Malaysian-born, US-based aeronautical engineer’s paper airplane breaks Guinness World Record

Most of us folded paper airplanes for fun when we were kids, but it was always Julian Chee Yie Jian’s childhood dream to design such airplanes and break records.

And recently, that’s exactly what he did.

Currently based in Kansas, USA, Chee, 24, put Malaysia on the world map by claiming a Guinness World Record (GWR) in the ‘Farthest Paper Airplane Flight’ category.

His paper airplane design flew at 77.134m, beating the previous record of 69.14m held by Americans John Collins and Joe Ayoob in 2012.

“It’s been a long time to put Malaysia in the GWR. It’s not lunar, but I’m representing Malaysia to the best of my ability. It certainly won’t be my last,” Chee said in an interview recently. by email.

When asked if he ever expected to break the GWR, he replied, “Yeah, I did. In 2019 I tested my design in an airplane hangar and achieved about 90% of the 2012 record distance on the first day alone. So I knew it was within reach with a little more refinement.

Chee, a design engineer at Airbus, teamed up with his South Korean pals Kim Kyu Tae and Shin Moo Joon to take on the challenge. The trio achieved their incredible distance in Daegu, Gyeongsangbuk-do in South Korea on April 16.Chee said throwing a paper airplane looks easy, but pushing it at high speed with minimal distortion, consistency and endurance is very complex.

The guys each had a specific area to focus on – Shin (a paper plane veteran) folded the plane, Kim was the launcher, while Chee was the designer.

“I’ve known Shin for almost a decade now, and we’ve constantly discussed, via email and social media, new ways to fly higher, further and longer. So in 2019, I made some tests to my university’s indoor baseball park and an old Boeing hangar in Wichita, Kansas.

“Unfortunately, I didn’t pursue the project because school and work kept me busy. Shin was the only person who knew my design and he introduced me to Kim with the intention of breaking the record. The community in (South) Korea also started noticing my design, so we wanted to put it in the record books quickly, and we did,” said Chee, a graduate of the State University of Wichita from Kansas in Aerospace Engineering last year.

Former SMK student Taman SEA (Petaling Jaya) took months of research to conceptualize the design. He explained that there are a few factors that influence the performance of any aircraft, but ultimately it comes down to the balance between mass and wing area size.

“The heavier the paper, the more inertia it has to make it work, and the better the structure. The smaller the wings, the faster it flies too. For this application, the wings should be sized so that they can still hover at a particular speed, otherwise they will just hit the ground like a dart,” Chee explained.

He said throwing a paper airplane sounds easy, but pushing it at high speed with minimal distortion, consistency and endurance is much more complex.Chee teamed up with fellow South Koreans Kim Kyu Tae and Shin Moo Joon to tackle this record attempt.Chee teamed up with fellow South Koreans Kim Kyu Tae and Shin Moo Joon to tackle this record attempt.

“Unexpectedly, the challenge is to make it fly straight at different speeds because paper is a flexible material. Often launching would distort and damage the wings, causing the aircraft to roll or turn rapidly.

“Compared to the 2012 record paraglider, my design is smaller, with more compacted layers in the wing, making it stiffer and less prone to distortion. As a result, our winning plane began to glide at a much higher altitude rather than descending in a very aggressive dive to gain more speed.”

Chee said paper airplanes are a kid’s version of engineering and art.

“Since it’s much faster and cheaper to make something from old mail (or an exam paper that I never want to see again!), there’s a lot of trial and error. ‘mistakes,'” said Chee, who, in addition to creating origami airplanes, loves music and playing yo-yos.

“Every throw is an experience to be learned from, and that’s hugely important for any child trying to figure out how the world works. It’s also a great outlet to let the mind wander.

“Whether it’s a flying plane, a bird-like plane, replicas of existing planes, or just a high-performance glider, it’s endless. That’s the best part It’s simple in concept, but complex in its possibilities,” said midfielder Chee. of three siblings.

Next, the engineer wants to design, build, and launch a small but efficient rocket into space.

“It will take a few years as I study and write the analysis code and learn how to make rocket propellant,” Chee said.

We have no doubt that he will continue to fly high in his future endeavours.