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Paper Airplane Designs (foldnfly.com)
1753 points by wilsonfiifi on Oct 18, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 205 comments

Imagine my surprise when I'm reading down the HN list like I do every day and I stumble upon my own website. Thats a pretty cool feeling! Im happy to answer any questions people may have. This was my Angular learning project back when Angular just came out. I think Angular ended up being the wrong choice for this project, but it works and I learned Angular, so its all good.

Am I correct to assume all the designs are for US Letter paper?

(And not the A4 size common in the UK and elsewhere. http://betweenborders.com/wordsmithing/a4-vs-us-letter/)

I remember the frustration as kid getting a book of designs from the US and having none of them work quite right.

> I remember the frustration as kid getting a book of designs from the US and having none of them work quite right.

"Not quite right" means even more fun. We used a non-standard paper format, the resulting planes were a little bit different than shown and this made them unique.

> a little bit different than shown and this made them unique.

Sounds like when I attempt a 1000 piece puzzle. It doesn't always have to match the box!

Yeah. Sorry :(

FWIW, you can simply cut 2 cms from the tall end and have the same ratio as US paper.

For the very same reason I wonder whether there might be a difference in taste between a metric recipe and an imperial one.

Fun story: when the Soviets tried to reverse-engineer captured B-29s bombers (into Tupolev Tu-4s) they had a lot of trouble because their production of sheet aluminium, rivets, etc. was done in metric sizes, whereas the B-29 used imperial-sized components, and thus extensive re-engineering was required to compensate the slight differences in thickness (and thus in weight and balance) of all components.

I wonder if this justifies the US adherence to the imperial standard - meaning it acts as a basic barrier to entry for other countries who use the "world" standard.

Compatibility usually gains you more than you lose. If you can't make US planes with parts from the rest of the world then that does mean other countries can't make US planes, but that also means that the US manufacturers can't import parts from elsewhere.

The F-35 has components made all over the world, but was designed in the US. Is that plane metric?

I would assume/hope so? Lockheed of all companies should be on top of that after the mars probe incident.

sort of like the use of analog comms on the Galactica right?

Not quite the same thing, but since you mention Galactica and her non-networked systems, I believe watching this show should be required of anyone even tangentially considering work in an IoT project.

Try making a paper airplane with Galactica’s octagonal sheets of paper!

And Airbus only uses imperial bolt sizes.

> imperial standard

The US does not use Imperial. It uses US Customary.

This differs from Imperial in many ways especially for volume measure. And of course Imperial is not a standard.

For one thing a pint is still (roughly) a pound.

Thanks for mentioning it here. I would have wasted a lot of time wondering why these designs didnt work as expected.

I've recently started running a STEM club for girls. One of the lessons is about flight: what makes an airplane fly, and can we design a better airplane than the standard 6-fold-arrow?

I've been searching the internet for a website that ranks paper planes both difficulty AND purpose. You just saved me a lot of time. On behalf of the girls in my club: thank you!

That's awesome. I have fond memories of similar experiments in physics, where the winning group used the "paper clip" trick to put some weight on the nose.

The world record paper airplane flight is just a straight up rectangle haha.

>just a rectangle

Haha, that makes sense though since it optimizes for maximum surface area resisting descent.

Hey, what do you think of Greatest Paper Airplanes?


Do you plan on doing something like that with your website?

A Demo of the gameplay for the ones too lazy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kx2cHmkqWZ4

I remember playing this with my dad and having it installed for a birthday party. Fun times.

this is amazingg!

My only problem with this website is that when I used it with a class of students, there were pornographic advertisements in between the plane types. That was really upsetting. Please reconsider your ads.

That is very odd and not what I want. It’s just google Adsense. You sure your computer doesn’t have spyware?

So, I just discovered that Adsense has an option to block ads that have "Significant Skin Exposure" so I turned this on a few mins ago.

Thank you! Now I can go back to suggesting this to all the physics teachers in the schools where I teach! Oh and regarding malware, we'd gotten the Chromebooks, brand new, from Dell, a week before.

I mean, I know this is probably not in your control and all (and I know I'm off-topic). But wouldn't an adblocker be appropriate for your school environment? I most definitely wouldn't want my kids to see any ads, but obviously and especially those with "significant skin exposure".

I applaud you for not recommending this site in the first take. But it seems like you should have more support, adblockers being the first line of defense.

Thank you for teaching, by the way. I feel teachers need the same thanks that we so commonly give soldiers and first responders. You are truly on the front line, and we all appreciate you.

But wouldn't an adblocker be appropriate for your school environment?

