As Red Bull revs up for its annual Flugtag competition, one team from Long Island is hoping to keep its head in the clouds.
Andrew Iacona’s “School of Rock: The Founding Flyers” group will be competing Saturday in Washington, against 28 other teams. Red Bull has held this national gliding contest since 1992, but this is the first time the competition will take place in multiple cities on the same day. Flugtag events will also originate from Miami, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth and Long Beach, Calif.
Iacona, 25, of Syosset, is the team’s captain and pilot, and Saturday will be his fourth time competing. He cites his brother Edward, 29, as the sole reason for his involvement.
“He actually competed in one Flugtag before I had [flying a craft]. He was a captain of the Flying Dutchmen in Tampa Bay,” said Andrew Iacona, who was on his brother’s team for the 2008 effort. “For me, it’s almost been a drug to do the same.”
Teams build a craft that they push off a 30-foot pier with one member onboard. The wingspan can be no longer than 28 feet, and the weight of the aircraft cannot exceed 400 pounds, including the pilot. The teams are judged on how far their craft is able to glide. The School of Rock has high hopes after once hitting rock bottom.
“We did so bad in 2010, in Philadelphia,” said Iacona. “We set a record of zero feet. The plane got off the edge and fell immediately in.”
After competing with his brother in 2008, Andrew Iacona captained School of Rock in 2010 and 2012. While their name has never changed and their craft is always built to look like a guitar, their theme is always evolving. Last year they dressed up as rock stars, and this year they’ll re-create a rock star version of the founding fathers, hence the “Founding Flyers.”
Melissa Wolff, Andrew’s fiancé, describes herself has his “right hand man” in the effort, adding, “This is a competition where you see people dressed up in ridiculous outfits and they do this for fun.”
Wolff, a 25-year-old from Syosset, will join three others Long Islanders pushing Iacona off the pier, with water serving as the only safety net. Andrew’s sister Catherine Iacona, 21, of Bay Shore; Victor Valente, 30, of Hicksville; and Gus Mosser, 65, of Patchogue, are the other team members.
Although the team has never won a Flugtag competition, its failure in Philadelphia motivated them to make a comeback, hence their 2012 name, “School of Rock: The Comeback Kids.” Their Gibson-guitar shaped project soared 25 feet before it plunged.
At the end of each competition, Red Bull takes the crafts for recycling, so the teams are required to rebuild each year. Mosser takes the lead in building the craft after Andrew Iacona designs it. This year, along with pushing the plane, Mosser will dress up as a punk-rock version of an English king for the team’s pre-push skit.
For Mosser, his favorite aspect of the competition is meeting different kinds of people and seeing their reactions. Last year, one of the team’s members dressed up as Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash.
Mosser said a young girl went up to take a picture of the faux rocker.
“She started to walk away and said thank you, and she walked back to him and kissed him on the cheek,” Mosser said.