Flight night

Posted: Sunday, July 04, 2010

Dozens of Juneau kids, parents and grandparents jumped at the chance this week to learn from a world-record holder how best to fold paper into an airplane.

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Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

Aeronautical engineer Ken Blackburn, who in 1998 set the current Guinness world record for paper airplane flight time at 27.6 seconds, came to Juneau through the Juneau Economic Development Council's SpringBoard program to lead a week-long workshop for middle schoolers and to host Flight Night, an evening of family fun, folding and flying paper planes at Dimond Park Field House.

Blackburn, who has worked for McDonnell Douglas and Boeing, now conducts research related to unmanned air vehicles as a civil servant at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. The UAVs he works on weigh less than 100 pounds, are hand-launched, and are used to see if danger lurks over the next hill or around the corner of a building.

"When I applied for this job," he said, "my paper airplane designs were actually a significant part of my resume."

Blackburn said he enjoyed interacting with the participants, and he applauded the experience-based learning opportunities presented through programs like SpringBoard.

"The goal is to teach the physics of flight, and programs that emphasize hands-on learning make it much more real and interesting to kids," he said, adding, "It's more important to spark interest and imagination so they want to learn than to simply show them something."

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