Maybe, but in general that boat sailed in 1989: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Channel_One_News

Ad-blockers from the point of view of UK copyright would seem to be tortuous copyright infringement (unauthorised modification and/or unauthorised creation ofa derivative). I can't see schools here using them because of the legal risk.

So you're saying, adblockers in the UK are illegal due to copyright concerns? I don't think that holds. If I buy a magazine and rip the ads from it, that's perfectly fine. This logic even holds in a school setting.

Actually, it doesn't - you can't take the ads out (eg a clipping service) in any commercial setting. Using a tool that you put your newspaper in that removed all ads would be creating a tortuous derivative too. There's no general personal exemptions in UKCDA either.

Chances of being prosecuted for use are roughly zero.

Lawful educational use is highly restricted in the UK, but there are few prosecutions. For example if you show TV broadcasts you have to have both music licenses (as well as the TV license) to cover you for when they play music on the show (or in the adverts!).

Thanks for the reply. Very interesting stuff.

How do you feel about suggestions that people should ad-block your site?

You can control which categories of ads will be displayed in your Adsense account settings. It shouldn't be necessary in a civilised world, of course, but there you go.

I would strongly recommend an ad blocker or use a browser such as Brave which by default blocks ads and other nasties

Honest question: How would I do that when I'm on a rather locked-down school Chromebook?

Best to use Brave as your browser. Or even Opera. Both has built-in ad blocker.

Agree, sorry only saw your response after I posted mine. I don't know how I missed seeing it

Couldn't do that when I was using the school Chromebook.

The school doesn't have some kind of filtering proxy setup? A decade and a half ago I was having to end-run Bess to get to the Sun Javadocs - blocked for "hacking." Useful education, but it made studying for the AP comp sci test difficult...

I just wanted to say that your portfolio is amazing [1], and you've had the coolest career ever [2]! I was wondering, are you still the sole developer of Toodledo, or do you have some employees now?

I hope this HN bump has been good for Fold N Fly!

[1] http://www.jakeo.com/portfolio.php

[2] http://www.jakeo.com/about.php


looks like they are hiring.

I just noticed this one still shows up when I choose "no scissors" https://www.foldnfly.com/13.html#The-UFO :)

Thanks. I’ll fix it.

It would be great to have some data on these designs, for example avg time aloft, max distance travelled. May be users should be able to report this and you can do average or median?

I have had this bookmarked on my phone for years, so I can pull it up every time one of my kids asks me to make one. :)

Nice diagrams. Do you know the book "Kids' Shenanigans" by Klutz? [1] I grew up with it, and it has three paper airplane designs, corresponding to your "Basic Dart", your "The Square Plane", and one called the "Nakamura Lock"[2] (also mentioned elsewhere in this thread), which you don't seem to have but bears some resemblance to your "Tail Spin".

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Kids-Shenanigans-Approve-Whoopie-Cush...

[2] https://www.instructables.com/id/Paper-Airplane-The-Nakamura...

Some of these look so similar to the ones I used to design. We used to call a single "swoop" where it would go down and glide back up a "neener-neener". The peak of our design was the "neener-neener 9", which I recall would do a full 9 neener-neeners on a blustery day.

Which one flies furthest? (I can narrow down by category, but not sort).

Its hard to say. I never did a test where I threw them all and compared distances. I should do this! A lot depends on how accurate your folds are, and how well you tune it by small bends to the wings. This can make a big difference. I would say that "The Buzz" or "V-Wing" probably are the best. Also the classic "Basic Dart" thrown hard is difficult to beat.

There is a ring design that will beat any dart for distance. Particularly when thrown gently from a height where its glide ability can be exploited.



Haha. Way back in my 2nd year at university (1985!), these were all the rage. Myself and a couple of friends made a giant version out of 6 university calendars. It had a diameter of about 40-50cm. We launched it one day (when the lecturer was facing the board) from the back of a math lecture. The slope of the lecture hall was a gentle 20 degrees, slowly tapering off towards the front. Initially it cleared people's heads with a few cm to spare, then about halfway it was clearing the backs of chairs - fortunately there were quite a few rows from the middle to the front with no one in them - until it finally found the back of some poor guy's head sitting in the 1st or 2nd row. The ring clunked him square and he ended up wearing it. We all exploded in laughter. It wasn't aimed at him mind - he was just in the wrong spot at the wrong time. I still smile when I think of that (does that make me a bad person?).

EDIT: got the year wrong (memory is fading...)

