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Flight plan

On a wing and paper

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Lauv Jaiswal, a student at Kolkata's Techno India College of Engineering, was quite amused when he saw an ad about a paper plane flying competition. "I was surprised anyone would have a competition on what I regarded as a childish activity. The last time my friends and I made these was after our Class X boards, when all the notebook pages were made into paper planes, " he laughs. Once he enrolled for the competition and started surfing the net, however, it dawned upon him that this wasn't exactly child's play. As Jaiswal started practising in his college grounds, several friends joined in. "It became a collective passion, " he says. "Even one teacher who understood the science of paper planes chipped in with advice. " Finally, confident of handling three types of planes - the 'basic', 'fighter' and 'bomber' - he touched down in Delhi for the finals of the Red Bull Paper Wings event. And surprise, surprise, he beat 63 other participants to win the competition. "I can't get over the fact that a paper plane will now fly me all the way to Salzburg, " he says, referring to the world finals in Austria. The art of creating paper planes goes back almost 1, 500 years to China. Even the Italian polymath, Leonardo da Vinci, created flying models made of paper, while the Wright brothers used paper models to revolutionise the way people travel. But with toys getting technologically advanced, flying paper planes was relegated to a classroom pursuit. The only country that still takes it seriously is Japan which sweeps prizes at most international competitions. Now, Indian enthusiasts are rediscovering paper planes. "It's not just about throwing a dart-shaped plane. It requires a fair amount of skill and intelligence, " says Rajendra Grewal, an avid paper plane flyer. He calls it a precision sport, saying one needs patience, perseverance and practice to master it. The skill lies in creating accurate folds to make an aerodynamically-capable paper plane, while the right body posture determines what you want the plane to do - cover distance, acrobatics or stay in the air for the longest possible time.

Grewal, 57, started aeromodelling when he was 10 years old. In college, "when we discovered girls, paper planes took a backseat, " he laughs. It was only a few years ago that the post-graduate in physics returned to his first love with a vengeance. Now, at 5. 30 every morning (except for the monsoon months), Grewal, who has created over 250 paper plane models, can be seen flying paper planes at a park near his Mumbai home. The morning walkers who spot him are often tempted to try their hand at it. "The tribe is growing, " says Grewal, referring to the 300 workshops he's conducted to teach "classical, contemporary and cutting-edge patterns not just to kids but also lawyers and engineering students".

Other than making paper plane models, Grewal also teaches aviation vocabulary and "basic Newtonian mechanics" to his students. "The idea is to ensure that you understand your plane and the plane understands you and responds to all your silent commands (of your body and fingers ), " he says. With experience, you learn the various tricks to tackle "different situations and even adverse weather conditions", he adds. Gauging the wind direction by observing tree-tops and practicing early morning "when there's generally a light breeze that's ideal for flying paper planes" are some of the tips Saurabh Bhandekar, 20, has picked up ever since he started training with paper planes. "The idea is to be in complete control of your creation by making your plane with precise, symmetrical folds, " he says. With an "understanding of about 25-30 kinds of planes", Bhandekar is quick to tell you how "for slow, elegant flights, gliders are the best. Darts give you distance and a speedy flight, while skirts are best for circles, loops and waves".

At 14, Quintus Anthony Cardozo has just been hooked to paper planes. He is learning the art from the internet and finds turning a simple sheet of paper into a flying object "absolutely thrilling". With more youngsters like Cardozo looking at aerogami seriously, the art of making paper planes should be ready for a long flight.

FLIGHT PLAN

Ensure neat folds, whatever be the design of the plane
The rear end should be kept clean and unwrinkled
Keep the wings tilted upwards
At first, throw the plane gently. It's a good idea to hold the plane where the most layers of paper overlap. Observe how the airplane is responding to your throw. Once it starts flying straight, increase the speed of the throw and keep making subtle adjustments. Putting more tilt to one wing will make it turn in that direction. Keep fine-tuning it till it starts following your 'commands'

Reader's opinion (1)

Amandeep KalraMay 16th, 2012 at 18:35 PM

interesting stuff!!

 
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