Fall is here, students are back on campuses, and the air is filling with autumn leaves - and flying toys. But which flying things are best? We turned to nearby MIT to help us find out.
We found the perfect flying-object tester in Paul Algreen, a senior at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who is not only the reserve quarterback for the Engineers but also an aerospace major. (For those of you who may wonder, MIT has one of the broadest sports programs in the country, with 39 intercollegiate varsity teams.)
The testing site was Steinbrenner Stadium (yes, donated by George in honor of his father) in Cambridge, Mass., on a warm and sunny afternoon. Variable winds blew across the field at 10 to 15 miles per hour.
*Aerobie Sprint -- 67 yards
Cool, but would be hard to play catch with. It looks like something a Ninja would hurl at an opponent. Satisfying, effortless flight. (An unspecified "flying ring" was thrown 1,257 feet by Scott Zimmerman in Fort Funston, Calif., on July 8, 1986, according to "The Guinness Book of Records," Bantam, 1996.)
$7.99, Superflight Inc.
Palo Alto, Calif.
Ages 7 and up
*Aerobie Superdisc -- 35 yards
Frisbee-like, with a clear plastic center. Our testers didn't find it living up to its hype. Expensive, too.
$10.99, Superflight Inc., Palo Alto, Calif.
Ages 8 and up
*Baseball -- 80 yards
Paul Algreen threw a baseball and football for the sake of comparison. (Paul plays center field for MIT's baseball team.) A baseball is more fun with a fielder's mitt, much more fun with two teams. (Record throw: Glen Gourbous of Canada, 445 ft., 10 in. on Aug. 1, 1957.)
$5.99, Rawlings, St. Louis
*Football (Official NFL Game Ball) -- 41 yards
There is no Guinness record for throwing a football. The longest throw recorded at the Footaction NFL Quarterback Challenge was 76 yards, set by Randall Cunningham, then of the Philadelphia Eagles, in 1994.
$74.99, Wilson Sporting Goods, Chicago
*Nerf Turbo Jr. -- 27 yards
It says "turbo," but it's just a Nerf football. Difficult to throw. There's no weight or grip. Did the old Nerf footballs have more heft? Perhaps it's now kinder to table lamps inside.
$4.99, Kenner/Hasbro Inc., Pawtucket, R.I.
Ages 4 and up
*Pro Classic Frisbee -- 45 yards
For baby boomers in college, nothing else came close. Fun, friendly, inexpensive. (The World Flying Disc Federation record is 647 ft., 7 in. by Niclas Bergehamm of Sweden on Aug. 11, 1993.)
$3.99, Mattel Inc.
El Segundo, Calif.
*Vortex Howler -- 80 yards
Easy to throw, and it seems to go forever. It's soft and easy to catch, and it makes a great noise. A clear favorite with our testing group. 'What else do you need with a toy that makes its own music?' said one. On the box is a picture of Denver Broncos' quarterback John Elway, who apparently threw it "more than 90 yards!"
$9.99, OddzOn Products Inc.
Ages 5 and up
*Woosh -- 40 yards
A flying ring, like the Aerobie, but softer and more user-friendly. Similar effortless flight, but it's soft and bounces. Easy to catch.
$6.99, OddzOn Products Inc.
Ages 5 and up
*X-zyLo Ultra -- 105 yards
Flat-out astonishing. It dips and soars, catches the wind. Very colorful, but small. Tough to play catch with, and you'd need a wide-open space to really enjoy it. But does it travel! Paul, an aerospace major, liked this one best. (He got to keep it.) According to its packaging, the two-year-old toy has been thrown more than 200 yards.
$6.95, William Mark Corp.
Ages 9 and up
*Godzilla action figure --27 yards
Good-sport Paul let us add this David-Lettermanesque touch, which also gave us a distinctly un-aerodynamic baseline. Godzilla went as far as the Nerf Turbo Jr. To be fair, the football traveled farther, but veered to the right and so only made 27 yards of headway.
Bought in Japan