Just before the Red Bull Paper Wings Pittsburgh Qualifier began at a vacant airplane hangar in Coraopolis, there was talk from a charter bus full of 35 participants from Pitt, CMU and Point Park of their favorite Red Bull flavors and paper airplanes flying from seat to seat.
As they cruised to the event early Sunday, March 22nd with hopes of possibly winning a free trip to Austria, the Paper Wing pilots discussed air dynamics and how to create the perfect paper airplane.
Freshman Tyler Bogden spent all of his Saturday night in preparation for the event. “I was up until 3:30 this morning watching YouTube videos and memorizing airplane techniques!”
When the bus arrived on the Atlantic Aviation grounds, students excitedly exited the bus to enter a massive airplane hangar, housing three jets, Red Bull’s signature Mini Coopers, a huge floor decal and flags, and an awesome DJ. There was also, of course, all the free Red Bull you can imagine.
Everyone was amazed by the setting. Most people did not know what to expect but freshman SAEM major, Tyler Bogden knew that wasn’t it! “[It] wasn’t exactly what I was expecting but knowing Red Bull, I knew they would pull out all the big bells and whistles! I was not expecting there to be actual jets inside of the hangar with us either!”
After signing in with the event officials, students split up around tables with their paper airplane-making supplies: a packet of directions and a ton of paper. The directions had suggestions on how to make the best airplanes for each category: Longest airtime, farthest distance, and best aerials.
Point Park Students Mark Schlagle (left), Tyler Curry (front right), and Danni Mahl (back right) fold their planes as they sip their free Red Bull
As the three judges for the aerial round sat down and got ready to judge the tricks students came up with, everyone else downed their Red Bulls and headed over to the throwing area. They were be judged on flight performance and creativity, with one minute to perform.
Freshman dance major, Mark Schlagle was unsure how his airplane would fly, so he broke out his own skills, throwing a roundoff back handspring and some smooth dance moves into his performance. He scored 14/30.
Curry was well prepared for this round, and with ample airtime and great aerobatic skill, he won second place in the Aerobatics category with an 22/30. In his excitement, Curry says, “I thought it was really cool to actually place in one of the events. Especially when going into the event I had never flown a paper airplane before.”
The winner of the aerobatics category was Pitt student, Dan Dubin. He scored a solid 24/30 points, as his airplane dipped and twirled flawlessly through the air.
Left Photo: Second place winner, Tyler Curry excitedly accepts his prize
Right Photo, Left to Right: Pitt Students Kristin Loughery (3rd Place), Dan Dubin (1st Place), and Tyler Curry
The next round was longest airtime. In this category, event officials timed participants from the moment their plane take off to the moment it touches the ground.
The first place winner, Bryant Backus, a Carnegie Mellon student, blew his fellow competitors away with a whopping 8.20 seconds in the air. He is currently ranked #5 in the USA.
Unfortunately this category was unsuccessful for the participating Pioneers.
Left to Right: Nicholas LaFlair (3rd Place), Bryant Backus of CMU (1st Place), Michael West (2nd Place)
The last category was longest distance. Participants were judged by how far their plane could go, based on the spot where it first hit the ground. They were given two attempts.
This round was definitely difficult for students, but for freshman Liz Neal, this category came with ease. She took third place with a distance of 18.562 meters. “I was very surprised,” Neal said, “I was just there to have fun.”
The first place winner was Carnegie Mellon student Bram Wasti, whose plane flew the incredible distance of 22.25 meters.
Left Photo: Third Place winner and Point Park student Liz Neal is pumped to recieve her prize
Right Photo, Left to Right: Liz Neal (3rd Place), Bram Wasti of CMU (1st Place), and Nicholas LaFlair
After the categories were through, everyone waited in anticipation to see who would place for each round, where they would win a case of Red Bull and the first place winners received a medal.
As they waited, the pilots talked amongst themselves about what a great time they had creating and competing. Danni Mahl, a junior, says her favorite part about the event was the creativity and collaboration. “Everyone was helping each other learn how to make the planes, giving each other tips. Everyone was just having fun.”
Win or lose, everyone had a great time at the Red Bull Paper Wings Qualifier. Bogden says, “I would absolutely do it again in a heartbeat, but next time I would like to plan out my strategies and build more practice airplanes beforehand.”
Photos by Lexie Mikula