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Soaring in the Red Bull Flugtag

Local team hopes that 'Greased Lightening'will fly 'maximum distance'
by: SUBMITTED PHOTO, 
The scene from the 2004 Red Bull Flugtag in Portland is likely to be exceeded by the 2008 event. About 60,000 spectators are expected at Tom McCall Waterfront Park.

Lake Oswego's team in Red Bull Flugtag 2008 is ready to follow in the footsteps of the Wright Brothers.

However, it is safe to assume that Wilbur and Orville did not perform a wild and crazy dance before setting off for the wild blue yonder in 1903.

'The Wright Brothers would probably turn over in their graves if they knew what we were going to do,' said Lyle Ramsdell, who is serving as engineer and pilot for the project labeled 'Greased Lightning.'

But the Wright Brothers won't be missed on Saturday at Tom McCall Waterfront Park in Portland. Not with more than 30 teams and their flying machines and an expected crowd of more than 60,000 people, avid to have a ton of fun and to see lots of spectacular crashes.

The whole scene will be like something out of Those Magnificent Men and Their Flying Machines, only sillier.

Proudly representing Lake Oswego will be Grant Branam, Mike Branam, Chuck Ramsdell, Lyle Ramsdell, Tracy Hasson, plus two pals from Corvallis, Robbie Christner and Daniel Leach.

It was Hasson, a student at Oregon State University, who got the ball going when he found out about the Red Bull Flugtag by viewing a commercial.

'It looked great, so I went on the Net,' Hasson said. 'Then I found out it was going to be in Portland. I wasn't expecting that!'

In this case, excitement was the mother of invention. Hasson immediately decided he wanted to form a team and he quickly got his OSU buddy Grant Branam on board, plus neighbor Lyle Ramsdell (an engineer), and dads Mike Branam and Chuck Ramsdell. Out of 170 applicants, the LO team was one of only 32 chosen for Saturday's extravaganza.

As outlined by Grant Branam, Team Greased Lightning's performance will be something like this:

'Our theme is 'Greased Lightning' from Grease. We're going to do a dance and then push the craft off and try to get the maximum distance.

'After Lyle flies off we're all going to jump in the water. The crowd doesn't like it if you don't jump in the water. We don't want to be booed.'

There will be all kinds of loony aircraft for the joy and wonderment of the fans, including a guy in a flying bathtub.

But most of them will only provide a brief spectacle before they splash into the water. The Lake Oswego team wants to win. With a glider powered by two bicycles, towed by a 1948 Ford Convertible (just like in the movie Grease) and with an engineer at the controls, their chances look good for taking one of the big prizes - with the biggest gest being a trip to Austria.

'It sounded like something fun to do,' Lyle Ramsdell said. 'It's a good engineering challenge. Luckily, my employer, Williams Control in Tigard, is sponsoring us. Our CEO is really excited about it. I've been sending him updates on our progress.'

Mike Branam was suitably impressed by the project to contribute his skills as a master wood craftsman, plus allow his driveway to be blocked while the team has been building the glider.

'It's been plugged up for two or three weeks and now I'm way behind on my orders,' he said. 'There's a lot of furniture I have to deliver.'

But Branam has to admit that the project is fascinating.

'It's taken on a life of its own,' he said. 'When you watch YouTube you can see all of these idiots doing it. You understand where stupidity and 18-year-old boys come together. Everyone likes to see train wrecks.'

But of the LO glider, Branam said, 'It's not supposed to wreck.'

After all, not crashing would be the Wright thing to do. Success is expected by Team Greased Lightning.

'I'm building the car frame and choreographing the dance,' Hasson said. 'It's going to be sweet.'

The most intrepid member of the team is Lyle Ramsdell, who will be counted on to pilot 'Greased Lightning' farther than any other craft.

'A lot of people have been telling me to be careful,' he admitted. 'But I think it's going to be really entertaining. I think it's going to be really fun.'

The 2008 Red Bull Flugtag is free and open to the public. Gates open at 11 a.m. and the first flight starts at 1 p.m.

Lake Oswegans can help their team win by voting by mobile phone. They can do this by texting 'Team 16' to 72855 (RBULL).

For more information about the event go to the site www.redbullflugtagusa.com .