I first saw one back in the 70s as a kid at a summer activity. I had made a sharp double folded dart that I would throw furiously towards the rafters to trace a ballistic arc and land almost point down. I was easily beat by a ring an older kid gently launched from the elevated stage that glided and swooped well past where my dart landed.

I used to have a paper airplane book and this was one of my favourites.

The other was a plane made with a drinking straw and two paper rings. It always flew really far also!


I believe I had the same book when I was a kid, as I remember that one.

From tests conducted 30 years ago: the double dart can be thrown further than the basic dart. It's the same as a dart but you fold the wings one more time..

Cool website!

You might already be aware, but when toggling some of the tag filters, mixed in with the normal square images, I get several empty squares that don't link to anything.

Anyway, happy folding!

How did you get into the hobby ? How did you collected the designs ? You should add a little bit of history to make it more personal and engaging.

I used to make one like the square plane, except at step 4 I would fold the outer points on more time toward the center line then fold the tip while inserting the previous folds into the folded tip so it makes a thick triangle. You could then fold the wing tips up or down to make the vertical surfaces. I'm not sure I'm describing it well.

Would you ever sell the site? Been thinking about making one myself that you can print that has the fold lines and maybe some fighter jet graphics

Why do you think Angular was the wrong choice? This question is coming from a person with little knowledge on most front-end frameworks.

The main problem I ran into with Angular was SEO. With a single page app, I had a hard time getting google to index the individual airplane pages. This was 5 years ago, before good solutions existed. I cobbled together a solution, but its not perfect. And Google is better about this now anyway. It would have been better to use vanilla JS or jquery to do the simple home-page filtering. But I wanted to learn Angular, so thats what I did.

Ah yeah you pretty much have to set up server-side rendering to combat SEO difficulties with single page apps. Google says they'll execute your JS to index client-side rendered sites too, but they really don't do it nearly as often/well in my experience.

Might be a bit heavy for the use-case. That's all I can think of.

I was wondering how much time it took you to build the content?

Also is missing the most important thing. A video of the plane flying.

I just want to say thank you. Your site just made my teaching job a lot easier. PSA: am working with kids on some optimization stuff. Teaching not daily.

This is a great site! The Stunt Plane is a design I learned from a book as a kid and is still my go-to when my kids want me to make a plane.

Time to pick up a few more.

Very nice, although (and just a suggestion, not a criticism), from a design perspective, a little bit more padding in the cards would go a long way.

To counter that, I personally find the padding to be absolutely spot on. I often see designs where the designer has added lots of beautiful white space, and the result is that the actual content spans 2 or 3 pages instead of one.i personally feel that web sites that use less padding often feel more"real" and fit for purpose.

Thank you for an amazing website, it's so much fun! I really hope it is going to stay up for many years onward.

We did paper airplane design when I studied the Taguchi method in college.

I wonder, I wonder wether producthunt will love this too...

you can start selling the physical paper with dotted lines and instructions on the back, would be so cool for gifting

This is such an awesome project :)

In the 90's I went to a small middle school, the 8th grade class was 21 people. Once, the school had a contest in the indoor gym, we each designed paper planes and the one who flew it the farthest won a prize. We argued with teachers over an allowance for a little bit of tape, which some of us used just as nose weight. However, each kid was the one to "fly" his own plane, a big oversight.

Almost the last kid, when it was Sam's turn to "fly", he stepped up to the line, crumpled up his design very tightly into little ball, and hurled the paper mass as far as he could.

Strangely, I can't remember what happened or who won! But his genius observation of the rules stuck with me.

The plane I designed is not among these designs, but a totally square design that I had learned earlier from an origami book. This is the closest one: https://www.foldnfly.com/17.html#The-Square-Plane

Similar story from a university aero course that ended with a paper airplane competition.

There were some remarkable paper airplanes, making amazing flights, all sorts of research and time went into developing the ideal model.

One guy comes up representing his team and he gets out a piece of rolling paper and a lighter. Tears the tiniest portion off the rolling paper, sets it alight, and then follows it with his finger through the air as it took forever to land on the ground.

I believe the incident led to a rule change for later years.

> follows it with his finger through the air as it took forever to land on the ground.

Sounds interesting, but I'm confused. So is he walking in front of it, and the flame is pulled toward his finger? Did it travel the farthest that way?

No, apologies. He burnt the paper and then picked one of the ashes as his "plane"

His finger never touched the plane after it took "flight" just pointed to it from the side so that everyone could follow the "flight path."

Some classmates were upset, I was just impressed.

Ah, I'm guessing time aloft was the metric?

"Time of flight" only the definition of flight was something like unpowered and untethered off the ground. So floating slowly to the ground becomes "flight" by the definition of the rules.

