They came in a variety of shapes, handmade from the original size — an 8½ x 11-inch piece of white copy paper.
They were tossed about the Donald McDonald Hangar at MTSU’s Flight Operations Center at Murfreesboro Airport Thursday, March 3, by mostly Aerospace Department students. Some of these flying pieces of paper did loops; some had great take-offs and solid landings; others sputtered, with fast, not-so-gentle finishes.
More than 100 MTSU students gave it their best heave-ho, aiming to be the longest (air time) and farthest throws in the Red Bull Paper Wings MTSU/Murfreesboro qualifier — with a berth in the 5-hour Energy drink’s regional Paper Wings event at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, on the line.
Red Bull Paper Wings is an annual event, marketed as the world’s largest paper plane championship.
With free food and drink and loud, “vibe” music originating from Dolly (named for Tennessee native Dolly Parton) — one of six massive Red Bull event vehicles in various regions of the country — students prepared their planes for high-flying (and in many cases low-flying) finishes.
Senior David Parrott (distance) of Blythewood, South Carolina, and sophomore Abanoub Hanna (air time) of Murfreesboro will be heading to Huntsville for the April 16 regional, with the two winners there advancing to the International Paper Wings in Austria in May. Both are aerospace professional flight majors.
Possibly the oddest-looking — in an unidentified flying object category — entry was the oval/round paper plane flown by Nathan Arend, a junior pro pilot major from Franklin, Tennessee. It defied all apparent odds by traveling 45 feet. After being eliminated early, he said he planned “to go fishing at the Stones River, probably under a bridge.”
Just shy of the prize
Sophomore Zach Allen of Gallatin, Tennessee, and freshman Jesyca Dennis of Dunlap, Tennessee, both pro flight majors, narrowly missed out on the distance and air time, respectively.
For more than 90 minutes, Allen’s toss of 76 feet stood the test. “I had high hopes, but somebody went past me,” he said.
Dennis believes she barely missed making the top five in total distance and may have finished second in air time. Altogether, she made four paper planes, all of them using her cell phone to look up “paper airplanes that fly far,” she said. “I figured somebody else would beat me, so I did not spend much time trying.”
Rather than heading to the beach for spring break (March 7-12), Allen and Dennis plan to remain in Murfreesboro, getting in flights — “and get in written tests, just to stay ahead,” said Allen, who works in MTSU flight dispatch.
A cool, fun event
First-year Aerospace Department chair Chaminda Prelis and some faculty and staff watched the students enjoy time away from the rigors of studies.
“It’s been, actually, a really great event,” Prelis said. “Red Bull had specifically asked to come back again. The students really enjoy it. It’s a great way for them to not only have some fun and relax after studying — and we’re at midterms right now — so this is a good stress-relief as well.
“It’s also an opportunity for them to test some of their skills they’ve learned in the classroom. I’ve actually seen some of the students using knowledge they’ve learned in building these paper airplanes.”
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)