Up, up and away.
In the spirit of famous fliers such as Icarus, the Wright brothers or Amelia Earhart, the Nevada team, We “CAN” Do It, is preparing to fly at the Red Bull Flugtag Challenge Sept. 21 in Long Beach, Calif.
“Red Bull”;s whole thing is that it gives you wings,” said John Lopez, one of the team members. “It only makes sense now they want you to fly.”
Participants are tasked with constructing a glider-type machine that has a 28-foot wingspan and weighs 400 pounds, including the pilot.
On the day of the flight, all teams — one pilot and four people to aid in takeoff — launch devices off a 30-foot ramp to see which glider goes the farthest before plummeting into the Pacific Ocean.
All machines must be human-powered, and for safety concerns, certain materials, such as cables and ropes, are restricted.
This year, We “CAN” Do It is slated to join 31 teams from across the nation.
First-place winners earn the right to go skydiving with the Red Bull Air Force team.
Keith Markland, who brought the group together, had been obsessed with the Flugtag event since he discovered it.
He watched the gliders take off live in San Francisco 11 years ago and competed for the first time in 2003.
In 2010, he decided to re-enter the Flugtag.
Markland enlisted co-workers and friends Juan Ramirez, Dustin Schoonover and T.J. Toia to join him in his adventure.
“I had submitted four or five ideas,” he said. “You can submit as many as you want. They picked my ‘Green Machine”; idea.”
The theme centered around being environmentally friendly.
Covered in material ranging from newspapers to recycled cans, the team burst onto the stage with bizarre costumes that also reflected being “green.”
After finishing in second place, the team is returning, adding a few more members.
Markland was surprised to be chosen again considering that about 3,000 applications are submitted each year.
All are brainstorming and testing ideas to make the design go farther than last time — let alone all the other teams.
“None of us are really aeronautical engineers,” Lopez said. “We have been using Google a lot. It”;s a learning curve. We watch a lot of videos and see what does and doesn”;t work.”
Lopez estimates that the team will spend about 180 hours working on the project in their Henderson build site.
The hardest thing, he added, is not being able to test the actual plane before the Flugtag. The device is designed, essentially, to sustain only one flight.
“This is a one-time journey,” he said.
Lopez said it”;s good to have Markland on the team since he has been a Flugtag enthusiast for many years.
“It”;s good he knows the layout of the day,” Lopez said. “I would hate to go in blind and not know what to expect.”
Ramirez pilots the plane.
“People ask me if I”;m crazy,” he said. “It”;s not crazy. It”;s just fun.”
Lopez said Ramirez will use his weight to shift the plane back and forth to help it last longer.
“We hope to make a splash, not a crash,” Lopez said. “We want to sit him down as light as a feather.”
The team won”;t be judged on flight distance alone.
Creativity in the design and showmanship are also contributing factors when being rated.
Regardless of if they win, Markland thinks he will continue to enter Red Bull Flugtag competitions.
Red Bull Flugtag was inspired by other creative minds who foresaw flying, whether it was Leonardo da Vinci, who sketched a hang glider-type device in the 1400s or Otto Lilienthal, who designed more than 2,500 long-distance hang gliders.
Flugtag, which means fly day in German, officially began in 1992 in Austria.
The competition journeyed around the world and landed in the U.S. nearly a decade later.
“I love to see people around the world come together over this,” Lopez said. “Even if you don”;t have a common language, everyone knows the concept of flight. It”;s almost like slapstick humor. Everyone gets it.”
The event has evolved this year into the inaugural Red Bull Flugtag national, where the event is scheduled to take place in five cities on the same day.
For more information about the team, visit facebook.com/pages/We-CAN-do-it/283464575132717.
Contact Henderson/Anthem View reporter Michael Lyle at email@example.com or 702-387-5201.