Wouldn't the burning of the paper technically make it powered?

No, the burning of the paper removed a great of mass from the paper turning to to a brittle paper ash. After the fire was out is when the timer started, since the paper ash was so much lighter but the same volume its buoyancy in air was drastically increased causing it to "float."

The up draft from the flame wasn't utilized to power the flight, the fire was only used transform the original rolling paper into a "plane" by mass reduction through combustion.

You can use a light paper and a board that you walk with to provide lift; I'd have thought that would create a "thrower stays behind line" rule.

There was a team that did this, as long as they didn't create an up draft it was legal by the rules, their air time was still less than a minute.

The burnt ash wafted for well over 60 seconds.

I did the same in elementary school, I made my own plane design after many iterations of a/b testing. It won pretty much every airplane contest. No tape, pennies, or paperclips needed, they actually reduced the overall distance if the center of mass was too close to the tip.

When thrown you had to keep the wings folded down unlike a traditional plane. Basically I made a dart. You didn't have to be good at throwing either, guaranteed to work in any weather condition since it didn't rely much on aerodynamics.

Unlike regular origami planes, the harder you threw it the further it went. So I always had the biggest guy in class throw it.

Suprisingly I never came across the design in any origimai books/sites I've found either, even years later. Its probably out there somewhere but I still remember how to make it.

I'm interested! Maybe you could document it (drawing, video, whatever)?

Here I took pictures of the build


I tested it out a few times. It actually sucks. I can't help but see all the flaws this plane has many years later. It only flies up to ~50 to 100feet max indoors which is kinda of awful (world record indoors is 226feet). Once it hits peak pivotal height it just nosedives straight to the ground. Most top tier plane designs have a gliding mechanism on the apex point, mine doesn't.

It doesn't really work exactly at a 45* arc either. Its closer to something less optimal at maybe ~35 to 40* for longer distance to prevent nosediving.

I always thought this plane was really good. I remember when I had my first airplane competition at elementary school, everyone had shitty airplane designs. This plane went from one end to the classroom to another (25 feet), slamming hard into the wall. Classmates were shocked it performed so well, and it was definitely a headturner as it didn't look like a plane.

I think I may have overestimated how good this plane is. Its not really, its mechanically a poor design. It must have just been my imagination b/c I didn't know any better at the time (dunning kruger effect). And had validation in small size competitions. Plus I was shorter back then and things seemed bigger

My Dad showed me me how to make that design! That was always my favorite way to make a plane. I think it's because the design holds up well to a kid throwing it as hard as possible. It doesn't glide so much as arcs like an arrow with enough force. It also works OK if you tape a slightly hooked paperclip to the tip, and then use a large rubber band to launch it.

That's awesome :). I didnt think my design was unique, it just seemed like the natural way of making a paper airplane

I never tried out the rubberband trick but I definitely will next time. Seems like an easy way to make a quick projectile

Whenever I visit my nieces/ nephews, this is one of my cheap parlor tricks / fun toys I make.

> It doesn't really work exactly at a 45 arc either. Its closer to something less optimal at maybe ~35 to 40* for longer distance to prevent nosediving.*

45 degrees is a theoretical optimum for ballistic flight in a vacuum. From what I recall from school, air drag makes the actual optimum on Earth closer to 35 degrees.

I’d also love to see the design!!

I did this too! My exploitation of the loophole was aided by the fact that we were also allowed to use (an unspecified number of) paperclips to "balance" our designs. The result was a very dense square with the aerodynamics of a skipping stone. I also brought a traditional paper airplane which I was allowed to fly when my other design was predictably disqualified for general bad faith.

I was under the impression that these competitions get judged mostly by flight time, not distance - at least that's what one I participated in did.

Ironically, my sister won that one with my design and won a 30-min flight in a "real" glider. That was probably ten years ago and I'm still sour.

I heard a take on this story in a book about origami (origami airplanes, I guess? It's been long enough I don't specifically remember the source). The artist said, roughly, that if you crumple up a sheet of paper, dip it in water, squish it hard, let it dry, and then throw it as far as you can, it will go quite far. A paper airplane must go farther otherwise it might as well not be a paper airplane.

