. Photo courtesy of Red Bull.

Red Bull Flugtag Vienna, Austria 2021 Flight. Photo courtesy of Red Bull.

Wisconsin’s first-ever Red Bull Flugtag competition is coming to Veterans Park July 16.

Flugtag, a German word meaning “flying day,” will see daring competitors launch their homemade, human-powered aircrafts from a 27-foot-tall flight deck into Lake Michigan. The lineup is diverse: some teams are made up of engineers, others are self-described “neighborhood dads,” but there are sure to be plenty of theatrics and wacky costumes.

One team even has a real pilot manning their aircraft.

Each member of team KN95 Kruiserz, including Brad, the pilot, are technology employees at the employee-owned healthcare equipment company, Direct Supply.

The application process became a “crazy, mad dash” when the team decided to join the competition just 36 hours before the application deadline, said Rick Gearheart, a member of the KN95 Kruiserz.

“I went home and borrowed my daughter’s colored pencils. And then I got some graph paper and drew up a glider plane,” he said.

The team’s creation, Direct Supply Drop Ship, has a launching mechanism comprised of a hospital gurney outfitted with walking canes, which the team claims will be used in an elaborate dance number. The ship itself is structured like a typical monoplane, but will include a shower chair cockpit and an “XXXXXXL” KN95 mask strapped across the nose of the craft.

The plane is coming along great, according to Gearheart. He hasn’t ruled out winning, but said that safety and fun are his top priorities.

“We’re willing to laugh at ourselves here,” he said. “Just talking about it now, every hair on my body is standing up.”

Through donations from friends, family and their employer, the team is raising funds for Dream Flights, a foundation that honors military veterans and seniors with a flight in a Boeing Stearman biplane.

The energy drink company Red Bull organizes Flugtag. The first games took place in 1992 in Vienna. Since then, Flugtag has been held in 60 cities worldwide.

A panel of Wisconsin celebrities will judge contestants based on three criteria: distance, creativity and showmanship. Former Packer wide receiver Donald Driver is a judge, alongside Paige Forde, the star of Kwik Trip’s social media specialist, JMatt, TikTok creator and host of HashtagMKE, Janelle Dumott, a trans showgirl and entertainer and Nick Lorenz, a Red Bull Snocross Athlete.

In order to meet requirements to participate, aircraft dimensions can’t exceed 16 feet in length, a 24 feet wingspan, or 8 feet in height. The craft, including the sole pilot, cannot exceed 400 pounds. Life jackets and helmets are also required for participants.

As of now, a group of five aeronautical engineers from Palo Alto holds the record for the longest flight, 258 feet, set Sep. 21, 2013, in Long Beach, California. The team, The Chicken Whisperers, set the record in front of a crowd of 110,000.

Meet the teams

Mike Hansen, Scott Rademaker, Josh Rademaker and Nick Vonrueden met while singing karaoke. Hailing from Waukesha, team Coming to America designed an aircraft using only sustainable materials. A preliminary design for the aircraft, dubbed Valhalla, shows plans to incorporate a battle drum, a war horn and wings. The team also appears to be planning a skit that will precede the launch.

Buck Yah! is a team of five Marquette engineering graduates. Driven by Wisconsin spirit, the team created “The Buch Mach 12,” a deer-shaped aircraft. The craft will be mounted on three bike wheels and use sailcloth to maximize hang time. The team is raising awareness and money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Wisconsin. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for individuals aged 20-44, and the team says that this cause hits close to home and deserves more awareness.

A group of neighborhood dads from Natosha came together to create Team America. The patriotic group will wear Uncle Sam costumes for the launch of “Free Bird,” 24 by 16-foot red, white and blue eagle complete with “performance smoke” for special effect. Dan Lambert, a father of two, built the team in memory of his veteran brother who dreamed of competing in the Flugtag event. Team America is raising funds in support of the veteran community.

Thanks to team FLYING SCHMEAT, Milwaukeeans may be the first to see pigs fly. The group members, aged 21 to 23, designed their aircraft to resemble a giant, winged bratwurst. The craft is made of lightweight materials like cloth, PVC, plywood and aluminum, and will include grill marks. The team members met at the UW-Madison and have been involved with Feed The Change, Inc. for the past two years through team member Kosta Katsoudas, who recently served as treasurer for the nonprofit. Team FLYING SCHMEAT will raise funds via Go Fund Me for the nonprofit.

Other teams include Farmers Unincorporated, Inglorious Badgers, Flight for your Right to Party and Rim Rockers.

Milwaukee’s Flugtag event will be free for spectators. Gates open at 12 p.m. and the first aircraft will take flight at 1 p.m.


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2 thoughts on “Launching Homemade Aircraft Into Lake Michigan”

  1. RetiredResident says:

    Aircraft is plural form of aircraft, there is no need for the “s”. Just like RPM or deer.

  2. Dave Reid says:

    @RetiredResident. Thanks, of course. Fixed.

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