Red Bull Paper Wings is the official paper plane world championship, and the 2022 edition saw a record number of pilots competing in the categories of Distance, Airtime and Aerobatics. The national finalists participating at the sixth-ever World Final at Salzburg's Hangar-7 were the elite of more than 61,000 hopefuls (a record number) across over 60 countries who had taken part in more than 500 Qualiflyer events and, in the case of Aerobatics, submitted videos online.
All Distance and Airtime pilots were required to make their plane by folding a single, standardised sheet of A4 paper, while Aerobatics was all about creativity.
In the Distance showdown, where pilots got two tries each to throw their paper plane the farthest on the 70m apron, Lazar Krstić of Serbia was a man on a mission. At the previous edition in 2019, his result of 52.28m was good enough only for second place, and ever since, he’s been refining his plane design, throwing technique and even his physique – adding 10kg for strength and power.
The tactic paid off: Krstić dominated the distance event, launching a first throw of 57.13m that no one could top. Then – even though he’d already won – he took his second throw even farther, to 61.11m.
“I really wanted this win. I was working hard for it and in the end, it paid off. It’s a great experience, I really like it,” Krstić commented. “I’m competitive, but I really like to be around other people as well, and I got to meet even more people this time. I’m so happy. You’ll see me again!”
In the Airtime category, pilots threw their planes high into Hangar-7’s arched glass ceiling, aiming for the longest time between takeoff and landing. Competing in the Super Final, Rana Muhammad Usman Saeed of Pakistan ended a 10-year-wait for redemption by winning with a time of 14.86 seconds. What’s more, in Pre-elimination, he had achieved 16.39 seconds – a new Red Bull Paper Wings World Final record.
“I was here in Hangar-7 in 2012, but I wasn’t prepared and I didn’t make the podium,” Saeed explained. “From that time, I really built my interest in paper planes and I worked hard, and finally I’ve achieved what I wanted to do.”
What a show! In the Aerobatics competition, pilots had just 60 seconds to dazzle the judging panel, who based their scores on creativity, overall flight performance and technical proficiency. Music, costumes, props and multiple types of paper planes were allowed. Seunghoon Lee of South Korea captured first place in a performance where he wore a formal black tuxedo, presented magician-like choreography and launched planes that twirled, boomeranged and flapped their wings.
But the biggest presentation of all came after his victory when he promptly proposed to his girlfriend on stage – by offering her a paper plane, which she tearily accepted.
“I teach science classes in Korea and I use many paper planes – it’s been seven years since I’ve been teaching about paper planes. And today, I was able to perform and show that I can be the world’s greatest aerobatic player!” Lee said. “I’ve been practising my presentation for one year. I asked my girlfriend to come to the World Final with me, and this morning I told her that if I won, I would propose to her, so it all worked out!”
Costa said: “I’m happy to be here because creating a celebration and a sport and a competition around something we all know how to do, and we all grew up doing – it’s just unbelievable. And also, it reminds me of the days when I was playing with paper planes and dreaming of flying.”
Final Results, Red Bull Paper Wings World Finals 2022
- Lazar Krstić (SRB), 61.11m
- Yicheng Sun (GBR), 57.07m
- Abduaziz Omonillaev (UZB), 54.82m
- Rana Muhammad Usman Saeed (PAK), 14.86s
- Esteban Neira (CHI), 12.99s
- Dimitri Dimitrev (MDA), 12.29s
- Seunghoon Lee (KOR), 46 points
- Seng Fatt Beh (TPE), 42 points
- Taiga Kimura (JPN), 41 points