I did the same thing in eighth grade. Put my toes on the throw line with an unfolded sheet of paper, and crumpled it right there on the spot. We were judged on both distance and "straightness" of flight, I believe that I won on both counts. However, I was disqualified for "not being an airplane" though nobody, not even the teachers, could tell me why. I was hoping to justify my stance that golf balls produce lift, so therefore my ball should produce lift and be considered an airplane as well, but there was no interested ear to appeal to.

we have similar contest, but in the University, and it was for the longest (time) flight, not the farthest. Among all guys that tries different setups the contest won... a girl (to make it even more awesome, I think she was the only female contest member :D) :)

I used to roll a sheet of paper up into a very tight tube, then flatten one half and tie an overhand knot in it. That's how I won the "distance shot" portion of informal classroom wastebasketball competitions. You just hold the light end and flip it towards the trash can.

So even the wadded-up ball can be improved upon.

And no, I don't know why the teachers ever left us alone in the classroom.

We did the same in elementary school. The winning plane was essentially a dart hurled at a 45 degree angle. It didn't fly per se, but did get launched pretty far.

Since this is going to be a great pass time for geekids, wanted to throw in a few resources for completeness:

Windtunnel to test: https://www.instructables.com/id/Paper-aeroplane-wind-tunnel...

Project form: https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project...

Another page with slightly different features: https://www.origamiway.com/paper-airplanes.shtml

> Since this is going to be a great pass time

I thought this was a fantastic eggcorn[1], until I realized that it is the actualy origin of the word 'pastime'. So, it sort of is, but isn't at the same time.


Thanks for introducing me to a new linguistic trivia!

Question: there is a "rule" separating "no cuts" from others, let's call it a purity class. Is "no arbitrary folds" also an established purity class? When I was a kid with too much paper at my disposal, arbitrary folds felt like chatting. Arbitrary folds would be any fold not defined by either a side or existing fold aligning with another side or existing fold or by a corner aligning with another corner. Many intermediate folds would be done just as guidelines for layer folds, and four the structural effect they would have after getting undone. A bit like the "only lines and circles, no measurements" rule in geometry.

I'm with you on this one.

Virtually all of the instructions on the site begin with folding the paper in half in some way. However, this one breaks that rule:

https://www.foldnfly.com/15.html#Spin-Plane "1. Fold the paper in half about two inches before the edge."

But it doesn't have to! It could just as well have started with a center fold and then folding the corners to the center to measure, then folding that over to measure again. The measurement folds don't have to even be full folds -- you could just fold only at the very edges to lock in the measurement. Also, this plane ultimately has a center fold in it, so it could easily have begun with one.

Going to be tricky since the leading edge of the wing where it meets the nose is often 'arbitrary' in this sense.

Paper airplanes are generally symmetrical, which means you can begin by folding the paper in half and using that fold to determine where the nose is. Unless you mean something else?

I'm talking about the leading edge of the wings, where they meet the fuselage. How far up that is from the tip of the nose is often not based on any existing edge or fold.

The fold that separates the "fuselage" from the wing? Not the leading edge (except in one point), but you are right, that is the one where many otherwise non-arbitrary planes make an exception. My favorite designs, front heavy with a decoratively complex leading edge would usually have plenty of potential guidepoints for the fuselage fold though. Good times, bringing up those memories makes me wonder when exactly I stopped.

Yes, that fold, but specifically that leading point of it. Often the back can have a reference point, like having the edge of the wing meet the bottom rear corner of the fuselage. But yeah, the fold in general is often more arbitrary. But not really; you would try to fold a plane as consistently as possible, so something like 'begin the fold 1/8" from the tip of the nose' isn't arbitrary at all.

Similarly, you often don't want to fold right to a crease, as it can cause bunching. It's often a better idea to leave a mm or so of extra space for inward folds. Doesn't make the design less pure or anything though.

I would like to promote what I think is the ultimate source of this kind:

The Greatest Paper Airplanes[1], a virtual interactive encyclopedia for Windows 3.1

Of course, you can use it in the browser these days[1].

It goes through basics and history of flight, basics of paper folding, and gives you dozens of interactive, animated, step-by-step designs.

Loved it as a kid, and was thrilled to see it preserved online.


thanks for sharing this - the animated step-by-step is very nice and especially useful if you're following any kind of complicated design

Hi! There's a paper airplane I've made which I learned out of a book a while back - the book called it either a "condor" or "albatross", I forget which, but searching for either of those names turns up different designs. It's an excellent glider, and one of the few designs I know that start with the paper in landscape orientation. If you're interested, here's how to fold it:

- With the paper in landscape orientation, fold the top corners to meet in the middle.

- Fold the top corner [just created] down to the point where those two corners meet.

- Fold the two new obtuse corners on the top to meet in the middle. Tape into place.

- Fold in half left-to-right, so that the taped corners are on the outside of the fold.

- Fold the edges back down to the centerline.

