The Crustacean Avengers proved that Maine ingenuity is equal to any other in the country as the Gorham-based flying team won the 17th annual Red Bull Flugtag competition last Saturday.

The team, comprising five employees from Gorham’s Transformit (which produces and installs interior tension fabric structures), bested 32 other teams to take home first place. They also are the first Maine team to ever compete in the event, which drew nearly 75,000 fans.

“It was pretty amazing,” said team member Mackenzie Case. “We definitely represented Maine well.”

Red Bull Flugtag (pronounced flu-tog) is an event named for the German term for “flying day,” and allows teams from across the country to compete against one another in homemade flying crafts. The teams are judged on distance, creativity and fan support. The group with highest cumulative total wins.

Teams must perform a skit before pushing their crafts down a man-made 130-foot runway and into Lake Michigan.

Crustacean Avengers performed their skit to music, during which team member Christina Senechal – who flew in the machine and was dressed as the Swedish chef from the Muppets – tried to put one of the her teammates, dressed as a lobster, in the lobster kettle pot that served as the crafts cockpit. A struggle ensued and the lobsters victoriously put Senechal in the pot and launched her off the runway, where she eventually landed 120-feet away in Lake Michigan.

“I was terrified because we had watched four planes go off prior to us and every single one of them hit the water with a thud,” Senechal said. “Once I got probably within 10 feet of the edge of the runway my heart just stopped. Once I got off the runway I was very confused because I looked down and all I saw was water, yet I felt like I was still on the runway and I wasn’t sinking at all. It was flying and it actually took my brain a little while to catch up and recognize that I am in flight.”

Not only did the Crustacean Avengers fly, but they were the only team whose craft didn’t break upon hitting the water.

“It was like an anchor in the water and the organizers had problems getting it from the water. That was pretty funny,” said team member Arunas Bukauskas.

More than 250 teams submitted applications for the event and only 33 were chosen.

The Gorham group was unsure how the craft would perform heading into the competition because members finished building it on Sept. 2, one day before driving to Chicago.

It couldn’t complete a runway test, but it did drop it from the rafters of Transformit and glided to the floor.

“We could tell that the way it held the air and the way it came down from the ceiling that it seemed solid,” Senechal said. “It was pretty inspiring.”

Crustacean Avengers had worked to build the flying craft since August. The craft was built of lightweight aluminum and was covered by nylon canvas. Its wings were white nylon and the center of the craft had black nylon covering what looked like a black kettle pot.

Senechal was chosen to be the pilot becasue she was the smallest person in the group, and Red Bull placed a 450-pound weight restriction on the craft.

While this event is in the past, the group now looks into the future, said team member Evan Mills.

“That’s the big debate now,” Mills said. “Where we’ve won the event the question is now do we try to set the bar higher or do we do something completely different such as enter the Red Bull Soap Box Derby. We’ll have to wait and see.”

The first Red Bull Flugtag took place in Vienna, Austria in 1991. The record for the farthest flight for date is 195 feet set in 2000 at Red Bull Flugtag Austria. The U.S. record stands at 155 feet, set last year at Red Bull Flugtag in Nashville, Tenn.

Members of the Crustacean Avengers wear their lobster costumes Saturday as they watch teammate Christina Senechal fly off the platform during the 19th annual Red Bull Flugtag competition in Chicago. The team flew the farthest at 120 feet beaten 32 other teams in the competition.A time lapse photo shows the flight path of the Crustacean Avengers flying craft during the 17th annual Red Bull Flugtag competition in Chicago. The Gorham based team flew the farthest at 120 feet beating 32 other teams in the competition. Members of the Crustacean Avengers wear their lobster costumes Saturday as they watch teammate Christina Senechal fly off the platform during the 17th annual Red Bull Flugtag competition in Chicago. The team flew the farthest at 120 feet beating 32 other teams in the competition.


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