It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane . . . It’s a Taco?
By Joe Martone
A local team competes at Red Bull’s Flugtag this weekend
Not many people can honestly say they’ve had a ride in a giant taco. Even fewer people can say that they’ve constructed a giant taco that flies.
Scott Covey and his merry band of friends from Canyon Lake not only fulfill both qualifiers, but they’ve had the time of their lives doing so. Covey and his friends Terry O’Brien, Dave Rowan, Nate Duer, Anthony Rowe and Matt Szymanski form Team SkyJackers, poised to compete in the San Francisco Red Bull Flugtag on Nov. 10.
The idea of the competition is fairly straightforward. According to the Red Bull website (and plenty of fascinating online videos), teams create a small flying vehicle to propel off a 30 foot ramp into the waters below. Judges look at three criteria: distance, showmanship and creativity.
This is where the “Flyin’ Taco” comes in.
Fortunately, Covey and crew had some experience in making mobile meals. Before they got into Flugtag, they competed in another Red Bull-sponsored event known as the Schlittentag (Sledding Day) earlier this year in Missouri.
“We had a similar theme going on—we had a giant taco we built on top of a 12-foot windsurf board that I found on Craigslist,” Covey says of his sled. The taco shell exterior was picked because it was “fun, something the audience could get behind.” They further emphasized the playfulness of the ride by wearing heads styled like the Jack in the Box mascot, another tradition that carried over to their later ride for the Flugtag.
While they all had plenty of fun, Covey didn’t know what to anticipate from the atmosphere or how the audience would react.
“We were really surprised. We were surrounded by a bunch of college students. We were one of maybe three teams that were over 30, maybe over 35. We ended up taking second place.”
The win just may have inspired him to get the gang back together to take on the skies.
“If we hadn’t won this, we [wouldn’t] be looking at this Flugtag,” Covey says.
Thankfully, most of the crew lived fairly close to each other in a cul-de-sac and were happy to resume work making tacos for short term transport. However, they’ve had to make quite a few changes for the new competition.
“Actually, they let us pull the Jack in the Box heads completely over our helmets in the Schlittentag but they won’t let us do that at Flugtag,” Covey said, acknowledging some visibility restraints the heads caused while sledding. “We figured out a way to attach them to the helmets they’re going to give us. There’s a positive—we’ll actually be able to see what we’re doing. A blessing in disguise, I think.”
Building the taco plane wasn’t a great challenge. Teammate Terry O’Brien had access to a “big, giant, laser thing” that let them cut the frame out of foam and wood. Much of the plane is also made of Styrofoam and aluminum, meaning it may not be strong enough to even withstand a test run. The wingspan is 30 feet wide and 8 feet long, which has the downside of adding an enormous amount of weight.
“We have to have a weight restriction, which has kept us on our toes the whole time. Originally, I assumed I was going to fly the thing, but then I saw the weight. I’m 250 and my buddy Dave is 170. [His flying] gives us a lot more leeway for the plane,” says Covey. “He was voted pilot by everyone, including me.”
Ultimately, it’s been worth it for Covey and crew. Canyon Lake has supported them 100 percent, giving them a parade after the Schlittentag; they even let the local kids ride in the sled. Covey didn’t know how he could do it without everyone’s support.
“It was a great experience, and I think was great to have many people behind us for the Flugtag, with a team this big and everybody’s friends and families behind us. I don’t think I would have tackled this if I hadn’t known there weren’t going to be half a dozen of us.”
The Flyin’ Taco rides out Nov. 10 over McCovey Cove.