Forget the aviator specs and the silly nicknames, the only thing Australian university students need to become a top gun pilot and get themselves in the air is a piece of A4 paper and a little creativity. Red Bull Paper Wings launched in Australia this week, making it the 86th country to adopt to the paper plane competition which will literally give the three winners wings – a trip to Red Bull's headquarters in Salzburg, Austria for the world final.
The current distance world record stands at 68.8m but if you haven’t got a flare for longevity, contest judge and world champion hang-glider Jonny Durand says one needs not worry. There’s room for the more “artistic” method of flight, too - the aerobatic category.
“There’s duration – time in the air – and aerobatics where it’s no about how far but how it moves,” says Jonny, who describes himself as a veteran paper-plane artist dating back to his grade school days when he dreamed of flying for real.
“You get to be creative, make paper planes which you do in class anyway and experiment with different designs. And if you make it to the national finals and win one of the categories, you’re on your way to Austria. What else needs to be said?”
The only danger?
“Paper cuts and hand cramps,” Jonny says with a laugh.
“But seriously, anyone can give it a go and has there ever been an easier way to win yourself a trip overseas? To be the best at paper-plane flying can win you a pretty nice journey to the world championships in Austria. I’m not sure you can make a living from it but hell, it’s a sweet trip and a heap of fun.”
Twenty-one universities around the country will hold qualifying rounds over the next two weeks before a national final takes place in April. The only thing you need to fly? A student I.D card. The rest is supplied.
Here’s Jonny, with a little more expert advice.
“That 68.8m record? That’s a javelin throw really,” he says.
“You need a dart-like plane for that. Once you look at duration you need something that’s actually going to fly and stay in the air and has a good sink rate – which means it’ll plummet to the ground at a certain amount of feet per minute. That’s a flying term. No big deal.
“When it comes to aerobatics well, I don’t know how you make them exactly – I’ve attempted to make a few myself over the years. That’s the only category where you are allowed to use glue and scissors and a few other materials as well.
“And no spit balls. Firstly, because straws aren’t allowed and secondly, I don’t like your chance of throwing a spit ball 70m."
All forms of assistance or accessories are forbidden in the duration and distance categories, while the aerobatic category allows contestant the use of several provided materials.
Check out the finer details at http://www.redbullpaperwings.com/australia to get involved.