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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Japanese man sets record for paper plane flight

A Japanese engineer has set the world record for the longest flight for a paper airplane, keeping his design aloft for 27.9 seconds.

By Julian Ryall in Tokyo
Takuo Toda: A Japanese engineer has set the world record for the longest flight for a paper airplane, keeping his design aloft for 27.9 seconds.
Takuo Toda ,head of Japan Origami Airplane Association, folds a space shuttle-shaped paper plane Photo: AP

After his record flight, Takuo Toda said that his achievement was merely the next step in his ambition of launching a paper plane from space.

Mr Toda, who is chairman of the Japan Origami Airplane Association, performed his feat at a competition in Hiroshima Prefecture in April and it has now been confirmed by Guinness World Records as the longest ever flight by a paper plane.

"I had thought that the world record was impossible to break, but the key to breaking the record is how high you fly it," Mr Toda told The Daily Telegraph.

Made of a single sheet of folded paper with no cuts, his design measured 10 cm from tip to tail. He plans to use the same shape to try to break his own record at another event for paper plane enthusiasts in September.

His ultimate aim, however, remains having one of his aircraft launched from the space shuttle.

"Thirty years ago, I saw a space shuttle - with a similar shape to a paper airplane - returning to Earth," said Mr Toda, who traces his hobby back to the two years he spent convalescing after a climbing accident while at university. He claims to have had made a paper plane with an almost identical triangular configuration three or four years before NASA unveiled its shuttle.

"I thought it would be possible for a paper aircraft to do the same thing, but back then no-one would listen seriously to my ideas," he said.

Founder of the association in 1980, he has lobbied scientists and professors to take his proposal seriously and was finally rewarded last year when the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency announced that it would fund a three-year, 90 million yen (£617,000) study into the feasibility of launching paper darts from the International Space Station and, hopefully, recovering them when they return to Earth about a week later.

"If it is proven that a paper plane can re-enter the Earth's atmosphere and glide back down safely then the scientific community could gain very valuable data about aerodynamics," said Mr Toda says. "That knowledge could even lead to improvements in the design of spacecraft in the future as it would prove that even ultra-light materials are able to withstand the demands of the upper atmosphere."