Paper Pilot DYLAN Parker: inspiring kids to do what they love

Did you know that ‘Paper Pilot’ is actually a real job title? Well, it sure is and yes, you guessed it… it involves flying paper planes for a living. Dylan Parker’s love for paper planes has taken him on an incredible journey, a journey that even inspired the latest hit Aussie family film, PAPER PLANES. Dylan’s love for design and all things aeronautical began during his university years at a regional paper plane competition! It was at this competition he met his best friend, teammate and now business partner, James Norton. Together, Dylan and James are officially the world’s first Paper Planes sports team and co-founders of THE PAPER PILOTS initiative: a community partnership that travels to schools and community events spreading the love for paper planes. Alone, Dylan has competed not only at the Australian Championships but the World Championships in Austria in 2009 where he scored a 3rd world ranking with a throw of over 42 metres! We recently had a chat with Dylan to find out more about what he does & his thoughts on leadership…

Q: What's the secret to a good paper plane and what do you love most about them?

Paper planes are BRILLIANT! In less than 2 minutes you can transform something boring like a piece of paper into a masterful creation that FLIES, and you don’t even have to be a wizard! My paper planes are always super neat and symmetrical but I think the biggest secret to a good paper plane is some weight in the nose to give it ‘forward directional cohesion’ and upward slanting wings, in a capital ‘Y’ shape if you were to look at your design from behind – this is called ‘dihedral angle’ and it’s great for keeping your plane stable as it flies off into the distance.

Q: How did the idea for THE PAPER PILOTS initiative come about? What does it involve?

THE PAPER PILOTS was originally created as a hobby for James and I so we could keep sharing our love of paper planes. People would ask us to come and visit their school or their event and we even got given real ‘flight suits’ by the Australian Defence Force. From there we realised that there was a massive demand for fun, educational and awesome workshops in schools and decided to take THE PAPER PILOTS full-time! James and I both left our jobs to pursue our passion and we’ve never looked back!

Q: You have participated in a lot of paper planes competitions and work closely in partnership with your co-founder James, what is the most important thing you have learnt about teamwork?

The most important thing about teamwork is to realise that everyone is different – not for better or worse! We have different interests, different things that make us happy. The most important thing though is whatever you’re doing, make sure you’re having fun. If you’re having fun then it never seems like hard work!

Q: What has been your career highlight or best memory to date?

Working on the PAPER PLANES film was awesome! I got to help fold the planes, design special planes for some of the characters, help find the best ways to film the planes and best of all was training the actors in how to fold and throw! Even when it came to filming the movie I got to be on set behind the cameras seeing how a big movie is made!

My favourite moment would have to be donning my best paper plane pattern bowtie and suit to attend the world premier of PAPER PLANES. I was so excited to see the movie which more than 200 people worked hard to create. I got to throw planes from the front row with all the other kids!

Q: What has been some of the biggest challenges you have faced so far?

Starting my own business was scary! You can’t see into the future so you never know what might happen. You just have to try your hardest every day to make things work and to keep excited about your goals and your mission – mine being to teach kids all over Australia about the science of flight and how to make amazing paper planes!

Q: Has there ever been a time when people have given you a hard time or doubted you/your decisions or choices? What was your response?

People never believe me when I say that I make paper planes for a job, it’s totally out of the ordinary, so I understand why it seems far-fetched. The thing about that is, when someone doubts you in the beginning but then sees you succeeding they often become your biggest fans! I always remind myself of that and choose not to focus on negative people.

Q: What advice do you wish you someone gave you when you were in school?

You can be WHATEVER you want to be when you grow up if you work hard enough. Sometimes people might not support what you’re interested in or tease you for being different but often it is these things end up being what people love most about you!

Q: A big part of leadership is using what you are good at to help influence others. How do you think you’ve been able to do this with Paper Planes?

A great leader is someone who SHARES his or her passion with the people around them rather than telling people what to do. As a PAPER PILOT I’ve been able to share my passion for flight, science, being curious and paper planes. In doing so, I have inspired some of the people I’ve met to search out the things they love or try new things without worrying what other people think!

Q: Leading yourself and others well isn’t always about big and grand gestures or bold moves. What ‘little things’ have you had to do well in order to get you to where you are today?

Although they don’t seem important, always being tidy, always making lists of things I need to do, always remembering to say ‘thank you’ and always listening to what people have to say have lead to some AMAZING opportunities for me. I think the most important ‘little thing’ you can do though is to smile as much as possible, always see the positive side of things! It’s a great reward for people like me that help you along the way.

Q: What is next for Dylan Parker/The Paper Pilots?

I’m going to take THE PAPER PILOTS to more places in Australia, and the world while working with more companies to find ways of making what I do more educational, fun and exciting for students and schools! I might even release a special plane I’ve been testing!

Dylan Parker will be sharing his story at The National Young Leaders Day events for primary and secondary students in Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide this March. For more information click here.

For more information on THE PAPER PILOTS and how to book a school visit, go to You can also like/follow them on Facebook and Instagram.


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