I was sitting in the cheap seats at Reliant Stadium watching the hapless Texans wind down the last few minutes of yet another lost season. What happened next was one of the great moments in aviation history.
At the time I was a season ticket holder and my guest on this particular week was my brother-in-law, Richard. In the final minutes of this ugly game the fans started making paper airplanes out of some paper promotional materials that had been left in each seat at kickoff.
Battle red paper airplanes were starting to fill the air….and it was becoming a bit of a security issue as the promotional material was printed on pretty sturdy paper stock and was hitting some patrons with a “thud” in the backs of their heads. Yellow shirted security personnel started appearing at the bottom of each section with stern looks on their security faces.
As I watched this drama play out I wasn’t thinking…”Boy, they better nip this in the bud quick!” Instead I was thinking…”Hell, I could make a better airplane than that!”
Many years before my Dad had taught us all to make a paper airplane with a very specific design. He told a story about how he had used this design to shame a hot shot engineer colleague during an impromptu paper airplane contest from a hotel balcony on a business trip.
So, of course, I started constructing my aircraft. It’s a complicated design so it took a few minutes to get it juuuuust right. And as I put the finishing touches on the airplane….
…the final whistle blew ending the game and the season. The diehard fans rose to their feet and started gathering their things.
I launched “Seeking Glory” high into the air….
Now when I say “cheap seats” I am not exaggerating. My seats at Reliant Stadium (later rebranded NRG Stadium) were literally 2nd row from the top at about the 35 yard line. When we stood to cheer we sometimes bumped our head on the roof…(okay, maybe a little artistic license on that one).
“Seeking Glory” sailed effortlessly out of our section of seats which quickly outperformed all other offerings from the fans in our high altitude seating area. But then as the fans started shuffling down the steep steps I start tugging on Richard’s shirt sleeve as I watched the most impressive thing I had seen in that stadium to that point (sorry Houston Texans).
She glided down, down, down from our level 6 seats to 5, 4, 3…..banked left toward the end zone seats…2, 1…..then as she continued her descent over the end zone seats turned sharply back toward the field, split the uprights and finally came to rest between the hash marks at about the 15 yard line at the feet of a team trainer who was heading to the locker room having just finished the traditional midfield hand shake routine. He picked up “Seeking Glory”, gave her a quick once over, and then tossed her aside.
I turned to Richard with all the excitement you would expect having just witnessed this historic event and said…”Dear God, man….did you see that!?!” And he said….
”What are you talking about?”
And so…you’ll just have to take my word for it. For one brief shining moment there was greatness on the field at Reliant Stadium.
Everyone was there but, alas….no one was aware but me and an anonymous trainer.
What a moment! I will never forget it…