Paul Kitagaki Jr. /

Bee file, 2013. Siblings Brittany and Jake Bair of Newcastle built a flying machine, called "The Uppers."

Placer team's gravity-defying 'Up' house falls in Flugtag competition

Published: Monday, Sep. 23, 2013 - 9:51 pm
Last Modified: Tuesday, Sep. 24, 2013 - 12:04 am

A Placer County team competing in a quirky flying-machine contest over the weekend failed to place, but by all accounts put on a great show with its balloon-propelled home, which was based on the movie “Up.”

The “Uppers” – led by a trio of siblings from Newcastle – was one of 28 teams, chosen from more than 500 applicants, to compete in the Red Bull Flugtag event Saturday in Long Beach.

One by one, contestants launched goofy, often less-than-airworthy contraptions off a 28-foot-high flight deck on Rainbow Harbor in Long Beach. Simultaneous events were held in Washington, D.C., Chicago, Miami and Fort Worth, Texas. While some crafts managed a controlled descent, many failed to muster enough lift to do more than make a good splash; a handful failed spectacularly. Celebrity judges scored entrants on distance, creativity and showmanship.

Conceding their lack of aviation expertise, Brittany Bair, a civil engineering student at Cal Poly Pomona, said before the event that she and her teammates hoped to maximize their creativity and showmanship scores.

Despite being told before the event that the craft would not be allowed to launch with helium balloons attached, the “Up” house took to the air with a few dozen balloons providing lift. The number of balloons was well short of the 37,777 their calculations told them would be needed. The house fell at the speed of a house falling off a 28-foot cliff. Pilot Anthony Yanez, who works in construction, safely avoided the wreckage as he plunged into the water.

While the scale model of the two-story Victorian house depicted in the Disney/Pixar movie “Up” didn’t exactly soar, the team impressed event organizers and enjoyed the experience.

“Tens of thousands of people came out to watch us today. A couple sunburns and a few Red Bulls later we finally pushed the house into the Long Beach Harbor. Thanks to all our friends and family for your support. This was so much fun” the team wrote Saturday on its Facebook page.

The team consists of the Bair siblings: Brittany, 26, Jake, 24, and Nick, 31. Also on the team are Yanez, 22, Chrisann Meier, 28, a commercial design architect, and Jake Zvolanek, 27, who attends Azusa Pacific University.

Winning the Long Beach competition were the Chicken Whisperers of San Francisco. Their craft, built by San Francisco aviation engineers, shattered the previous world record by 29 feet, with a flight of 258 feet.

Read more articles by Ed Fletcher

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