Which Paper Airplanes Work Best?

Everyone loves paper airplanes and some actually call it ‘aerogami’, named after the Japanese art of paper folding. It is believed that gliders as well as paper kites may have started in Ancient Japan and China as both of these cultures have a long history of using paper objects for both fun and decoration.

In the U.S., the Wright brothers invented the airplane, but they did use miniature paper models to test out the aerodynamic abilities. During WWII, almost all materials were being used for the war efforts and were therefore rationed. It was during this time that toy paper planes became popular, since there wasn’t any wood, plastic or metal.

Paper planes, just like real airplanes use the same four aerodynamic forces that allow them to lift and then stay airborne.

  • Thrust: The moment that you throw a plan forward
  • Lift: The force of air on the wings of the plane that helps it move upwards. Bigger wings increase the amount of ‘lift’.
  • Gravity: The force that the plane must combat as it pulls the plane down. The materials that the plane is made of can make a difference on the difference of gravity, allowing the plane to stay up longer.
  • Drag: This is the force that the tail causes and is the exact opposite of thrust. It actually slows the plane down.

There are a number of factors to consider in the best function for a paper airplane. The weight can be affected by the type of paper as well as the amount of ‘friction’ that it experiences. The design of the plan can alter how high or fast it might fly. Other areas of design that can affect a paper plane performance include the tail, nose and body.

Paper Airplane Fun Facts:

  • The longest period of time a paper airplane stayed in the air was 27.6 seconds.
  • While it is believed the Ancient Chinese were responsible for the creation of paper gliders, the first officially recorded paper airplane didn’t occur until 1909.
  • The biggest paper airplane that was made was 12 meters wide.

If you wanted to test which type of paper airplane was the best, what would you want to consider? Would you use different types of paper? If so, would you use lightweight, smooth or even paper that might have a special coating? Would you change the way the paper was folded and therefore change the design?

If you want to do a project to see if your theory is correct, download the paper airplane worksheet and you can prove which one flies best