Student looks great on paper

Few people have what it takes to compete in the Red Bull Paper Wings World Championships, and even fewer qualify to return a second time.

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Crafting the planes for different purposes has helped Asuchak understand the physics of flight.
Mount Royal University student Addison Asuchak is one of them.

After qualifying during a national competition held in March at Mount Royal — the only post-secondary west of Toronto to participate — the fourth-year General Science student is on his way to Salzburg, Austria to compete in the Red Bull Paper Wings 2012 World Championship.

“People are surprised that there is even a competition for paper airplanes,” says Asuchak, who is also serving as the Students’ Association’s vice-president of Student Life.

“It’s a great icebreaker, and it’s something everyone can relate to because everyone in their day has made a paper plane or two.”

From paper planes to the real thing

Asuchak has been making paper airplanes since the age of three, but a pivotal moment came in Grade 6.

“My Science teacher explained Bernoulli’s principle (the role that wing shape plays in achieving lift) and I thought it was so fascinating,” Asuchak remembers. “Learning about flight really helped because I understood why my plane was in the air.”

That discovery also set Asuchak on his career path.

“For the longest time, I’ve wanted to be an aerospace engineer — building and designing airplanes; race cars; boats — anything that goes fast,” Asuchak says. “Make it more fuel efficient, make it fly higher, make it move faster, make it look cool — I just want to jump right in and see what I can do.”

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Asuchak takes one of his creations for a spin through Wyckham House.
That drive to perfect even a paper airplane helped Asuchak win the Red Bull 2009 national championship in the airtime category, and to place third in the distance category.

As he prepares to compete against university students from 69 countries in the upcoming world championships, Asuchak is drawing on what he saw and experienced during 2009. And this time his strategy in the aerobatics category involves as much performance as aeronautic principle.

Bringing the Stampede to the air

“In aerobatics, you have one minute to showcase who you are and what your country’s about,” Asuchak says. “Being from western Canada, the Calgary Stampede was the first thing to come to mind, especially since it’s the Stampede’s 100th anniversary.”

So Asuchak did his national championship-winning performance clad only in his cowboy underwear, a pair of his dad’s old chaps, a bandana and a cowboy hat.

“The other competitors were dressed in their normal, everyday clothes and when they saw me do this, the crowd loved it,” he says. “Then I started throwing up glider [paper] planes and attempting to hit them out of the air … kind of like duck hunting.

“When I hit one or got close to one, the crowd really got into it. They loved it.”

Asuchak will repeat his performance in Salzburg and if he wins in the preliminary rounds, he’ll have a decision to make.

“If I do get into the top ten, am I going to do the same show?” he ponders. “What can I do with the same costume to amp it up?

“I was thinking, fireworks.”

Nancy Cope, May 3, 2012