Local duo competes in Red Bull Flugtag Chicago

n Locals will try to make Zamboni fly Aug. 9 in Chicago’s Monroe Harbor near Navy Pier

“We want to take the least aerodynamic machine ever built and make it fly,” said Shane Theiss, the son in a father-son duo from Rockford that will be competing in the Red Bull Flugtag event Aug. 9 along the waterfront between Navy Pier and Shedd Aquarium in Monroe Harbor in Chicago. “Plus, I love hockey,” Shane added.

Flugtag, which is pronounced FLOOG-TOG, means “flying day” in German. The Red Bull Flugtag is a human-powered attempt at flying. Participants spend about two months designing and building handmade, human-powered flying machines. No engines are allowed.

Teams, which consist of one pilot and up to five teammates, launch their craft off the end of a 25-foot ramp into a body of water. Teams are judged on distance, creativity and showmanship. The farthest flight to-date took place in Europe, reaching 195 feet. The farthest American flight is 70 feet, set in Austin, Texas, this spring. Grand prize is a pilot’s training course, or $7,500 cash equivalent. Second prize is paragliding lessons or $3,000 cash equivalent. And third prize is skydiving lessons or $1,500 cash equivalent. A prize will also be awarded for most creative plane.

The Theiss’ will be sporting an aircraft called the “Flying Zamboni.”

“I came up with the idea, but I would have no idea how to make it actually fly,” Shane said. “That’s where my dad comes in. He’s the logistical guru.”

Enter Cal Theiss and his friend Mel Conner. Add Wes McClendon, Shane’s co-worker, and Chris Picci, an old friend of the family, and you have five people in Rockford all committed to this impossible dream.

“It actually looks like it might take flight,” Shane said. “The planing stages are done, we’ve got a scale model and production begins the weekend of the 12th (July) in my backyard. We’ve shown it to some people who know about these things adn the possiblity of it, well, I wouldn’t say flying, but falling with style, is good.”

Given that Shane has barefoot water-skiid, naked, at more than 45 mph, he is the obvious choice for pilot of this unique craft. In this case, he will be neither naked nor barefoot, but costumed as a Zamboni driver.

“We’re doing a whole theme,” Shane said.

Other team members will portray a referee, a hockey player, and a figure skater. For music, an original composition by Shane’s cousin’s band about driving a Zamboni, will be modified to be about flying a Zamboni.

Red Bull Flugtag Chicago received more than 400 applications, of which 37 teams were chosen.

For more information about the event, visit www.redbullflugtagchicago.com or contact Melissa Cooper at (323) 866-6022.

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