Paper dream takes to the air

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WRITER'S block is usually thought of as a problem: but for David Lee, it turned out to be useful. As he wrestled with the plot of his latest novel, he decided to distract himself by making a paper plane. Or two. Or three.

The trouble was, they all kept veering off and crashing.So he set out to design a better one. Using the basic principles of aerodynamics and aerofoils, he eventually - after two or three weeks in which his desk became piled with cardboard prototypes - came up with a design which would fly for up to 30 feet. Now, he's looking for a patent, in the hope that he could turn his brief obsession into a money-spinner.

"I discovered that there are six other patents for folded paper planes, but none is like mine," he said. Because the patent has not yet been granted, he refuses to disclose details of its design - though he says that it only requires a single sheet of A4 paper.

"I haven't done strict trials on it, only in the corridor outside my flat," he said. "I would have taken it outside, but it was raining. I think it could go up to 40 feet in a straight line, no corkscrewing or nose-diving."

He is now looking for business partners. "People might think I'm out of my mind patenting a paper plane, but it's actually a great product. It's simple to construct. It's cheap to manufacture. And you can flat- pack it in vinyl with a corporate logo. Kids love that kind of thing." It even helped cure his writer's block. His novel, Doing Doomsday, about the end of the world, is due to be published next year. "If it flies half as well as the plane, then by December 1999 I should be a millionaire." Armageddon permitting, that is.