Want to make the Farthest Flying Paper Airplane? Know the Science behind it and succeed!

July 7, 2018

What comes to your mind when someone says paper airplanes? Kids running around throwing pieces of paper into the air? Children enjoying themselves? Playtime! Well, you’re not wrong, but that would be what most people would be thinking about when they hear those words. Associating paper planes with kids is just classic and synonymous. However, like real airplanes, making paper airplanes is also an exact science. We will talk about the fundamentals of flight for a better understanding of the Physics and Science behind what makes a paper airplane fly. But we don’t want to be technical, because we would want to know how to make a paper airplane easy and fast. But that is it, to make them quickly we have to understand what lies beneath, so read on to know more.

As the world record holder for paper airplanes’ farthest flight, John Collins says that making paper airplanes is all about accuracy, accuracy, AND accuracy. He states that always to remember you’re creating a machine, a machine that flies. With this in mind, he added, the neatness of your paper airplane counts a lot. It would greatly help if you fold on a flat surface and use folding tools (like a credit card) to help with creasing and get clean straight edges. The key is getting organized and clean when building your planes. As a kid, treat it as a science project and as an adult, treat it as a loving hobby. Start with that outlook and you may build yourself a record holding easy paper airplane that fly far!

paper aircraft

As promised, here are the fundamentals for paper airplane flight and from there on, we will move on to specifics on how to make it fly the farthest.

What really is a paper airplane?

A paper airplane is actually a glider and a glider is a kind of aircraft that has no engine. Now in flight, there are FOUR forces that act upon the aircraft. They are Lift, Drag, Weight, and Thrust. In a glider, there are only three forces that are active. This is because the aircraft has no engine, to speak of, a glider will have no thrust acting upon it WHILE in flight. Now, as an example of more complicated gliders, try looking at the space shuttle! That’s right! When the space shuttle re-enters our atmosphere, it does so as a glider. The space shuttle actually acts exactly like a paper airplane, when returning to Earth from space!

IF it has no engine, how does it fly?

     A paper aircraft is the simplest aircraft that practically anyone can build, and kids can learn the basics of aircraft motion by building and customizing them. The factors that affect these airliners are the same factors that affect this simple toy.

Remember the four forces? When you launch a paper plane into the air, using your muscles which is called the thrust, this initially propels the paper plane forward. However, when the paper plane is in the air performing its flight, it will no longer rely on thrust as it has no internal engines. Now, while the plane is moving forward, the air under the wings of an airplane provide an upward lifting force on the plane, and at the same time, the air pushing downward is slowing it down because of gravity, thereby, creating a drag. The weight of the plane also plays an important role in how far it will go in flight.

Applying what we’ve learned so far

Following the world record holder design by John Collins, which is called DART, it is really easy to make and is a proven design. This type of paper plane design flew a total of 226 feet and is a world record holder. It has a long, elongated body, tapered wings, and a slim fuselage for it to slice through the air as smoothly as possible.

paper airplane

Here is how to make a paper airplane easy and fast:

Step 1: Using a standard printer paper (A4 size, 8.5X11 inches, and 100 GSM thicknesses) fold the paper in half, lengthwise. Use a credit card, or a ruler, to ensure that the creases are sharp and MUST be near perfect. Make sure you line up the corners really well, in order to do so.

Step 2: Open the paper and then make a fold to bring the top of the paper in line with the left side. (Repeat with the left corner). To ensure sharpness, confirm that the fold at the top is as sharp as possible, so you will know that you have a good accurate fold. This is key to the build because the more perfect your folds are, the straighter it will fly.

Step 3: Fold the right edge down to run parallel to the diagonal creases previously made in step 2 (about 1mm away from the crease).Open the folds and then turn it on the side where you can clearly see the creases you have just made. Take a left and right edge and then fold it parallel to the crease line; make sure that it’s not exactly on the crease, but a millimeter away.

Step 4: Fold the paper down at the point where the diagonals cross each other, be sure to keep the center crease in line with itself. Make sure that there is no bubbling; it should be entirely flat while doing this.

Step 5: Fold both top corners down along the pre-made crease. Keep these folds sharp to streamline your plane better.


Step 6: Fold strongly along the center crease.

Step 7: Fold the wings down, starting a few millimeters above the nose, and ending in a position, so the wings reach the lower back end corner of the body. Make sure to make them as identical as possible on both sides.

Step 8: Gently bend these wings upward and make the parallel to the ground (or slightly above parallel)

Step 9: Conduct some test flights and adjust, or trim, the folds to find out which can make the farthest flight path.

So there you have it! This is by far how to make a paper airplane easy and fast but fly the longest distance. Enjoy Flying!