Man has always looked at the birds with envy, flight once seemed to be the ultimate dream, just out of reach. Happily times have changed, and although flight is still a dream worth having, it is now no longer an unreachable one.
Although, one must admire the first pioneers, who strapped wood to their arms and flung themselves into the void, and the excitement some of them must have had knowing they got a few seconds of airtime before crashing back to the earth. The Red Bull Flugtag brings back that pioneering excitement, like no other event possible.
The V&A Waterfront, Cape Town held South Africa’s 2012 Flugtag on the 9th of December, with 40 something brave (or stupid) teams taking part, to see who could get some air with their home built flying machines. Ranging from sliding flip-flops (that flopped) to very intricate aerodynamic masterpieces.
Not only the aircraft themselves varied, but those
brave foolish few who had to show so many why flinging yourself off of a 6m high ramp wrapped in some form of contraption, could be so much fun. From school boys, to Silver Falcon air force pilots.
The teams ranged from rugby fans, speaking about a sport that makes no sense, to flying clubs. Many with important messages, like anti-rhino poaching, saving the planet through recycling, or raising awareness for bone marrow donation. Some partook to honour past aviators. Some just for the simple reason of fun.
The day was hot, with a light breeze, pretty much a perfect Cape Town summer day, the crowd arrived early and most who did, spent the first part of the morning sitting in their car, cursing traffic. But once through, the V&A provided many viewing spots, even for the mass of 200 000+ spectators and supporters. My only issue with this was, being a harbour, there were far too many boats blocking the views. But I suppose that’s one of the benefits of being on a boat, you don’t have to deal with the masses (and this is me, really nit-picking).
I took a walk through the “hangers” and took amusement looking at the faces of the pilots, preparing for their first flight (and for all, their last flight in that particular aircraft). Some of them were jolly and full of fun, others obviously had “I’m going to attempt to fly in a home-made death trap, likely crash into a harbour full of jellyfish and oil, maybe to break a bone and drown a horrible stung death while my loved ones watch on” look written across their faces.
Being a pilot myself, I took particular notice of each flying machine I came across, and politely thought silently; “You idiot, why would you think this would fly?” I confess though that there were some really good designs, and provided with a real power source besides human leg power, I’m sure some of them would have flown. The Cape Town Flying Club’s Tigermoth filled me with a bit of biased pride (being the Club that had taught me to fly after all).
Many of the “aircraft” had been damaged the night before, thanks to a rather windy evening. So there were a lot of repairs going on while I explored. Wind often being a friend to flight, also has a nasty habit of turning into a foe.
I have decided not to write about any of the flight attempts, ALL of them had something special about them. There were just so many moments that blurred into one awesome day. A day I have to recommend to everyone. Instead I’ll place all of my images up, including the blurry ones while my auto-focus was having a fit… okay, maybe not all of my images, but a good majority of them. *
Red Bull also provided two displays, from one of the worlds best display pilots, aerobatic legend Glen Dell, as well as something that might have come from a science fiction set; Franky Zapata came to show off what he could do with his Flyboard. The only way I can explain what this contraption does is with this, “…he flies like Iron Man cross-bred with a Dolphin.”
Simply put, thank you Red Bull.
*I’ll have the images linked to this page by the end of the week. So please check back soon 🙂