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The “Peng-Wings” Prepare to Take Flight at Flugtag

Three men paused in the darkening driveway to look at their creation in progress: a sawed-off wooden double lounge chair with bike wheels attached to one side. “I don’t know if my wife knows it’s gone yet,” Don McKee admits about his old lawn furniture.

After years of pent up frustration from coaching, but not being able to participate in their kids’ science projects, four Pittsburgh dads finally found the perfect opportunity to build something of their own: the Red Bull Flugtag. The Flugtag, which means “flying day” in German, is a competition to build a device that will fly the farthest off a 22-foot platform into the body of water below, in this case the Ohio River.

“We’re all builders and tinkerers and have been riding a desk for a long time and wanted to get our fingernails dirty,” Rob Riker from Sewickley said. Riker, a former aerobatic pilot, McKee, owner of Sweetwater Bike Shop, Tim Delaney, with a mechanical engineering background, and Andy Peacock, a construction and digital specialist, teamed up and began their planning in mid-May. Their pilot, Emily Moschitta, is described by her team simply as “an adventurer.” With the back-to-back Stanley Cup champions as their inspiration, the “Peng-Wings” designed their flying device complete with a Stanley Cup thruster on board.

With a running start– and in matching penguin costumes– the “Peng-Wings” will attempt to make their mark in Flugtag history at the EQT Pittsburgh Three Rivers Regatta. Even if their glider falls short, they will still surely make a splash.

Don McKee, from Sewickley, hammers out wooden slats from an old double lounge chair to be the frame of the cart for his Flugtag team’s flying device on Monday, July 31, 2017 at Rob Riker’s home in Sewickley. The team, the “Peng-Wings,” will be competing in the Flugtag as part of the EQT Pittsburgh Three Rivers Regatta. (Haley Nelson/Post-Gazette)
From left: Rob Riker, from Sewickley, Tim Delaney, from Gibsonia, and Don McKee, discuss their plans for the cart portion of their flying device for the Red Bull Flugtag on Monday, July 31, 2017 at Rob Riker’s home in Sewickley. (Haley Nelson/Post-Gazette)
Don McKee, left, and Rob Riker work on the cart portion of their flying device on Tuesday, August 1, 2017 at Rob Riker’s home in Sewickley. (Haley Nelson/Post-Gazette)
Don McKee, left, and Rob Riker draw out a sketch for the cart portion of their flying device on Monday, July 31, 2017 at Rob Riker’s home in Sewickley. (Haley Nelson/Post-Gazette)
From left: Rob Riker, Andy Peacock, from McCandless, and Don McKee, prepare a wing for a shrink wrap coating for their aircraft on Tuesday, August 1, 2017 at Dockside Marine Services in Aliquippa. (Haley Nelson/Post-Gazette)
Rob Riker removes tape from the frame of the wing of his team’s flying device on Tuesday, August 1, 2017 at Dockside Marine Services in Aliquippa. (Haley Nelson/Post-Gazette)
From left: Don McKee, his son, Will, and Rob RIker work on the cart portion of their flying device on Tuesday, August 1, 2017 at Rob Riker’s home in Sewickley. (Haley Nelson/Post-Gazette)
Clockwise from bottom left: Ryan Peacock, his father, Andy, both from McCandless, Don McKee, and Rob Riker, prepare a wing for a shrink wrap coating for their aircraft on Tuesday, August 1, 2017 at Dockside Marine Services in Aliquippa. (Haley Nelson/Post-Gazette)
The Stanley Cup “thruster” for the “Peng-Wings” Flugtag flying device and a penguin costume for their skit on Saturday lay among saws, cords, and drill bits while the flying device is under construction on Tuesday, August 1, 2017 at Rob Riker’s home in Sewickley. (Haley Nelson/Post-Gazette)
From left: Ryan Peacock, and his father, Andy, Don McKee, and Rob Riker prepare a wing for a shrink wrap coating for their aircraft on Tuesday, August 1, 2017 at Dockside Marine Services in Aliquippa. (Haley Nelson/Post-Gazette)
Will McKee tests out the newly-constructed base for the cart portion of the flying device on Tuesday, August 1, 2017 at Rob Riker’s home in Sewickley. (Haley Nelson/Post-Gazette)