- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Campbell and his crew had spent the morning laying out the target areas, with squares of brightly colored paper forming dotted lines and, within the dotted lines. Lucky Circles, constructed out of butcher paper. On each Lucky Circle was written the type of prize: tennis rackets, gift certificates from The Athlete's Foot, football tickets, record albums, Seattle Mariners' baseballs and caps, and shares of Boeing stock.
A few errant planes, thrown ahead of time, indicated the impatience of the contestants. Mostly they plummeted straight down, or turned in midcourse to nosedive into the stands below.
Announcer Mark Jeffries stepped up to a microphone near the Toyota. "The World Indoor Paper Airplane Championship will officially begin as soon as John Steiner. vice-president of Corporate Product Development at Boeing aircraft, has thrown out the first plane," he intoned. Steiner was at that moment down on his hands and knees on the AstroTurf, trying to follow the written instructions on how to make an airplane. He was assisted by a Boeing aeronautical engineer, Doug McLean, who had worked out the design for Campbell.
"Fold the paper on that center line first, then fold the wings back," McLean instructed Steiner, who had been instrumental in developing Boeing's 727 in the early 1960s, had twice been cited by Aviation Week & Space Technology and had just received the University of Washington's Summa Laude Dignatus award for 1978.
Soon Steiner was clutching, between forefinger and thumb, a craft held together with a bit of Scotch tape and a paper clip. And suddenly it was aloft. It sailed about 20 or 30 feet, then went down, falling short of the dotted lines. The contest was officially open, and a blizzard of planes hit the AstroTurf. Within an hour the aisles were full of discarded and misdirected aircraft. No one hit the Toyota, not even the self-proclaimed paper airplane champion from Ohio. Little boys who had volunteered darted around picking up misguided missiles. They were asked by Jeffries not to run too fast, because they created air currents that might deflect planes still to be thrown.
A craft looking like an Indian headdress landed near a wheel of the Toyota, to a round of applause. It had been designed by a 6-year-old boy who was quickly summoned to the microphone.
"What technical skill did you bring to your airplane design?" asked Jeffries.
"None." the kid replied.
At the end of the afternoon, he and 11 others who had landed nearest the center of the field participated in a long-distance throw to determine the champion. All but three of their planes plunged ignominiously earthward. Those three glided rather prettily to settle gently on the turf. Distances were solemnly measured, and 24-year-old Steve Monks of Kent, Wash., with a distance of 255 feet, was proclaimed the World Indoor Paper Airplane champion. Monks said he had given his plane a slight lift on two ends and put a paper clip in the middle. Greive presented him with a plaque.
The contest over, the stadium cleared quickly. Steiner had already departed, but the Toyota remained, to oversee what was going to be a massive cleanup job; 33.375 paper airplanes littered the Kingdome. They would be recycled, of course.