Hallway to the Danger Zone: Gilt Tech's First-Ever (Fiery) Paper Plane Contest

3 min Read Time

This week many a Gilt technologist could be found folding pieces of paper into exotic shapes that either soared like eagles or tottered around like penguins (depending). The purpose: To participate in #gilttech’s inaugural paper airplane contest.

The team in Dublin went first, holding their contest on Thursday:


Above are our Dublin victors (left to right): Software Engineer Pawel Raszewski, whose plane won the “longest distance traveled” category at 54 feet (Pawel’s our resident aviation expert); Software Engineer Natalia Bartol, who won “longest airtime” at 3.6 seconds; and Senior Software Engineer Rory Haddon, who swept all four “creative” categories (“most beautiful,” “most Gilt,” “most creative overall” and “most team”). Rory was the sole contender in three of those four categories, facing a challenge only in “most team” from “Team Fire,” led by Senior Software Engineer Conor Clifford. “Team Fire’s actual flaming entry posed a health-and-safety risk,” writes Senior Program Manager Deirdre O'Brien; somehow this fact cost Conor and his team some points with the judges.

From the starting line:


A space made for plane-flying:


Rory’s fiery-yet-fire-code-compliant aircraft:


Now we turn our attention to the NYC iteration of this historic competition. How the NYC contest differed from Dublin’s:

  • each contestant flew his/her plane solo and received two tries each for the “longest distance” and “longest airtime” categories
  • only one general “creative” category, not four (controversial question: Is #gilttech-Dublin more creative than #gilttech-NYC?)
  • lack of measuring instrument meant that no distances could be accuratedly recorded in NYC; “the Giltemeter,” our own distance-measuring standard, didn’t really catch on (one Giltemeter = the length of Senior Director, Back Office Engineering and contest visionary Christopher Hazlett’s boot)
  • what we lacked in measuring tape we made up for in the use of tiny multicolored Post-Its to mark distances traveled by planes

Unlike Dublin’s beautiful and spacious flying area, our NYC contest course consisted of a long hallway apparently engineered specifically to accommodate paper airplane contests, but nothing else. At least it kept us focused!

Here’s an action shot with Senior Software Engineer Robert Brazier and his plane–possibly on its victory flight?:


Lead Software Engineer Paolo Lim takes his turn in the “longest airtime” category while other contestants look on:


In the end, Software Engineer Evan Wall won the distance category; Robert Brazier won the “longest airtime” with 2.7 seconds (Natalia won this category overall); and Software Engineering Intern/Scalasaur Helena Wu (above photo, far left) won the most creative. Lead Software Engineer Eric Shepherd, at far right, came in third in the creative category. Helena’s plane is the striped and dotted one in the foreground of the photo below, and Eric’s is the one on the right.


And that Top Gun-themed plane, judged the second-most creative, belongs to Lead Software Engineer and Movember celebrant Karl Norling:


We’d like to thank artist+author Oliver Jeffers for inspiring our contest. While reading Jeffers’ wonderful children’s book The Great Paper Caper to his daughters, Chris Hazlett came up with the idea to hold our own paper airplane contest. “Three words: Paper Airplane Competition,” read the subject line of Chris’ email to me on October 25, and we were off–forming a committee and adopting regulations just like any official sporting authority.

We must also thank the people at Red Bull, whose “Worldwide Paper Plane Contest” regulations helped us develop our own contest rules. And one final hat tip goes to Kenny Loggins, whose musical composition set the tone for our racing:

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