Paper plane world champions Red Bull Paper Wings land in Salzburg

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Airplane enthusiasts take flight: Agnes Oberg of Estonia competes in the Paper Wings World Finals aerobatic competition. Photo / Joerg Mitter, Red Bull

Competitive paper darts are half sport and half art.

The world’s largest aircraft files were flown to Austria ahead of ‘Red Bull Paper Wings’ this weekend.

It is in Hangar 7 at Salzburg airport that the title of “paper airplane world champion” will be played out. This is the first time the competition has taken place since 2019, when the hangar hosted 176 pilots from 58 countries for an exciting two-day competition.
This year, the competition will take place in three categories: distance, flight time and aerobatic demonstration.

Red Bull Paper Wings world winner Cameron Clark secured a place in the final in Sydney last month.  Photo / Brett Hemmings, Red Bull
Red Bull Paper Wings world winner Cameron Clark secured a place in the final in Sydney last month. Photo / Brett Hemmings, Red Bull

Withdrawn among 52,000 hopefuls, they are the paper aces of folding darts. Each competitor has only one A4 sheet to fold into the most streamlined shape possible.
Current champion Cameron Clark of Melbourne will be back to defend his title after coming out from behind the pack last year to win with a launch-to-landing time of 13.33 seconds. “I didn’t expect to make it to the World Final in Austria let alone win it!” he said at the time.

Barely leaving Australia, the ace of the paper plane had no idea that his talent could win him a ticket to the other side of the world.

Competitors in the Chilean National Final make paper airplanes using regulation A4 sheets at Casona Andres Bello.  Photo / Alfred Jurgen Westermeyer, Red Bull
Competitors in the Chilean National Final make paper airplanes using regulation A4 sheets at Casona Andres Bello. Photo / Alfred Jurgen Westermeyer, Red Bull

“As a kid, I loved testing different designs,” he said. When the engineering student saw a flyer for a qualifying round in Melbourne, he said to himself: “what do I have to lose?”
When asked if he had any tips to look forward to this year – he said there were many things to consider – wings, weight balance, shape, angle, curvature all go into the mix.

“If I had to choose the most important, I would suggest a large wing area for a controlled progressive descent,” he revealed to Red Bull. “From adjusting the wingtips to adding a rudder to changing the length of the wings, everything was tried and tested until I was happy with the result.”

The winning design was a modification of one made by his father, but he didn’t want to share the exact details. Clark is back this week to defend his title.

Estonia's Marek Lentsius competes in the longest airtime discipline at the Red Bull Paper Wings World Finals.  Photo / Samo Vidic, Red Bull
Estonia’s Marek Lentsius competes in the longest airtime discipline at the Red Bull Paper Wings World Finals. Photo / Samo Vidic, Red Bull

Last year, the aerobatic category was won by Ukrainian student Kateryna Ahafonova
Her gymnastics routine earned her the only perfect 10 seen by the competition. “I trained every day,” Ahafonova said. “Maybe that’s how I got this result, but I don’t know. It’s a dream come true!

This year, participants in the aerobatics category were invited to share a video of their stunts with paper airplanes via TikTok, to be added to the aerial display.

Ahafonova Kateryna of Ukraine won the aerobatic at the Paper Wings World Finals.  Photo / Joerg Mitter, Red Bull
Ahafonova Kateryna of Ukraine won the aerobatic at the Paper Wings World Finals. Photo / Joerg Mitter, Red Bull

Paper Airplane Building Tips from Champion

Ensuring a large wing area for a controlled and progressive descent

Make constant improvements to the same plan to achieve an optimal design

Be as precise as possible with your folds, and choose a sheet of unblemished paper

If your plane is important, your throw is almost equally important. Most pilots choose a vertical takeoff for airtime.

About Debra D. Johnson

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