Over-Caffeinated Amateur "Aviation"

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This past Sunday New York City's Hudson River Park was assaulted by 35 teams of amateur "aircraft" builders competing for a $7,500 "pilot's training course or cash equivalent" grand prize. An impressive precision parachute jump originated from a helicopter and ended atop the event's floating 30-foot-wide launch pad to open the event. Competitors then began pushing their often-absurd human-powered craft (one was a giant paper airplane) off the end of the 25-feet-above-river-level launch with the help of a 10- to 15-knot tailwind. It was all part of an otherwise shameless promotion of Red Bull energy drink dubbed Flugtag New York, 2003. The av-savvy may have most enjoyed the winning team's 39-foot flight, but there was no lack of entertainment for diving fans, either. Second place managed almost 36 feet after four team members holding onto a rope jumped off the launch pad to catapult the Mighty Whirl in a graceful arc into the drink. For diving fans, the pad's altitude offered the crowd (estimated at 40,000) the somewhat sadistic pleasure of watching team after team splash down before being fished out by diving teams supplied by New York's Finest (the cops) ... and a salvage crew. Future Flugtags are coming this year to San Fransico and Miami.