A wing and a prayer, Chinese paper aeroplane champion’s model for success

Schoolboy shares his tips for making the perfect glider after drawing inspiration from the world record holder

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 October, 2017, 4:10pm
UPDATED : Friday, 13 October, 2017, 5:03pm

A Chinese high school pupil has been crowned national paper aeroplane champion after seeing off the challenge of more than 2,000 other contestants – from kindergarteners to adults.

Li Jianan took the title after keeping his plane in the air for 13.8 seconds at an event in Ningbo, eastern China’s Zhejiang province, on October 6, Yangtse Evening Post reported on Wednesday.

The teenager’s winning design was modelled on the Sky King designed by Takuo Toda, chairman of the Japan Origami Airplanes Association, which holds the world record for the longest flight time at 29.2 seconds.

Toda’s own design was modelled on Nasa’s Space Shuttle.

Li was quoted as saying that when it came to a successful design, size really did matter.

“You have to find the best distance from nose to wing,” he said. “I did dozens of experiments and found that 2.7cm produced the longest flight times.”

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Li, a pupil at Zhenhai High School in Ningbo – which has produced several national champions – said also that he blows gently on to the nose of his plane before launching it into the air.

“The vapour from your breath makes the plane’s head heavier and steadier allowing it to glide longer,” he said.

The practice is common among Chinese paper plane makers, but not often used by Western competitors, the report said.

Despite the champion’s advice, Nero Ma, a member of the Hong Kong team that won the 2015 Red Bull Paper Wings contest in Salzburg, Austria, said that blowing on the plane could have negative effects.

“It’s just faith,” he told the South China Morning Post. “If you watch professional players, you won’t find any blowing.”

The Red Bull contest, sponsored by the energy drinks firm, is the world’s biggest paper aeroplane contest, and involves several rounds held in different countries.

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“Blowing on to the plane is more like a ceremony than a technique,” He Qiyan, who won the Chinese round of the 2015 Red Bull event, said.

The model He used was also based on the Sky King.

“Mr Toda is amazing. He founded the first Paper Wing Museum in Japan and he is an engineer, too.” he said.