Dietrich Mateschitz, the creator of the energy drink Red Bull, has money. Lots of it. His decision to spend some of it restoring and operating a collection of airplanes involved a 58-year-old named Siegfried "Sigi" Angerer, an 18,000-hour pilot who claims he is the one who taught a nervous Mateschitz to fly.
"The first plane I took Didi for a ride in was a Piper Cub," says Sigi. "He was a bit afraid of flying at the time. He couldn't understand how a plane made from cotton [and steel tubes] could fly. He got used to it."
Another version of the story says that Mateschitz was not afraid of flying. He already had his pilot's license when he met Angerer and had coined his company's slogan, "Red Bull gives you wings." But Mateschitz had learned to fly from a crummy flight instructor, so he relearned at "Sigi fighter pilot school," in the words of Gerd Strobl, quality manager of the Flying Bulls, Red Bull's aviation-focused subsidiary.
This much is uncontested: The first meeting between Angerer and Mateschitz was propitious. In 1990, Angerer was flying a Vought F4U Corsair at an airshow in Innsbruck, Austria. He'd bought the airplane in Texas a year or so prior, using up all his savings from his day job as a corporate pilot, and now was struggling to make enough money to maintain the old airplane.
"Didi saw me fly," says Angerer, "and when I folded the wings down he said, 'Red Bull gives you wings-that airplane fits perfectly with [our slogan]!' "
Mateschitz asked to sponsor the aircraft, and Angerer gladly plastered the Red Bull logo on the Corsair's fuselage. Within a few years, Angerer came to work for Red Bull. The friendship between the men is the foundation of the Flying Bulls.
"I came to Salzburg six years ago," Angerer says. "[Mateschitz and I] found out we're from the same area, we drive the same car, we have the same interests." Whatever aircraft Sigi wants, he buys. Whatever airplane catches Mateschitz's eye, he discusses with Sigi before buying. It's a unique partnership between two very different men.
Mateschitz, 62, is handsome, tan, tall, and stylishly dressed. Angerer is a rumpled old guy in a flightsuit. Together, they have established a stunning home base high in the Austrian Alps that serves as Flying Bulls' headquarters. Their centerpiece is a building known simply as Hangar-7, which looks like a beautiful, shiny egg, sliced in half, on an angle...sort of. The history of this enterprise begins in Innsbruck, 85 miles from Salzburg, in 1997.
"We had a dream to buy a B-25," Angerer says. He prefers airplanes from the United States because he claims German craft "aren't so interesting, and there aren't many left.
"We went to the U.S. and found [the B-25] in terrible shape in Kansas City. It looked like a fish carcass...but the structure was very sound." Angerer flew it until he got used to the old airplane, adding: "We had to add 20 liters of oil per hour on one engine."