Fly like paper, get high like planes
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! Wait, it’s dozens of folded pieces of paper flying through the air.
This was the scene on Feb. 24 in Mount Royal’s Stanley gym as dozens of students competed in the Paper Wings contest sponsored by Red Bull.
Students of all paper airplane- making skill levels were invited to come out and fold their hearts out for a chance to represent Canada in the international contest.
“I think it’s great for kids that are at school doing the same thing everyday,” said Trevor Jones, Mount Royal student and brand manager for Red Bull.
“It brings them something that is unique and different and kind of fun and they can kind of step out of class and come down and whip off a paper airplane and who knows you may end up going to Toronto after that.”
“I just think there are so many kids at this school and so many great talents, it’s just one way to see some of those talents,” added Jones.
Paper Wings is being put on at post-secondary institutions in 85 countries from Kyrgyzstan to Yemen, with thousands of students competing to head to their respective national qualifying round.
For the Canadians, the national round will take place in Toronto, and then it’s off to Salzburg, Austria in May for the top three expert engineers from each country.
There are three categories to compete in including longest distance, longest airtime and aerobatics, which are the tricks the plane performs in the air.
For first-year MRC students Jamie Seigner and Ken Denouden, the competition was something they stumbled upon and decided to participate.
The roommates found a flyer that morning and began cruising the web for a winning plane.
“We went on the Internet and looked up designs,” said Denouden.
Their final strategy: “Long and narrow and throw it hard,” added Seigner.
For Denouden, that strategy nearly paid off as his plane landed just one foot shy of the current first-place spot at the time of the interview.
While some had a casual approach to plane making, others were more meticulous in their designs.
“We wanted something with a really strong front on it and then we also wanted something with a lot of grip and broad wings so it can catch lots of wind,” said second-year engineering student Brandon Healey of his and fellow engineering student Danny Ross’s design.
Unfortunately for rest of the competitors, 19-year-old Addison Asuchak walked into the gym that day.
A second-year student, Asuchak is in general studies but is taking engineering classes as well. His engineering education coupled with his longtime love of paper airplanes is what allowed him to essentially dominate the contest.
“Prior knowledge and prior planes I’ve made … and years of practice helped,” he said.
Asuchak won both the longest distance and longest airtime categories and tied for the best aerobatics with Nick Hum, meaning that both he and Hum qualified for Toronto.
While they both qualified, Hum is unable to go to Toronto and Asuchak will be flying solo.
In total, Asuchak’s plane flew 23.9 metres and was able to stay in the air for 8.72 seconds.
After learning that he was a winner, “I laughed,” said Asuchak. “I don’t know, being sent to Toronto all expenses paid for making a paper plane is pretty ridiculous.”
“People were coming up asking me to make planes for them … I felt like kind of a celebrity.”
The Canadian qualifiers kicked off in Halifax on Feb. 4 and 10 cities later — including in Ottawa, Quebec City and Winnipeg — ended on Feb. 28.
The two Mount Royal students will fly in a non-paper airplane to Toronto on Mar. 13 for three days to battle the nation’s finest folders.
In order to prepare for the upcoming competition, Asuchak said he will be studying designs online and trying to perfect his throw.
“For my distance, I’m about 10 metres behind the national qualifying level.”
But in terms of airtime, Asuchak said as far as he knows he has one of the top three times in Canada so he feels “quite confident.”
This is the second Paper Wings competition to be held after the first took place in 2006 and included over 10,000 competitors from 50 countries.
In addition to the 35 extra countries in this year’s challenge, contestants will have to face-off against the winners from the first year that automatically qualified for the Austria finals.
“I took a year off and only just for fun did I set the occasional new world record in lecture halls,“ said Jovica Kozlica, the 2006 longest distance winner, on the Red Bull Paper Wings website.
“To win it I had to fight my way through an armada of paper airplanes.”
Also in attendance at the international finals will be American Ken Blackburn, the current world record holder for the longest airtime.
Blackburn, who will be one of the competition’s judges, set the record in 1998 with a paper plane flight that lasted an impressive 27.6 seconds.
In the meantime, Asuchak will continue to practice his piloting and bask in the fact that a paper airplane is taking him to Toronto and maybe even around the world.