Paper Airplanes

Milo showed how to construct his realistic-looking paper airplane design at Squidwrench, so I had to fold an airplane pattern I learned in fifth grade:


Paper Airplanes - front view
Paper Airplanes – front view

Side views:

Paper Airplanes - side view
Paper Airplanes – side view

Bottom views:

Paper Airplanes - bottom view
Paper Airplanes – bottom view

His plane flies fine, but “my” airplane has the virtue of simplicity. He had a snippet left over for a fourth engine, so I cut it in half and rolled a pair; the original pattern has none.

It flies best when made from a sheet of 8-½×11 inch (Letter) paper, but anything will suffice. Here’s how to fold one from a Geek Scratch Pad half-Letter sheet.

Start with two diagonal folds:

Best Paper Airplane Ever - 1
Best Paper Airplane Ever – 1

Push the sides in and flatten:

Best Paper Airplane Ever - 2
Best Paper Airplane Ever – 2

Fold the side tips forward, then again to form pockets:

Best Paper Airplane Ever - 3
Best Paper Airplane Ever – 3

I’ve always made those folds to leave a few millimeters of clearance along the centerline, but it probably doesn’t matter.

Tear the fuselage rearward from the nose, along the center line, back to the pockets:

Best Paper Airplane Ever - 4
Best Paper Airplane Ever – 4

Tuck the nose pieces into the pockets, flatten firmly, then fold in half lengthwise:

Best Paper Airplane Ever - 5
Best Paper Airplane Ever – 5

Fold each wing downward from the pocket, upward to put the edge along the bottom of the fuselage, then fold downward to align the edge at the previous fold:

Best Paper Airplane Ever - 6
Best Paper Airplane Ever – 6

Which is harder to describe than to do. The end result should look like this:

Best Paper Airplane Ever - 7
Best Paper Airplane Ever – 7

Crisp the folds, tear a square-ish vertical-ish stabilizer, fold a triangle into the fuselage, then un-flatten the airplane into shape:

Best Paper Airplane Ever - 8
Best Paper Airplane Ever – 8

Grab just behind the pockets, toss gently upward, and it’ll fly fine the first time. Slightly bend the rear edges of the wing and stabilizer to trim the flight path until it sails gently across the room.

It’s a glider, not a dart!

Enjoy …

6 thoughts on “Paper Airplanes

  1. I used to fold a somewhat similar plane, and found another one that I liked, so I combined their designs. At one point, I made promotional printouts for a company I worked for that had the folding instructions and fold lines, arranged so that the next instruction was on top as you folded the plane. When it was finished, it showed the company logo in a few locations. The whole thing was a mess of PostScript that calculated the angles on the fly as it drew the lines.

  2. Cal Tech has a paper airplane contest in one of the aeronautical engineering classes… they go to top of the 150 foot / 9 story Millikan Library tower and launch their designs from the roof. Each one has a note saying that if this is found off campus that a phone call or a email would be appreciated. The former student that told me this had one found over a mile away, the record is something like 3 and a half miles….

    The library tower is also used for physics classes – a fluid-mechanics class drops eggs from 150 feet / 9 stories. And the winner has to prove that the egg is not hard boiled by taking it into the library lunchroom, cracking it and making breakfast.

  3. I learned this same plane folding method in 1969 from a book I got from “Stars and Stripes” bookstore called “The Great International Paper Airplane Book” by Gerry Mander. Some really fine memories of paper folding from that book.

    1. ** rummages through bookshelf **

      Plane 14! Close enough, anyhow.

      I must try folding the weirder ones again. Maybe I’ll have more success now?

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