The Flugtag Adventure of What Sphinx?

DATE:  September 1, 2016     CATEGORIES:  Blog, Events

What Sphinx Flugtag

In part two of our Flugtag blog, the captain of the second place finishing team, What Sphinx? writes about his Red Bull Flugtag experience. All members of the What Sphinx? team are or have been Artisan’s members or daypass users.

by Alex Ezorsky

If engineering wild art is your hobby that generally means you don’t get paid, and you don’t get much of a spotlight. You do it for the love of the hobby or the need to get it out or else you’ll explode. Thanks to Red Bull Flugtag, our crack team of passionate hobby makers and freelancers not only got the chance to apply our creative drive, but to make something that flies and to do it under a massive spotlight (that wasn’t even police headlights!).


The true inspiration for the theme was my desire to have the pilot look like a part of the craft. The original design had the beast’s hind legs down so that from the side view the pilot’s legs and the craft’s legs helped form a half man half winged beast, pegasus, griffin, and yes look it up, Sphinx’s often had wings! The front support arms that held the pilot looked a lot like the extended arms of a sitting sphinx, the idea of a Sphinx felt complete, needing only the tinge of humor to keep it from being too fantasy-nerd serious.

There was an unbelievable amount of room to express my artistic desires and I filled every inch of the plane and our costumes with my sense of humor and aesthetic. Every inch that would’ve gotten in the way of making it fly was thankfully trimmed back and forced into proper angles, materials and aerodynamics by our engineers on the team, J-Lo and Andy. Max Jeff, and Nicole’s work on the skits and costumes were at least 1/3rd of why we won second place and I can’t thank them enough for their contribution. My mom and stepdad are probably the ones to thank the most, for their allowing us to build in their backyard in Cambridge. But our patchwork airplane hangar grew immeasurably better when we graciously received the free use of the Aristan’s Asylum’s space, time, tools, and expertise.


The craft on the Esplanade before its big moment

It still blows my mind that it all came together. My memory and understanding of what actually went into building stops around Aug 15th when we had a few conduit tubes from home depot, a handful of airfoils and a sketch of an airplane. From then on I must’ve blacked out from the adrenaline and speed at which we learned from trial and error. I think I regained consciousness around noon on the day of the event; we had a giant beautifully spray-painted airplane that looked even better than any of our sketches. We were wearing some of the most badass sparkling costumes on the esplanade, and we were getting photos taken with families who thought our giant farting lion was worthy of their home photo album.


The What Sphinx pilot in flight.

Sure, if you watch the video in realtime our flight looks a bit more like a graceful plummet. But considering that many crafts often go straight down, our 45 feet in front of where we left, was a huge accomplishment. If you ask our J-Lo, our “downward” angle was intentional, ensuring we wouldn’t stall while also assuming we would at the very least get enough lift to keep from diving. In other words, had we pointed the wing a tad more upward or positioned the pilot a tad further back (thus tilting the wings up like a see-saw effect) we might’ve gone further… or ended up behind our starting point. We only had one chance to test the possible outcomes, so J-Lo made a very safe choice, winning us a second place trophy I can’t cherish enough.

What Sphinx award

The What Sphinx team collect their second prize trophy during the award ceremony at the Hatch Shell.

I still feel like I’m in a parallel universe where all of the sudden the sense of humor that has always kept me in the back of the class or the time-out corner now had us posing in front of 50,000 people, flying out over the Charles, and landing a second place trophy by one of the biggest franchises in the world. Maybe I am dreaming, or maybe the world (especially Boston) is becoming a place more open and interested in people’s wilder dreams. I’m definitely going to hope it’s the second.

That being said, I did find at least one thing that still hasn’t changed: The fact companies prefer not to have their logos on the sides of giant farting lions (would’ve ruined the look anyway). In other words, we paid for this out of pocket and would love any opportunity to provide the same creative talents that built this beast for an organization or company next time!

sponsorship flyer

The flyer that the What Sphinx team made to solicit sponsorships.

Much more info about our build/experience to come, so please like our facebook page to find out more.

Finally, I want to thank Red Bull for the amazing one-of-a-kind opportunity to express an innate creative drive to propel our dreams out of our heads onto ramps and into reality. I urge anyone with dreams of making anything to apply to contests festivals and open mics. If there’s a platform for this giant flying fart lion, there’s got to be one for yours.

Creative Captain – Alex Ezorsky – filmmaker, animator – www.awespark.com
Machinist / Pilot – Andy Haycox – freelance machinist, engineer – andisocial@gmail.com
Engineer – Jonathan Lopatin – BSE in Mechanical Engineering – jonlopatin@gmail.com
Skit writer / Pusher – Max Prum – filmmaker / editor maxprum@gmail.com
Skit writer / Pusher – Jeff Magni – filmmaker
Costume maker – Nicole Mongeon