Hong Kong’s skyline will be filled with unidentified flying objects next Sunday when the second Red Bull Flugtag lands in the city.
Flugtag (“flying day” in German) is a family-friendly, free event bringing together both creative and crazy flying contraptions. Some soar into the sky, some plummet into the sea, but they’re all worth watching.
All planes must be human-powered – no motors, rockets or batteries – so teams usually end up pushing their aircraft and fearless pilot down the runway, hoping for the best. Teams are given 30 seconds for take-off.
From 284 entries (double the number from the last event), 40 competing teams and five corporate sponsor teams have been chosen to send their home-made flying machines off a six-metre-high flight deck at the New Central Harbourfront.
They’ll be judged on three criteria: distance, creativity and performance.
The winner gets a trip to the Red Bull Air Race in Malaysia.
Up to 50,000 people are expected to attend this year’s event which has relocated from West Kowloon.
“I want to see a plane fly really far.
Last year in America, one team broke a world record. It’d be nice to see this in Hong Kong,” says Phillip Pang Chi-hoi, a judge at this year’s event, and winner of the 2010 competition. “I’d also like to see fun performances that make the audience go crazy.”
Of this year’s team, Pang is a fan of the team We Come in Peace, who will operate a glider in an oval tin can.
“They’re so Hong Kong, so local,” he says. He also likes Space Cabbie, a flying saucer that hatches out of something shaped like a Hong Kong taxi.
Flugtag started in Vienna in 1992 and has spread to 68 cities around the world. The furthest distance flown is 78.64 metres in Long Beach, California last year.
Hong Kong was the first Asian city to host the event in 2010 and this edition will be broadcast live on YouTube. Designs range from local to ludicrous, meaningful to absurd.
Team We Come in Peace’s aircraft is a giant replica of the traditional Hong Kong canned food fried dace with salted black beans. The packaging on the tin is a statement against dolphin hunting.
Team member Lee Po-ting says they want to promote the fish as an alternative to dolphin meat.
“We found out the aerodynamics of the fried dace can help our aircraft fly at maximum speed”, he jokes, adding that their pilot will dress up as the Chinese god of war Guan Yu.
“Dolphins are just like Guan Yu: they are very loyal, they save human lives, they surf very well and they are good friends of humans,” Lee says.
“We should hang out with them, not eat them.”
Vocal quartet C Allstar will also take to the skies in a shark-shaped aircraft to raise awareness for conservation group Shark Savers.
Other participants include DJs Sai So and C Gwan, architect Stanley Siu Kwok-kin, YouTube celebrities Darren Cheng and Kenrick Ho, and actor Sam Lee Chan-sum.
Animals, robots and spaceships are the most common designs.
Team T.F.A.W.S., which stands for Tactical Formation & Aerodynamic Weaponry Sector, has built a “vintage science fiction-style” spaceship and team ShenZhou Sheaffer has made a replica of the Chinese spacecraft.
“As Chinese, we are very proud of our country being one of the most advanced space nations,” says Canning To Kai-fung, of ShenZhou Sheaffer.
Teams will also be judged on their costumes and performance. Last time, team Mario Break member Fong Mokit proposed to his wife on the platform.
“We asked our team members if anyone wanted to propose this year, but no one said yes,” he says.
This year, they will dress up as characters from the classic video game Mario Bros. and dance before launching their aircraft in the shape of a 1980s Nintendo console.
Team Eagle Bomber won the coveted best crash award in 2010 with their aircraft Act Anchor, a giant anchor that, like the real thing, only flew south.
“It was unexpected, so we didn’t actually wait for the announcement,” says team member Wan Faan. “We thought that we had achieved our goal – fun.”
This year, they hope their six-metre aircraft inspired by classic Hong Kong wuxia films and with the wings of an eagle will fly majestically.
“All our aviation knowledge basically comes from the local TV series Triumph in the Skies. Captain Tong is our role model,” Wan says.
Mario Break is also determined to make a flying machine that will actually fly. In 2010, they built a giant mahjong tile, an “art piece” they basically just pushed into the sea.
“Last time, most of the planes dropped into the sea,” says Fong.
“This year, we really tried to make a plane that can fly – we want to fly to Tsim Sha Tsui!”
Red Bull Flugtag 2014, May 11, 1pm-6pm, New Central Harbourfront (next to Pier 10), free.