- Unfold, and smooth out to give it the profile of an upside-down flattened W. The flatter, the better it will glide, but if it's too flat it will spin.

Launch by holding the back, as it has no vertical surface to grip on the bottom.

That book was "the gliding flight"

This is quite difficult to follow without illustrations... do you know of any folding diagrams for it?

Ha! I remember these being my go-to as a kid. Classmates always ended up taking them home so I must have been doing something right.

I actually "invented" another paper airplane design called the Nakamura Hammer (because it combines the designs of the nakamura lock and the hammer). I made it to the frontpage of Reddit, so that were my 15 minutes of fame. Here's the tutorial


It flies really really well inside.

In high school we used to receive printed notices aka 'circulars' from administration to give our parents (do they still do this?) -- our classroom window overlooked a cabin used for temporary classes with a corrugated asbestos roof. After promptly turning my circular into a plane and flying it out the window, exclaiming "hey i got to the 5th row on the cabin roof!"

Thus began the hottest aerodynamics contest in my academic life, we experimented with so many designs, tried all kinds of crazy modifications.

The interesting thing was, our classroom window was an entire story higher than the cabin roof -- the usual "paper plane contest hack" of rolling a paper ball and chucking it as hard as you can was not very good compared to a functional aerodynamic design with some lift.

The "contest" ended when a week later someone reported our antics and the school was aghast to find 40-odd paper planes roosting on the portacabin roof and our entire class was given some stern warnings but luckily noone sold me out as the instigator.

From one of the example videos on the site, I got suggested this fun video where the maker of the world record distance paper airplane a few years ago shows off and explains a bunch of different designs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2n4xq0DnbHI

The record flight is shown at the beginning, with more info on the plane at 13:55, but the whole thing is a fun watch.

Fantastic! I love the design of this site: the way it greets you immediately with big thumbnails of actual paper airplanes.

I was flying some "Basic Dart" and "Square" planes (those are the only two designs I know by heart) with my kids the other day and I was thinking, "I bet there are a bunch of great designs online somewhere..." And here we are!

Agree! That is what I've liked more about the post. The design is just great. Very good looking, simple, and clean. The planes are nice too though :)

I grew up reading "The Ultimate Paper Airplane" by Richard Kline: https://www.amazon.com/Ultimate-Paper-Airplane-Step-Instruct...

I didn't have the right tools or expertise to build most of his planes (most notably rubber cement), but I do wonder how these planes stack up against currently popular paper airplane models.

He talks a lot about his invention (and patenting) of the Kline-Fogleman airfoil, which creates a vortex that influences the laminar flow and increases stall resistance.

I have a vivid memory of how excited I was by the 60-minutes episode about this paper airplane, and I grabbed a copy of this book when I saw it in my college bookstore.

Making the various models was a lot of fun, although I don't think I ever obtained the specific weight of paper they mention in the book. That's still on my bucket list.

I wonder if anyone has attempted to use machine learning to try and build a better paper airplane. I feel like that would be super interesting.

If you give me a realistic physics environment to train an agent in I'll do it for you.

Hmmmmmm. I wonder if X-Plane would be capable of simulating that... they basically do an FEA model of flight, although I’m not sure if it would scale down appropriately.

X-Plane really only SORT of models flight. There is no actual FEA or fluid simulation of any kind. The airfoils are canned data lookup. So you can't make something out of polygons and have it wactually "work". It'll fuselage calculate drag based on frontal area and the coefficient you specify, but that's about it.

This approach works well for real planes since 99.999% of them use standard NACA airfoils that are well documented in the public domain.

Oh! Thanks! I've flipped it into the "airflow visualization mode" but didn't know that it was based on lookup tables!

Flight physics don't scale down (or up) well. It's the predominant reason small airplane and quad models have enormously unscalable performance characteristics and abilities.

Making it bigger doesn't "just work"... same for the inverse.

Isn't that mostly due to the square/cube nature of scaling things? E.g. your wing area changes with the square of your scaling factor, but your mass changes with the cube of your scaling factor?

I think the physics mostly DO scale down, it's air density and gravity that don't.

I wonder if anyone has attempted to use machine learning to try and build a realistic physics environment. I feel like that would be super interesting.

Many people have attempted, but its still and unsolved problem with fluid physics.

Maybe we're already living in it? ;)

Not too far from it: "Pteromys: Interactive Design and Optimization of Free-formed Free-flight Model Airplanes"


I want to see someone use the dandelion seeds method in a paper airplane. Many cuts required haha

Very interesting, I wonder how regional these are.

