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How to Make the Best Paper Planes


The best things about paper airplanes are that they allow you to be creative and that paper is easily accessible. You can use any type of paper — like this newspaper. That allows you to try lots of things and see what happens — opening the door to creativity and seeing science fly.

Newspaper is most likely the most produced paper product on Earth, but few paper airplanes are made of it. You are about to change that. Together we are combining the world’s most popular paper with the world’s most common paper airplane — the Dart. Follow the folding directions and make a great paper airplane.

There are a few secrets to making a paper airplane that flies well. People tend to focus on the folding pattern and the throw. These two things are important, but what is often overlooked are the fine-tuning adjustments.

Adjustment 1: Bend the back edge of the wing up a little bit; this prevents nose dives. Just pinch the back edge between your fingertips and bend upward to create a small flap. The amount varies plane to plane; you have to watch its flight and bend up more if your plane dives and reduce the amount if it climbs too much.

Adjustment 2: The wingtips should be higher than the middle of the airplane, just like on real airplanes and birds. This is called dihedral, and it keeps the plane from entering a death spiral and helps it fly better also.

Don’t be afraid to experiment! Try different size wingtips or try angling the wingtips more out or in. Try different flap settings or different throwing speeds or throwing angles. Try making the folds in a slightly different location. Try to have a contest at home to see who lands closest to the center of the room, who takes the fewest throws to land once in each room in the house, or who can get an airplane the farthest down the hall.

1. Start with a single sheet of newspaper, cut in half through the middle and turned sideways.

2. Fold in half vertically.

3. Unfold so that your paper is creased.

4. Flip paper over; fold top corners down to the center crease.

5. Fold corner on left side down to center crease.

6. Repeat on right side.

7. Fold in half vertically along center crease.

8. To make the wings, fold angled side of paper past the straight edge. Leave some space from nose of plane to top of fold.

9. Flip plane over and repeat.

10. For wingtips, fold corner of wings back on each side.

11. Make sure wingtips are higher than the middle of the airplane body. You can experiment with wingtip size.

Tip: To keep paper from unfolding, add a small piece of transparent tape to the underside of plane midway between the nose and tail.

Adapted from “The World Record Paper Airplane Book” by Ken Blackburn and Jeff Lammers (Workman Publishing). Copyright © 2006.


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