Airborne antics

Forget Usain Bolt. Disregard the European Grand Prix. Don’t even think about the fifth and deciding Ashes Test. This week sees the sporting events of the year, foregrounding ingenuity, flair and athleticism. In Savonlinna, Finland, is the World Mobile Phone Throwing Championships, where contestants can compete in freestyle competitions (judged on style and aesthetics) and a ‘traditional over-the-shoulder throw’, where pure distance is all-important.

But if your interests are more in aerospace, head down to Worthing, for the annual Birdman Competition. Intrepid aeronauts will strap themselves into their home-made flying machines to launch themselves from the end of the pier, competing for the prize of £30,000 for the longest flight over 100m.

It might be the silly season, but elsewhere aeronautics is the subject of serious scrutiny. In the US, the Orion crew capsule — NASA’s replacement for the soon to retire Space Shuttle — is to start its journey to the White Sands missile base in New Mexico for a series of launch abort system flight tests, culminating in three test launches to evaulate the abort system at different altitudes.

The US is also the location for this week’s big civil engineering story, the joining of the two sides of the world’s longest concrete arch bridge, over the Colorado River just downstream from the Hoover Dam. The bridge, 1060ft long, forms a bypass for the road across the dam itself.

Stuart Nathan
Special Reports Editor