For example I grew up with this one as the "basic" / default:


Notice how it has a high air time and distance. I used to launch them them from my 8th story apartment in the city. On a right day, some would take off and would be carried by the wind to where I lose sight of them.

Here in India, I grew up with the Basic Dart (from the OP site) as the default paperplane for kids to do. But the one you linked to was also pretty common, usually made by the "cool" uncles entertaining kids at parties.

This is the design I always made as well (except I usually brought the top wings all the way down to the nose)

I always made that one too. Flies great!

This is slightly tangential to paper airplane folding, but I strongly recommend Duncan Birmingham's YouTube channel ("The Pop-up Channel"): https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCx2M2bGHtXBszG6tuR_NIbQ

Pop-up books are works of art, but they rely on a vocabulary of a few dozen mechanisms, each of which operates in relation to an opening fold between two pieces of paper or card. Birmingham is a great, systematic expositor of the analytical prerequisites for the wildly creative stuff you might come across in a bookshop these days (there's a boom in spectacular pop-up books, see http://www.bestpopupbooks.com/)

I should add: pop-up books are still assembled by hand (in the Far East), not by robot; so if they seem inexpensive, there's a bit of a story there which might not flatter the book trade. A microcosm of globalization.

When I used to teach AP Computer Science, I'd have my students make paper airplanes on the first day.

I'd have them write down the instructions to make their airplanes. Then I'd follow their instructions in the strictest, most literal sense possible, resulting in some lopsided airplanes.

It was a great beginning lesson in algorithms.

Love this one!

Over the last two years I made a lot of paper aeroplanes for my nephew, after that I started to build my own glider planes and now we're into RC planes.

If you want to get a bit more of a hobby I highly recommend Flitetest community, they made awesome things, and is a great resource to get kids into the hobby.


RC-Plane from cardboard pizza box https://www.flitetest.com/articles/flying-wing-made-from-a-c...

Flite test Steam https://www.ftstem.com/

I've had a similar progression. Have you gotten into discus launch gliders?

Yep, also, we are starting to think to build a shuttle they are easy to build :-)

I had success with that design as a kid. It was called "the bishop's hat" in the book I had.

I tried for the longest paper airplane flight in history - from the top of the Space Needle in Seattle. Unfortunately, the plane hit the anti-suicide mesh, lost all momentum, and from there went straight down. I took the elevator down, walked to the plane, picked it up, and threw it in the trash can. (Don't litter.)

I got the German version of this from the library when I was a kid:


It has designs from this competition:


There is also a second book:


Suprisingly enough, this collection doesn't seem have the design most common & popular in Russia, roughly this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mrsxMqvHXkw.

I was looking for that one too. I think I learned to fold it in middle school. It is one of the best performers that is relatively easy to fold.

That's the de-facto design I used as a kid growing up in the US.

Also my design as a kid, turns out I'm Russian??

I never claimed this design to be Russian ;) I only said it is very popular there.

I've made a variant of the "tailed plane" for years--its one of my favorites. What's interesting to note on that one, I don't generally throw it normally like other paper airplanes. Instead, I place the front of the plane facing my hand, with my index finger and ring finger on either side of the nose, and my middle finder inside the crease of the nose. Then you just do an overhand fling, loosening your fingers about 2/3rds of the way through he arc. All the folds at the nose, makes the nose heavy, so it turns around and flies nicely.

This is one I grew up with (as the dart & square plane alternative). If you fold the winglets as the instructions, you end up with an aerobatic plane. If you instead just gently bend the plane in half along the center line (so it looks somewhat arc-shaped), you get a pretty reliable glider.


As a kid, I only knew the basic design and the square. I almost always used the square, which I learned with two differences from the description on the website: I folded up the outer ~0.5-1cm of the wings as "winglets" (which seemed to help stability) and folded in a triangle of varying size in the back of the fuselage for trim instead of cutting ailerons into the wings.

On a windy day in the vortices behind trees at my elementary school bus stop, I had such a square glide for what felt like at least half a minute (unreliable narrator obviously) after launching to maybe 3-4 meters. That lucky random walk wouldn't have worked without the low sink rate of a good square.

When I was a kid a paper plane was just a fun DIY toy. Now I am almost 40 and I find paper planes have a lot of existential meaning. And they are a fun DIY toy.

One trick I always used but never understood why it worked:

When you add a crease to the paper airplane, (say, folding a square corner in on itself at the nose or the tail), it weighs down that part of the plane. So if your plane is pointing up too much, you add a crease in the nose and it flies more level.

But why should adding a crease increase the weight of one section of a plane? You're not adding any more paper.

