Fifth-graders Honor Wright Flight

December 26, 1993|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

Nearly 90 paper planes took flight in Freedom last week. Weather was not a factor as the test pilots flew their craft indoors.

Some planes sputtered; some soared; some crashed at takeoff; a few went the distance -- the 50-foot length of the Freedom Elementary School cafeteria.

Fifth-grade aerodynamics engineers fabricated their planes from paper, tape and glue. With entries named Cool Thunder, Silver Streak and Super Snyder, the test pilots competed for prizes in six categories.

"They had to be made of paper with no weights, and they had to fly three feet," said Sarah O'Neill, teacher and air traffic controller.

For the contest, Ms. O'Neill chose Dec. 17, a momentous 90th anniversary in aviation annals.

"It's Wilbur and Orville Wright's first flight anniversary," said Erin Loyd. "They may have started with paper planes, too."

Several planes were longer than the 10-year-old children were tall.

Classmates whispered, "Matt is not going to make it," as Matt Falcone unraveled six feet of paper plane and prepared to launch.

Matt's plane landed more than three feet from the launch pad, making believers of the doubters.

With another 6-foot flier, Lauren Hanson won first place in the "largest" category. Justin Decker said he created her stiffest competition. He glued eight small planes together and attached them to the front of a 2-foot jet made of black construction paper.

"When I fly it, the front will fall behind the back and make a draft," he said.

Justin's theory sounded good, said several friends. But the cluster of small planes didn't react as he predicted, and his invention hit the floor well behind the required finish line.

Michele Maxson had more luck with her 1-inch model, which flew a full yard.

Tiffany Rotan was striving for authenticity with a replica of a World War I propeller plane that took second in the "longest flight" category. Red construction paper loops taped to the top of the plane served as propellers.

Leah Burke, who has flown since she "was little," took cues from television commercials and designed a USAir passenger plane.

For stunt work, nobody could top Ashley Trumpler's plane. It dived, spun and dived again before landing halfway across the room, amid cheers from the spectators.

Johnathan Swift was taking no chances with "engine failure." He placed two small planes on the body of a large airship he called Harpon.

"If the larger plane goes out, the two smaller ones should fly," he said.

He entered Harpon in the "longest flight" competition, where he faced rivalry from about 30 other test pilots.

Nathan Holland won that race handily as his plane glided nearly 50 feet and almost collided with the far wall.

"That is awesome, man," shouted his friends, many of whom shook the proud winner's hand.

A smiling Nathan readily revealed his design secret: one long wing and one short.

Before returning to the classroom, the pilots tossed their planes in the air one last time and grabbed them before crash landings or collisions occurred.

The children completed all design and construction work outside the classroom, said Ms. O'Neill.

"Many of them took books out and researched the projects," she said. "They have developed skills in making these planes."

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