‘Paper Wings’ Red Bull scholarship competition brings creativity to new heights for MTSU students


Photos and Story by Seth Whitehead / Contributing Writer

In a surprising twist on an academic competition, MTSU students spent Wednesday afternoon designing, folding and throwing paper airplanes while competing in the Red Bull Paper Wings competition at the Murfreesboro Airport on Memorial Boulevard.

“It’s a global event,” said Caroline Foster, the collegiate marketing specialist for Red Bull. “It’s happening in 52 countries. This is a qualifier for the United States.”

Flights were graded on two criteria: distance traveled and time aloft. The average distance was about 45 feet long, and the average flight time was around two seconds. At this competition it was stated the world record paper airplane flight for distance is 209 feet, and the record time in the air is 29 seconds.

“The top three (in the nation) in distance and air time will go to compete and represent the United States in Salzburg,” Foster said.

The competition tests students’ creativity. Using only a sheet of A4 paper, competitors fold their planes however they chose. They are allowed two practice throws and then graded on their third throw.

Accompanying the competitors Wednesday night was Kevin Coleman, one of three professional pilots for America in the Red Bull Air Race. Coleman, who has been flying since he was 10 years old, answered questions from the aerospace students. He talked about the physical stresses a professional pilot experiences. Coleman said he experiences up to six Gs without a G suite.

“The only thing you can do is fly, and then go out and do it,” Coleman said.

He stated that a one-and-a-half-minute flight wears him out more than a five-mile run.

The night’s winner was freshman Brody Duncan, who will move on to the next round of competitions in hopes of making it to the finals: the international competition at Red Bull’s headquarters in Austria.

The Red Bull Paper Wings competition happens every four years, with the last competition being held in 2015.

Jessy Rigsby, a pro pilot senior, was the first person throw. His flight lasted .62 seconds, and traveled an impressive 59 feet 11 inches on March 27, 2019, in Murfreesboro, Tenn. (Seth Whitehead / Sidelines)
Push before you throw; Nicholas Wells, a pro pilot freshman, warms up with a one-armed pushup on March 27, 2019, in Murfreesboro, Tenn. (Seth Whitehead/ Sidelines)
A judge uses a tape measurer to determine how far the airplane traveled on March 27, 2019 in Murfreesboro, Tenn. (Seth Whitehead/ Sidelines)

To contact News Editor Angele Latham, email newseditor@mtsusidelines.com.

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