Is it a bird, is it a plane? No, it's a toilet bowl

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MELBOURNE // Thousands of people Sunday lined the banks of an Australian river to watch home-made flying devices take to the air in a quirky competition, with some contestants dressed as a toilet bowl and a space shuttle.

The charity Birdman Rally held at Melbourne’s Yarra River involved participants flying homemade gliders without mechanical assistance.

The contestants jumped off a four-metre high platform above the river, staying in the air for as long as possible before crashing into the water.

Several of the 12 competitors turned up in colourful and bizarre costumes, including a man flying a bird made from balloons, another dressed as a shooting star and a woman holding a giant paper mache towel bowl.

But it was Michael Paul - who has taken part in the event every year since 2005 and had before Sunday won it nine times - flying a more conventional-looking glider who covered the longest distance to take out the contest.

"I seem to be the one to beat on the longest-distance flying aspect, I am a pilot, but it's not about that, I just love building a plane that you try to fly - it's a bit of a childhood dream," Mr Paul said, Melbourne's Herald Sun reported.

Mr Paul, who reportedly reached 17 metres before his inevitable crash into the river, had also raised more than Aus$12,000 in honour of his brother Lucas, who has multiple sclerosis, the newspaper added.

* Agence France-Presse