Saluki Flugtag team competes in Chicago

Southern Illinois University



Saluki Flugtag team competes in Chicago

September 23, 2013, Jordan Vandeveer

While most pilots wore swim trunks, Mitchell Hendrickson, a senior from Monroe Center studying aviation technologies, took flight in boots, jeans and a black leather jacket, just as his character, The Terminator, would have done.

The Last Action Heroes, SIU’s Flugtag team of Hendrickson as the pilot, with a crew of four—Matt Grimsley, Owen Freeman, Ryan Polk, and Brett Johnson— took the stage Saturday with 30 other Flutag teams.

Despite the two-and-half-hour wind delay, The Last Action Heroes were ready to take flight in their handcrafted machine.

Flugtag requires teams of five, with only one member as a pilot, to design an entirely human-powered flying machine, that is less than 28 feet wide and right at or under 400 pounds, including the weight of the pilot.

The national Flugtag competition— flugtag meaning “flight day” in German— was held Saturday in Chicago’s Burnham Park.

“I’m so excited to be here,” said Freeman, a senior from DeKalb studying aviation technologies. “We’ve been working on this thing for long enough, I just want to do it, I’m excited and I think the rest of my team is ready as well.”

Hosted by Red Bull, Saturday’s competition was one of five, with the other four events taking place simultaneously in Washington, Miami, Dallas and Long Beach, Calif.

“I think I can handle it. I’ll pretty much just dive off into the water,” Hendrickson said.

Unfortunately, as soon as the plane lost the surface of the cliff, it nosedived into Lake Michigan. An audible “aww” was heard from the crowd of more than 60,000 people, as many expected The Last Action Heroes to be one of the teams to glide the farthest.

The longest glide at the Chicago Flugtag was 48 feet. The Last Action Heroes went 39 feet.

Teams were judged by a panel for not only their machine’s ability to glide, but also on creativity and showmanship. All teams come up with a unique theme for the machine and team, including costumes.

Before the competition began, the audience had a chance to walk through the area labeled as the hangar, and meet the teams, take pictures and vote for which team they wanted to win the People’s Choice Award.

The Last Action Heroes were a huge crowd pleaser. The team members were dressed up as movie action heroes from the 1980’s, and as people would pass by their machine, they would pose for them and talk to them. The team was eager to let audience members hold their toy guns and get a picture with the team. They also performed a skit to go along with their theme prior to taking flight.

The Last Action Heroes went fourth in the competition, and received the 6th highest amount of votes for the People’s Choice Award.

Hell on Heels, a team from Chicago, won the People’s Choice Award, while Chicago Duck Hunt, also from Chicago, won first place.

At Flugtag Long Beach, the world record was broken with The Chicken Whisperer team, who glided 258 feet.

The Last Action Heroes said they had expected to go at least 100 feet, but they kept in good spirits, saying that maybe they can get it right next year.