Jacks chase their dream in San Francisco


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The Jacks are back and flying even higher! Scott Covey, Dave Rowan, Nate Duer, Anthony Rowe, Matt Szymanski and Terry O'Brien took their “Flyin' Taco” with a 30-foot wingspan to San Francisco last weekend to participate in the Red Bull Flugtag event, bringing home a very interesting looking trophy for their efforts.

The Flugtag, now in its 10th year, draws adventurous competitors from around the country who launch homemade human-powered flying machines off a 30-foot flight deck before plunging into the waters below. “Flugtag” means “Flying Day” in German.

The event took place on Saturday, November 10, with the group competing against 34 other teams before a crowd of about 125,000 spectators.

Scott says that once everyone got off work on Thursday, November 8, the journey began. The Flyin' Taco had to be disassembled into three pieces in order to get it to San Francisco. They loaded the wings into Scott's toy hauler, the fuselage into Dave's flatbed trailer and the rolling taco launch platform in the back of Anthony's truck. While this caravan headed north, Terry was flying into San Francisco from Las Vegas and Nate and his children took Amtrak. The caravan arrived at McCovey Cove, San Francisco, just in time for their prescheduled unloading time of 10:30 a.m.

"As we went over the drawbridge that crosses McCovey Cove, the size of the event quickly came into focus," Scott says.

Red Bull had anchored two giant barges in the center of McCovey Cove, then built a huge scaffolding system connecting the two barges together, as well as to the pre-launch area and shoreline.

"They gave us our wristbands, parking passes and handful of Red Bull, then turned us loose to assemble our Taco in our space, lucky number 16, which was the same as our launch number," says Scott.

"After we first got the plane assembled, but had not yet lifted it onto the rolling launch platform, it quickly became the hot topic," says Scott ,"After we lifted the Taco and all of its almost 30-foot wingspan onto the 8-foot tall rolling launch platform, it really made it look even more capable. The main wing averaged a foot thick, eight feet deep and 29 ½ feet wide."

After finishing up with their own details, the Taco team was able to watch many of the other teams as they unloaded their crafts and assembled them throughout the day.

"When we checked back in at 8:30 that night, there were still five teams working frantically to be ready for Saturday," Scott says.

Saturday came and all of the teams lined up, practiced their routines, shined their crafts, drank ludicrous amounts of free Red Bull and prepared for the judges. Afterwards, the safety team came in and checked all of the crafts for potential safety issues, covering exposed bolts with insulation, taping over any wood sections to prevent splintering, etc. "Oh, and more Red Bull was made available," says Scott.

By the time the judges and the safety teams were done, the crowd began gathering everywhere, since the main “hangar area” where the crafts were, was closed off to the public until 11 a.m.

Then came the crowd, wave after wave. "Several bystanders who read the Taco team’s stat sheet recognized our little bit of paradise and gave a shout out to us Canyon Lakers," says Scott.

Many people had questions about the craft. Scott says the most common question was whether the team was sponsored by Jack in the Box? "The answer is a resounding no," says Scott. "Our calls to them went unanswered."

The crowd strolled through the hangar until 1:30, taking pictures with the group without their Jack heads on. Scott says visitors would place the Jack heads on themselves for photos, and in one instance put one on a dog.

When it was time for the main event, the Red Bull folks outfitted the team with helmets and life vests, reviewed the safety procedures one more time and put more Red Bull in their hands. Before they knew it, it was time to fly.

"After weeks and hours of gluing, bolting, welding and painting, it all came down to a few minutes," Scott says. "It was incredible that 125,000 people had come out to see this," he said.

Red Bull had opened up AT&T Park, which overlooks McCovey Cove, so thousands of fans were hanging over the edge of the stadium, while more were packed along the waterway on both sides.

The Jacks heard their music start, “Like a G6” by Far East Movement, and that’s when Dave, Terry and Matt turned into dancing machines, while Anthony and Scott danced around, carrying the Marine Flag and the American Flag. "After all, it was the Marine Corps birthday, and the least we could do is say thank you Marines," says Scott.

"We handed the flags to the Red Bull support folks and took off our Jack Heads," he adds, explaining that the safety crew wouldn’t let them jump into the water with them attached. After they helped Dave into the Taco cockpit, he stood up and raised his hands and the crowd erupted into a roar.

Once Dave was seated and ready, the team started pushing. Because of a cross wind, Terry and Matt were holding the wing tips with small ropes (to prevent a disaster), while Anthony and Scott pushed the rolling to an estimated 16 mph.

The four members stopped short and watched the craft take off, with the roar of the crowd and “Like a G6” playing in the background. Dave yanked the rear wing control to straighten it out and landed it 47 feet out ? not exactly the distance they were hoping for; but that combined with the originality, was enough to push the team into 3rd place.

"We are proud to report that we were one of only a few teams that kept their pilot completely dry," Scott says. "Ironically, it was Dave who half kiddingly mentioned the use of a wetsuit. He didn’t put one on, but that didn’t stop the rest us from making the plunge."

It seems to be Flugtag  etiquette for the team members to jump in after they launch their craft. "So even though it was a brisk 55 degrees, in we went," Scott says.  

He would like to give a special shout-out to some special people. "You know how they say that behind every successful man is a woman telling him he’s not doing it right ? or something like that? Well this Flyin' Taco took a bit more time than any of us guys had planned on, so we want to thank the women behind the scenes," says Scott.

In no particular order, they are Kristin King, Courtney Rowan, Andi Rowe, Bree Jones, Janice O’Brien and Lori Duer. Without their support it could not have been done, says Scott. He also wants to add special “thank you” to all the neighbors along Schooner Dr. here in Canyon Lake. "You know who you are," Scott says.

Most of the craft was built in Scott's driveway and in his garage, and some the “build sessions” went into the wee hours of the night. Schooner was also the test track for the rolling taco launch vehicle, so they’ve seen the group running up and down the street testing it out.

"Thank you, friends and neighbors of Schooner, for putting up with us as we chased a dream."