24YO M'sian Rocket Engineer Breaks Guinness World Record For Farthest Flying Paper Plane
Julian Chee Yie Jian's design beat the previous world record and flew 77.134m.
A Malaysian aerospace engineering graduate in the United States and his friends across the world in South Korea recently broke a Guinness World Record with an epic paper plane throw
It was a childhood dream come true for 24-year-old Julian Chee Yie Jian, who wanted to break the record back in 2019 with his paper plane design but became too busy to pursue the personal project due to studies and work.
Three years later, on 16 April 2022 in Daegu, Gyeongsangbuk-do in South Korea, Chee's friends Shin Moo Joon and Kim Kyu Tae finally finished his quest by throwing his design a record-breaking distance of 77.134m in an empty sports complex.
Together, they earned the new record for 'farthest flight of a paper aircraft', breaking the previous entry of 69.14m achieved by quarterback Joe Ayoob and paper plane designer John M Collins from the United States in 2012.
Folding paper planes might seem like a children's pastime, but to the 'Shin Kim Chee' team, as they dubbed themselves, it was months of research, testing, and collaborative effort
According to Guinness World Records, each of the three had their own area to focus on – Shin (a paper aircraft veteran) folded the plane, Kim was the thrower, and Chee was the designer.
Currently based in Kansas as a design engineer for Airbus, Chee — who created the plane prototype in his freshman year at Wichita State University — has never met Shin and Kim in person, nor was he present at the record attempt.
"The paper airplane community is small yet global, in that everyone knows one another online," explained Chee, who hails from Subang Jaya, Selangor.
Despite knowing Shin for nearly a decade, they have only communicated through email and social media.
"The community in Korea also started noticing my design, so we wanted to quickly get it in the record books, and we did!"
In total, eight throws were measured on the day of the attempt, with 77.134m being the farthest and 71.813m being the shortest.
Even with their shortest throw, they would have broken the previous record.
"My design coupled with Shin's wing mods/adjustments and Kim's 'rocket arm' is a winning combination, so I wasn't worried," Chee told the world record organisation.
The flight enthusiast also explained that throwing a paper plane may seem easy, but thrusting it at high speeds with consistency, endurance, and minimal distortion is much more complex
Even the type and weight of paper used was a big consideration in their design and attempt.
"Whether it's staying aloft for as long as possible, or to fly the farthest, designs can vary greatly with an infinite combination of paper type, weight, geometry, and balance," said Chee.
"Compared to the 2012 record glider, my design is smaller, with more layers compacted into the wing, making it stiffer and less prone to distortion. As a result, our winning plane started gliding from a much higher altitude rather than a very aggressive swoop down to pick up more speed."
With one record broken, the trio aims to break many more with Chee believing he has the knowledge now to come up with many more superior models
Speaking to SAYS, the SMK Taman SEA and Methodist College Kuala Lumpur alumni said the concept of flying has always fascinated him and folding paper planes is like a child's entry into the world of engineering and art.
"I can't exactly recall when I started, but unlike any kid who folded a paper plane at some point in their childhood, I was the one who didn't stop," said the recent graduate.
"The concept of flying seemed very alien to me and as a kid, anything that flew is beautiful and truly captivated me. Getting them to fly further and stay aloft longer was always the natural path."
A proud Malaysian, Chee has even named the rockets he built in university, 'Keris' and 'Harimau Malaya'.
Currently mentoring three teams from international universities for a rocket engineering competition in the United States, Chee encourages other aspiring Malaysian rocketeers and flight enthusiasts to keep designing, building, and testing, instead of solely studying, to progress in their passions.
"Solely cramming at a textbook all day and memorising equations for an exam won't do you any good," said the 24-year-old, who is also a national yoyo champion.
"But if you carefully source an equation and use it to design a model airplane or rocket and see it in action, I'm willing to bet it stays in your memory 10 times longer than that exam paper."