Lumberjacks take flight at Flugtag


BRATTLEBORO -- When the Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur, defied gravity and took to the skies to record history's first successful human flight, the two American inventors probably had no idea how far--or how high--that concept would take their successors.

Though they were well ahead of their time, there is one thing that the Wrights probably could not have ever predicted.

That one day, lumberjacks would fly.

The Wright Flyer can now be viewed at the National Air and Space Museum, in Washington, D.C., and if the Bros. were still around today, chances are, you'd find them this weekend a few miles south of the museum, at National Harbor on the Potomac River--the site of this year's National Red Bull Flugtag, an event where competitors attempt to fly home-made, human-powered flying machines, launched off a 30-foot pier.

And for the first time in the event's history, representatives from the Green Mountain state will take the plunge.

The Vermont Lumberjacks, a five-person team from Brattleboro, will make the trip to the nation's capital on Saturday to compete in the event.

"We started working on the project back in July," said team captain Jay Clarke. "We ran into every engineering problem you could possibly imagine, mainly how to get the craft down there."

The biggest challenge said Clarke, for him, pilot Nichole Shangraw, and co-pilots Sean Brennan, Jon Mcinery, and Matt Dasso, was figuring out how to build something they could break down and put back together easily, since their machine would have to make the journey unscathed.

Clarke said the team is happy with the results.

"The craft is as close to our plan drawing as we could get it," he said.

The question now bearing down on Clarke and crew is, will the thing actually fly?

Clarke is co-owner of ghousen, the leading distributor of wine, beer, and micro brew in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Western Massachusetts. The remaining Lumberjacks are business development managers for Red Bull, a manufacturer of popular energy drinks.

Shangraw's boyfriend, an amateur pilot, offered some technical pointers and direction to the Vermont team, which was a great help to them during the planning process. Some assistance was needed, said Clarke, since Red Bull has a list of restrictions pertaining to competitor crafts.

On the day of the event, machines will be judged on three factors: creativity (construction and design), distance (some crafts don't fly at all!), and lastly, the 30-second comedy skit each team is required to act out before taking to the runway.

Out of the 29 competitors, the Vermont Lumberjacks will be the second team to depart from the docks. Due to a recent injury, Mcinery won't be competing, so fill-in Chase Thomas will take his place.

Clarke said friends and family can follow the team's progress, which includes photos of the craft, via their facebook page at:

Can lumberjacks fly? Vermonters will find out on Saturday.

David Aquino can be reached at, or by calling 802-254-2311, ext. 163.


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