Red Bull Flugtag is not like most aviation events – after all, you’re not likely to see a bright yellow duck cruising up the runway at this week’s Dubai Airshow.
A spectacle of wacky, home-made flying machines, the Flugtag (German for “flying”), started out in Vienna, Austria, in 1992, and the bird-brained creations of its competitors have been hitting headlines around the world ever since. On Friday November 27, the competition returns to Dubai, where wannabe aviators will descend on Dubai Creek Park, and spectators will line up to watch them attempt to soar off the nine-metre-high platform (and probably plummet into the waters below).
Among the challengers this year is an all-female (save for the male pilot) team of aviation engineering students who hope their invention will take to the skies, not just for their own pride, but to prove a bigger point. Under the team name Yooruae, Sundos Almatrooshi, Maryam Eissa, and sisters Amel and Manal Rafee, have designed a glider that they think could secure them a successful flight, and that elusive Red Bull trophy. Fellow student Saeed Al Bishry is the team’s fearless pilot (and, perhaps luckily, an avid, licensed skydiver).
The students are fun-loving, smart and ambitious, and as we chat in their workshop surrounded by replica planes, a whiteboard covered in diagrams and racks filled with tools, the team tell us that they hope to break the world record with their craft. Engineer Amel Rafee notes that they have stereotypes to break, too. “People say we local Emirati women can’t do anything, like we’re only here to care for children, but that’s wrong. We can do everything.”
Around the world, the Flugtag has seen some truly crazy designs, from gliding Winnebagos to flying tacos, but the Yooruae team are far more focused on the reach of their flight than raising a laugh among their audience. They’re not in it to be wacky – as Rafee says, they’re all about the win. “We don’t have an engine and we know it’s not going to fly far, but we want it to get a good distance – that’s our goal.”
Red Bull Flugtag. Free for spectators. Friday November 27. Dubai Creek Park, Umm Hurair, www.redbullflugtag.com.