“Pylots” test their planes at the Pylons


Blacksburg, Va., Oct. 29– THE WRIGHT STUFF: Freshman Andrew Wright, an aviation aficionado, tries his luck in the longest distance competition by throwing his paper plane off the Pylons at Virginia Tech

by Kyle Cooke–

Virginia Tech students gathered at the Pylons above War Memorial Chapel recently  for some friendly aviation competition.

Hosted by the Studio Collective, a semesterly journal from the school of Architecture and Design at Virginia, the “Paper Pylots” event on Oct. 29 saw dozens of students join at the Pylons to discover whose paper plane could fly the farthest. The event was not just limited to architecture students.

“I’m not a part of Studio Collective and I’m not an architecture major, but I do love planes,” freshman Andrew Wright said. He made sure to point out the connection between his last name and those of the Wright brothers. “(My plane) is a good gliding plane, but I think the more aerodynamic ones have an advantage because the wind is so bad in the other direction.”

Despite the unusually warm weather and clear skies, the wind was the biggest inhibitor to the participants, especially since the grand prize went to the plane that flew the furthest.

Standing at the Pylons, students threw their planes out toward the Drillfield, only to watch their creations sail backward over half the time. Only one plane made it to the grass of the Drillfield. Students tried to account for the wind by using heavier construction paper instead of printing paper. Some put a ball of tape at the tip of their planes. John Collins, the designer behind the world record-winning paper airplane, says in his YouTube tutorial that pilots should use A4 paper.

The grand prize for the event was a personal flight around Blacksburg from Pilot Elizabeth Pritchett. However, that prize was limited to the “longest distance” category. Other categories such as best aesthetic, most innovative, and largest plane rewarded its winners with Studio Collective merchandise and Amazon gift cards.

The headwind made the longest distance category a tough contest to win, but since many of the participants were architects, the aesthetic and innovation categories were the most competitive.

The judges decided not to announce the winners at the end of the event, opting to instead post the winners on their Facebook page. It was unclear as to why they decided not to award the longest distance winner on the spot since that was the most objective, but it is most likely due to the fact that the wind was blowing the planes around after they landed. That’s why the judges used orange flags to mark the planes’ landing spots.

The Studio Collective’s fall 2016 issue, Issue VI, is now available for preorder on their website. It will be released in December.