SEATTLE -- The Kingdome was filled with paper projectiles piloted by 5,346 budding aeronautical engineers vying for the World Indoor Paper Airplane Championship.
The contestants who turned out for the fund-raising event for Boys and Girls Clubs of Seattle and King County let their imagination soar Sunday before giving wings to thought and constructing their parchment planes.
Swept-wing designs, flying wedges, sleek replicas of needle-nosed fighter bombers and the standard two-fold specials all were on display. Boeing engineers consulted their pocket calculators for the right lift-to-drag ratio.
When it was over, Richard Martin turned out to have the Wright stuff. The 35-year-old Bothell fire department trainee won a free trip to Disneyland for his winning entry, folded on the standard configuration suggested on the entry form.
What was the secret of his winning flight?
'I prayed a lot,' said Martin.
The official entry paper, sold four for $1, could be folded, cut or taped into any configuration. The planes were then launched from the third level of the Kingdome. Planes landing within designated circles won free dinners, video games and t-shirts. The 12 contestants closest to the bull's eye win spots in the championship final.
The person gliding an airplane the longest distance wins.
Martin's basic version outdistanced the entry by runnerup Roberta Hasstedt, 25, of Everett. Seven-year-old Travis Pepke of Issaquah placed third.
The Boeing Co., which co-sponsored the event, again held a competition between the company's commercial, military and aerospace divisions.
'We spent two weeks preparing for the event, working until 2 in the morning,' said Russ Lee, an aeronautical engineer whose 'Droopy' flew 342 feet to steal the title back from the company's military division.
For Lee, the competition was a workout. He figured he climbed up and down the steps at a Boeing airplane hanger 500 times testing various designs.
Another Boeing engineer, Grant Zenker, said he tried designs taught him by his father. 'But those didn't work too well,' he admitted.