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Fact-Checking the New Paper Airplane Bible
Scott Lucas | Photo: Jeremy Dorn | March 12, 2013
The only way to review KRON-TV producer John Collins’s new paper airplane manual? Send a team of fact-checkers up a hill to test them.
Last year, former Cal quarterback Joe Ayoob crushed the world record for paper-plane-throwing, gliding one just over 226 feet inside an airplane hanger. That flying wonder was built by John Collins, a longtime producer for KRON-TV. Not surprisingly, he awarded himself the title “The Paper Airplane Guy.” Now he has the book to back it up. The New World Champion Paper Airplane Book gives step-by-step instructions on building 24 different paper airplanes—everything from the “true delta wing” Max Lock to the “reliably cambered” Bird of Prey. Although we don't have Ayoob's throwing arm or Collins's precision, we do have an ace team of fact checkers with some time on their hands. They set out to construct the planes out of normal printer paper and then test each projectile's aeronautical abilities. Once the fleet was assembled, the team hiked up to the top of the Vallejo Street Stairs to launch the planes. In addition to the six different designs, they also tested a wadded-up ball of paper as a comparison.
Here, the results, in descending order:
Seventh Place: Suzy Lock (Modified)
Distance: 0 ft*
What it looks like: A Klingon Bird of Prey from Star Trek.
How it flew: The world champion must not have trained for the fight, because after launch it thudded straight to the ground. Pilot error is the suspected cause of crash, as we were only able to approximate the original design.
Sixth Place: Floater
Distance: 10 ft
What it looks like: A B-2 stealth bomber.
How it flew: The long flat wings mean that precise balance is key. We didn't balance it right.
Fifth Place: Starfighter
Distance: 23 ft
What it looks like: The Arwing in Starfox 64.
How it flew: The star-shaped nose cone won the aesthetics award easily, but the distance was weak.
Fourth Place: Javelin
Distance: 24 ft
What it looks like: What you threw at your substitute teacher in middle school.
How it flew: A version of the classic back-of-the-classroom paper airplane held up well against the more sophisticated designs.
Third Place: Very Easy
Distance: 42 ft
What it looks like: A pterodactyl (on crack).
How it flew: The easy-to-make design and limited number of folds meant this plane performed very well—even in the hands of an unseasoned folder.
Runner-Up: Pro Glider
Distance: 52 ft
What it looks like: An honest-to-God real airplane.
How it flew: It would have flown twice the distance, had it not clipped the top of a tree along its flight path.
Champion: Wadded Up Ball of Paper
Distance: 70 ft
What it looks like: A good, old rock. Nothing beats rock.
How it flew: In the end, brawn beat brains. The ease of construction and of launching meant the wadded up piece of paper out-performed the planes. However, with further refinement, the planes should be expected to fly further.
*Technical Note: The planes were thrown from the top of a 30-degree slope. Distance was measured in horizontal feet from the point of release to the point of touchdown. Because neighbors were starting to stare out their windows peevishly, each plane was only tested once.