Rockford should consider organizing a Red Bull Flugtag event

By Doug Halberstadt
Sports Columnist

Maybe you’ve heard of the sport of Flugtag, but more than likely, I’m guessing you haven’t. I just heard about it this past weekend. I’ve seen it before, I just never knew it had an official name and, get this, a corporate sponsor.

For the uninitiated, Flugtag is defined as the sport in which competitors attempt to fly homemade human-powered flying machines. Perhaps you’ve seen some of the hilarious videos showing these Wright brothers wannabes launching their bicycle-powered winged sheets of plywood off a pier and into some awaiting body of water.

Most competitors enter for the entertainment value, and the flying machines rarely fly at all, unless you count succumbing to the natural force of gravity as flying. The craft must be powered by muscle, gravity or imagination. Because the aircraft will ultimately end up in the water, it must be unsinkable and constructed entirely of environmentally-friendly materials. That’s Flugtag in a nutshell.

The energy drink Red Bull claims ownership of these “sporting” events around the world. Flugtag is the brainchild of Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz. According to Wikipedia, the format was originally invented in a small seaside town in the south of England under the name “Birdman Rally” in 1971. The first Red Bull Flugtag competition was held in 1991 in Vienna, Austria.

In case you get the urge to build a Flugtag flying machine, here are some guidelines. To participate, each team must submit an application, and their contraption must meet the criteria set forth by Red Bull. In the USA, each flying machine must have a maximum wingspan of 30 feet and a maximum weight (including pilot) of 450 pounds.

The longest Flugtag flight was set in St. Paul, Minn., a couple of weeks ago. You would have to eclipse 207 feet to set the new record. That should give you and your fellow flugtaggers something to shoot for.

I’m thinking Rockford should contact Red Bull and see if we can’t get an event held here. I’m envisioning dozens of teams leaping from the State Street bridge into the Rock River.

I know there is not enough time to put something together for this year’s On the Waterfront, but can you say FLUGTAG ROCKFORD 2011? I’d volunteer to pilot one. I can swim pretty well!

Then, I could write about myself in one of my Knucklehead Athlete of the Week columns.

Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at

From the Aug. 11-17, 2010 issue

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