You are moving the center of mass of the paper. Imagine balancing a pipe cleaner on your finger, should be pretty easy, right? Now add a bend and see that you have to reposition the pipe cleaner on your finger

I'm moving the weight more toward the center of the plane, but the plane "appears" heavier in the front. This is the opposite effect, no?

The weight isn't the key, it's the torque that is formed by redistribution that causes it to level differently

Weight distribution, one assumes?

When I was a child, I had a book with many of these designs. I tested them all from the top of a nearby building's fire escape. My goal was always a long, slow, stable flight and I got the best results with the Square Plane and the Bird. These planes were able to glide all the way across the parking lot (about 120ft estimated using Google Earth imagery.)

I always aimed for (but rarely achieved) a long, slow, stable flight, never had anywhere high enough to test my better attempts. What I'd have given for an empty stadium to test in


I think Yasuaki Ninomiya, the retired Japanese engineer, could add some more expert designs based on his paper plane research.


I won my last company's paper airplane contest by making a dart with double thickness. I was disqualified, however, which seemed hella lame. My throwing strategy was to aim about 30 degrees upward and throw in a smooth motion, which seemed like the way to prevent it from going haywire.

It would be fun to have a small electronics package that could turn some of these designs into RC flyers.

Wow, awesome. Have you tried it? My nephew would love this.

I tried I believe the v1 (just a dumb motor) and the v2 (with a rudder). Both were neat but the v2 was iPhone controlled and very, very cool. You need a LOT of room and it takes some time to get the hang of the throttle, which is your only real up-and-down control.

Tried the standalone version and the smartphone version. Both didn't really work out for me, but YMMV.

I found this design many many years ago, and it's always been my favourite for aesthetics: http://www.members.tripod.com/~Yesitsme2/paperdc3.html

The best one I've tried is called: paperang.

You can find instructions by searching: "paperang paper airplane".

There is a TED talk about it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VS7zcI_5Mp0

In childhood we knew one type of paper planes (http://korki.lol/kak-sdelat-bumazhnyiy-samoletik/) and it looks like it is not here.

I remember reading about some twins who made airplanes that would just sort of fly around on the thermal currents generated by their bodies. Never could figure out how that works but I have seen ones where you can fan the plane with a big cardboard.

There was a windows “app” called The Greatest Paper Airplanes. Anyone remember that?

Internet Archive has the shareware version.


When I was a child I had a book that listed quite a few of these. It was so popular with my classmates in kindergarten that the school ended up banning paper airplanes except on "Paper Airplane Fridays."

I wonder how many engineers society lost because they banned that.

A feel-good movie to watch with the kids : Paper Planes - https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3328716/

I hope kids are still making paper airplanes and getting off their phones occasionally. Some novel designs here for me. Looking at these, I think I have been making my elevators too large all these years.

This is wonderful. Long ago MS Publisher had templates that allowed you to build paper airplanes. I remember discovering this as a kid in elementary school with my friends.

Great site, going to try and interest my kids, but - no videos of the planes actually flying? I want to know what "acrobatic" actually means.

What's the easiest one that does reliable loops?

I remember flying successful loops with a Barnaby back in my childhood; sadly, it looks like his book (How To Make and Fly Paper Airplanes, Ralph S. Barnaby) may be out of print.

I'm sure there are many newer books and designs these days, but that was the one I knew and loved.

Maybe the Phat Glider or Boomberang I from John Collins https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pKicjvC6Uo

Probably the Spin Plane. I've built similar to this and it loops a bunch.

The balsa wood one with a rubber band and plastic propeller. ;)

The one I fold since 3rd grade is missing. The world champion in distance is missing, too.

Hah, I can see at least one missing. But definitely going to go through this with my kids.

As an owner of a considerable collection of books on paper planes I approve this website.

Feats of engineering performed with just a sheet of paper. Amazing!

Try to not be wasteful and don't use blank paper.


Those (apparently) are the input choices of the options on the upper left. The values update when you change the selections. Creative I guess.

It is a bit nicer looking than ?option_a=1&option_b=2&option_c=3 etc

I wish we can design the web better. Maybe a human readable breadcrumb instead of reply?id=18250367&goto=item%3Fid%3D18249755%2318250367

they've gone to the trouble of making video instructions for each plane but they don't show it flying? what the

This is fantabulous! Thanks for sharing

I see this website everywhere I go lol

Was never fond of arts and crafts at school, but when it came to building something outta paper, here I was, all the time paper airplanes. I really love flying in general, so this was my escape into an imaginary world! Thanks for this article in input! Kudos!

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