The day a daring amateur aviator swooped into the history books
How five aeronautical engineers created the ultimate flying machine and broke the Red Bull Flugtag world record.
September 2013, Long Beach, California. In front of an expectant Red Bull Flugtag crowd of 110,000 people, a plucky bunch of five aerospace and mechanical engineers from Palo Alto set out to prove that chickens do know how to fly.
The big picture:
The rules at Red Bull Flugtag are simple. Challengers design and built a human-powered flying machine, and then take flight off an 8.5m-high man-made runway over water. Some fly, some flop.
Standing out from the crowd is far from easy. Ever since the inaugural edition was held in Vienna in 1992, fans have seen everything from flying elephants and gliding hamburgers to pianos with wings and even ET in a bike basket.
The Chicken Whisperers – decked out in head-to-toe hen costumes – won the fans over with a brilliantly choreographed poultry dance routine before unleashing their craft.
After spending four months carefully constructing a streamlined aircraft out of foam, aluminium and balsawood, they took the leap of faith and glided a staggering 78.5m – the length of 261.6 chickens in an orderly line.
The previous world record was eclipsed by a massive nine metres. “I was lucky to catch a nice wind after take-off and I was able to steer the craft, using grip-controlled rudders in the back of the structure, to go even further,” said pilot, Laura Shane.
When The Chicken Whisperers secured their place in the history books, it came just 12 months after ‘Die Rückkehr der Teichfighter’ had set what seemed a stunning world-record distance of 69.79m in Mainz, Germany.
Thousands of amateur aviators have flung themselves off the 8.5m-high platform in the seven years since, yet none have managed to eclipse the distance. So just how long will the record stand?