Spring 2015

[Alumni News]

John Collins

The Paper Airplane Guy


WHEN ALUM JOHN COLLINS first began folding paper airplanes in elementary school, he had no idea his hobby would one day land him in the Guinness Book of World Records.

“Most people get over paper airplanes by the age of 10,” says Collins, the self-dubbed Paper Airplane Guy. “I guess I just never grew out of it.”

In 2012, Collins’ childhood pastime earned him the Guinness World Record for farthest indoor paper airplane flight. His winning glider—“Suzanne”—flew a whopping 226 feet, 10 inches, smashing the previous record by 19 feet, 6 inches.

Collins’ interest in paper folding began when his fifth grade teacher brought an origami book to class. From there, Collins got hooked on origami, and eventually, on making paper airplanes. “I always liked the idea of being able to repurpose such a ubiquitous resource like paper,” he says. “Most people throw away the exact thing you need to be creative.”

Collins credits his winning plane to his team’s unique, aerodynamic design. Previous record holders had used a dart-shaped plane, but Collins and his team used a glider. “The first thing we did was change the design so it was a little bit wider and stubbier than the old school paper airplane. It really was a flying machine,” Collins explains. They also switched from using ridged to smooth paper, increasing the thrower’s distance by 40 feet.

When it came to selecting a thrower, Collins auditioned three football players before finding 220-pound, former U.C. Berkeley quarterback Joe Ayoob. As it turns out, the act of throwing a paper airplane takes much more than a strong arm.

“At first, it was hard to get someone who wouldn’t crush or rip the plane,” explains Collins. “Joe has loved paper airplanes ever since he was a kid and understood the technical aspects of throwing. He had studied the physics, and came up with the perfect way to hold and throw.”

Since breaking the record, Collins has appeared on the “Conan O’Brien Show” and travelled around the world to share his design. His third book, The New World Champion Paper Airplane Book, released in 2013, has been translated into two languages.

Collins hopes his recent success will help him achieve another goal: starting the country’s first paper airplane league, and launching a national paper airplane-flying contest for kids and adults.

Ultimately, Collins hopes that exposing kids to paper airplanes will get them excited about science. “Kids think that science is just about computer labs, and electron microscopes, and that’s really not the truth,” he says. “I want to teach kids that science can be fun.”

How to fold the ‘Suzanne’

Adapted from the Daily Mail. See more details at: dailym.ai/1BRWLdF