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Paper airplane shatters Guinness World Record! (And XOJET is there.)

February 28, 2012  |  Aviation

Sunday morning, at an hour at which we’re normally just gaining consciousness, we instead found ourselves in a hangar at the McClellan Jet Center in Sacramento (just a stone’s throw from the XOJET Operations Center) watching two grown men throw paper airplanes. Despite what it sounds like, this was serious stuff: they were trying to break the Guinness World Record for farthest distance traveled by—yes, a paper airplane.

One of the men was world-famous paper airplane designer John Collins, the author of two books on paper airplane design, The Gliding Flight and Fantastic Flight.  The other was former UC Berkeley and NFL quarterback, Joe Ayoob. John provided the design. Joe provided the throwing expertise. Sponsoring this effort were XOJET and Frys.com, which graciously hosted the event in their hangar.

The distance to beat: a mighty 207 feet and 4 inches, a record held by Stephen Kreiger, who was on hand to act as a judge. Ken Blackburn, who held the world record for the paper airplane flight duration (27.6 seconds) until last year, was on hand to act as a judge as well. Clearly, paper airplane designers are a collegial bunch.

To best Kreiger’s record, John was testing an entirely new approach to paper airplane design. Instead of the usual “javelin-with-fins” design—which is designed to travel as far as possible with the least amount of resistance—John had fashioned a glider plane that relies on quickly gaining altitude and slowly descending over a long distance.

Sunday, it was clear that the new glider approach required tremendous finesse in both the design and the throwing technique. John and Joe made several practice throws.  After each, they made adjustments to the plane and throwing mechanics.  A subtle shift in the position of the throwing hand, a slight adjustment to a fold—nothing was taken for granted.  During the practice session, they broke the record several times, to the delight of the small, but extremely enthusiastic crowd that was on hand to witness paper airplane history.

Unfortunately, practice throws don’t count.  According to Guinness rules, you have to designate a flight as “official” before the throw, and only 10 “official” flights that can count toward the record.

When they were ready, John and Joe began their official throws. On the fourth throw, the plane quickly achieved a high altitude and then slowly floated straight down the center of the hangar to land 226 feet and 10 inches away, breaking the distance record for paper airplane flight by almost 20 feet. You can see it for yourself here:

With the help of Joe’s skilled arm, John’s new plane performed precisely as designed.  They took a radically new approach and shattered the world record.  It’s remarkably satisfying to witness someone achieve a level of performance that no other human being has ever accomplished. Whether it’s on the field at an Olympic stadium or a hangar at the McClellan Jet Center, we were struck by how the feeling is remarkably similar.

On the two-hour drive back to San Francisco, we talked about what makes people try to break records, and the parallels between John and XOJET. Clearly there’s the aviation connection. While throwing paper airplanes may seem frivolous, it’s actually used by large aerospace manufacturers to test aerodynamic concepts and theories of aircraft behavior. But more importantly, we’re linked by a common drive to innovate and achieve greatness.  We admire and respect John’s innovative approach and willingness to try something completely different in order to deliver breakthrough performance. It’s exactly what XOJET is trying to do with private jet aviation.

Congratulations to John and Joe! We’re proud to be part of your remarkable achievement.

Want to find out more about John Collins? Visit his website: www.thepaperairplaneguy.com or on Facebook/The Paper Airplane Guy.

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