Every paper airplane that's built has its builder's grand ambitions in every fold. But if you're like most paper airplane engineers, it's rare that your planes even make it out of the yard. Members of the U.S. Fox Valley Composite Squadron — the local unit of the Illinois Wing, Civil Air Patrol — are not like most paper airplane engineers, however. They recently built and launched a paper airplane that soared an astonishing 81 miles, 5,170 feet, according to a recent news release.
Their airplane, made of paper board, had some advantages that your backyard origami aircraft lack. For starters, it was launched from a helium weather balloon at an altitude of 96,563 feet, which is over 18 miles straight up, well into the stratosphere. To be fair, however, the plane was made in the traditional design (which any grade-school child would recognize) with a 14-inch wingspan and total weight of just under one pound.
The flight, perhaps predictably, set a new Guinness World Record for the Highest Paper Airplane Flight from a High Altitude Balloon. It was released from Kankakee, Illinois, and landed in Rochester, Indiana, completing the journey in slightly less than two hours and seven minutes.
Several recording devices were attached to the plane to track its flight and take measurements along the way, including a GPS tracker, temperature and barometric pressure sensors, and an HD video camera. A small solar panel was even attached to keep the devices powered up. Check out the GPS tracking image of the trip here. You can also view a video of the record-setting flight below (Warning: it can be a bit dizzying):
Oh, and in case you're an ambitious paper airplane engineer but don't have a helium weather balloon at your disposal, the current world record holder for a hand-tossed paper airplane is 226 feet, 10 inches. So get folding!
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