Machines to Take to the Air (Briefly)

Have you ever wanted to see dozens of homemade, human-powered flying machines drop from a 30-foot pier, attempt to take flight, and then fall into the Delaware River? If so, you’re going love the Red Bull Flutag, which takes place this weekend on the river in Camden.

The event, which is the brainchild of Red Bull energy drink owner Dietrich Mateschitz, has taken place in more than 35 cities around the world since 1991. It will unfold from 11 AM to 4 PM this Saturday on the Camden Waterfront.

The premise of Flutag (pronounced Floo-Tog) is simple: Amateur teams get together months in advance and design eclectic flying machines. And when I say eclectic, I mean really, really eclectic. When I attended Flutag two years ago, I saw dudes trying to fly everything from machines meant to look like Wright Brothers-era planes to enormous winged sneakers, houses, and even a gigantic banana.

According to the official rules, each craft must be “powered by muscle, gravity, and imagination” as it’s pushed down a short runway by team members and launched off the pier. Inevitably, the flying machines crash into the waters below—which means they must also be unsinkable and made from environmentally friendly materials.

Teams are judged in three categories: distance, creativity and showmanship. The record for the longest flight is 229 feet (set earlier this year in Germany), but most craft only travel a dozen feet (if that) before heading into the drink.

If you’re looking for a team to root for, your might want to consider cheering on Boats & Bros. The team includes South Jersey natives Sam Canales, Andrew Komito, Ryan Kenney, Kyle Crawford and Jeremy Cruz. These five friends—who have known each other since their days at Winslow Township High School—have been working on their flying machine—which resembles an actual sailboat—almost every night since early August.

“The building of our craft has definitely been a work in progress,” says Crawford. “When we started we tried to follow the blueprints we came up with, but unfortunately we would run into one problem or something we overlooked. So we ended up changing our plans a little bit every so often.”

Whether you’re there to root for Boats & Bros or simply looking for a unique way to spend a Saturday, Flutag is an event unlike any other.

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