80,000 fans watch Greased Lightning soar to 2nd place
Of the spectacle that was the 2008 Red Bull Flugtag in Portland on Saturday, perhaps the most spectacular team of all was Lake Oswego's own Team Greased Lightning.
Almost all of the 31 teams and their wacky aircrafts plunged, with hilarious disaster, straight into the Willamette River to the massive delight and approval of the huge crowd of 80,000 people at Tom McCall Waterfront Park.
But Team Greased Lightning not only took second place by soaring a relatively amazing 55 feet, it put on a great show for the multitude with its dynamic dancing to songs from the movie Grease.
'We were so jacked up on adrenaline and Red Bull (a popular energy drink) that we didn't realize 80,000 people were there,' said team member Tracy Hasson, who choreographed the dance. 'Otherwise we would have been nervous.'
Lyle Ramsdell, the pilot, had every reason to be nervous. Although he gave the appearance of Chuck Yeager-ish cool to his teammates, the moment of truth filled him with butterflies.
'I thought to myself, 'Am I really going to try and dance in front of 80,000 people? I guess there's no turning back at this point,'' Ramsdell said. 'Have you ever seen an engineer dance?'
Evidently he did pretty well, as did the rest of the quintet of Hasson, Grant Branam, Robbie Christner, and Daniel Leach.
'The dance was sweet,' Hasson said. 'We incorporated moves from the movie and used a couple of our own, like backflips and karate kicks.
'The crowd was great to us. We were the only one they cheered for during the skit. Usually they didn't start cheering until the aircraft was pushed down the runway.'
'For the most part we were in sync,' Ramsdell said. 'Then Daniel threw Tracy in the air to stick a perfect backflip and I heard the roar of the crowd.'
As soon as Ramsdell was loaded into the pilot's seat the big push down the runway started, first slowly, then fast.
'I heard Grant yelling at everyone to push as hard as they could and I really felt the glider accelerate,' Ramsdell said.
Then something amazing happened. The craft flew.
Ramsdell said, 'Right as I went off the end of the ramp it was the most incredible feeling because there was no sudden drop like all of the other crafts, everything went smooth and silent as I glided off the end of the runway.
'I thought, 'My God, I am flying! This thing actually works!''
Fifty-five feet later, Greased Lightning landed softly and safely, and the team members received the second place prize - a trip to any Red Bull air race of their choice in the U.S. in May of 2009.
But there was one thing that kept their experience from being totally ecstatic: Team Yakima of Beaverton took the grand prize of a trip to Austria by flying 62 feet.
'We definitely had the best craft,' Hasson said. 'They went the farthest but we had a really good skit. It was a lot better than the people who actually won. I think that should have accounted for more in the judging.'
In his engineer's mind, Ramsdell said he later was thinking of all kinds of ways to improve the flight of Greased Lightning. In fact, he says, 'I truly think we now have the knowledge to make a record-breaking flying device.'
But no matter what, the Lake Oswego team will always have memories of its moment in the sun in front of 80,000 people.
As Tracy Hasson would say, 'Sweet.'
To read more about Team Greased Lightning and the 2008 Red Bull Flugtag, go to www.redbullflugtagusa.com/Portland2008 .