Most parents have had to endure paper planes buzzing through the house and hitting them behind the head. The love for paper planes among children and even adults are duly noticed and encouraged by most. The reasons are simple, not only is it a great hands-on project that parents can work on with their children, but it is also a very clear way to introduce children to design and physics at a very early stage. If you are lucky too, your kid could pick interest in aeronautics from these exercises.
The Best Paper Airplane Ever is the Suzanne and is lauded for making the same breathtaking flight both indoors and outdoors. There is a great variety of paper airplanes that have come on the scene since the late 1990’s, but not every paper airplane can fly well outdoors. The true test of a paper airplane isn’t in how well it can fly indoors, but how well it can fly outdoors.
Let’s go into the physics of it a bit.
How Do Paper Airplanes Fly?
When a plane flies, it moves through the air. In essence, the air is the radar for the plane, and without it, it is impossible for the plane to be controlled. The layer of air that surrounds the Earth is called the atmosphere and is composed of 78.09 percent nitrogen, 20.05 percent oxygen, 0.93 percent argon, and 0.03 percent of other gases. Air also contains water vapor and is in constant motion due to the differences in temperature between different places on earth.
Every plane we build and intend to fly will interact in certain ways with the air properties, and we should keep this in mind whenever we build one. Proper knowledge of this will especially affect out wing design. Four forces act on a plane in flight:
- Thrust: Is the force which pushes the plane forward through the air. This is your contribution to the flight.
- Drag: The resistance the air exerts on the forward motion of a plane (The drag opposes thrust)
- Weight: This is the actions of the force of gravity on the plane
- Lift: The is the upward force that counteracts gravity and keeps the plain in the air.
That’s enough physics for one day! I guess you just want to get into the exercise itself, don’t you? Let’s do that! In this article, we are introducing you to two unique and easy-to-make paper planes that do an amazing job both indoors and outdoors; The Dragonfly and the Raptor.
Making the Dragonfly
This plane has two sets of nearly symmetrical wings that resemble a dragonfly when viewed from the top and that’s how it earns its unusual name. This plane is aerobatic and will have a tendency to loop if thrown hard outdoors.
Step 1: Use a crisp A4 paper and keeping it in the portrait orientation, begin folding the paper inwards from your left with equal distances of an inch or slightly more. Continue folding this strip over itself until you reach the stop line, usually 4 folds to be safe. (The stop line is indicated in the image). Make sure to crease down each fold hard.
Step 2: After you reach the stop line, fold the paper into two equal halves. Also, fold the lower half of the paper behind the upper half. Make sure you do this while holding all your previous folds in place. Now, crease hard.
Step 3: You need to make a cut to give it that unique shape. The image shows you the cut pattern, but you may want to trace it on the paper before cutting carefully with scissors. Cut, while keeping the paper folded tightly together to ensure that both wings match perfectly.
Step 4: Hold the center of the plane down and open up the wings to reveal the dragonfly shape.
Step 5: This step is supposed to prepare the wing for impressive flight. Fold the tips of the front winglets upwards so that they point to the sky and the back winglets downwards so that they point to the ground.
Add a dihedral angle by tilting the wings up slightly away from the body of the plane. The wings will form a “V” shape from the front view. If you have done this and your plane looks just like what is in the image in Step 10, then you are ready to fly!
Making the Raptor
This plane is an excellent outdoor glider and falls into the category of paper plane jets. These instructions are similar to others on how to make a paper airplane jet. It has great balance and great lift. If you give it a good thrust straight up, it will glide down in big lazy circles. You can always adjust the elevator on the back edge of the wing to perfect the flight characteristics.
Step 1: Use a crisp A4 paper and rotate it to the landscape position.
Step 2: Fold the top right and top left corners of the paper inwards and crease along the line. You want to make sure that the triangular shape they form by their intersection beneath has a tip pointing towards the center of the plane’s frame (Look at the arrow in the image).
Step 3: Fold the nose down toward you and crease along the fold line.
Step 4: Fold the nose down toward you again and crease along the fold line.
Step 5: Fold the top edge down toward you again and crease along the fold line.
Step 6: Flip the plane over from right to left, so that you see the backside and fold the right half over the left half. Make sure you align the wings equally.
Step 7: Starting from about 3mm away from the nose edge, create a crease and fold the wings down in a straight line. Also, fold the winglets upwards (observe the movement of arrows in the image). You can choose to cut slits along the back-wing edge for the elevator adjustment (The points labeled “optional”).
Add a wing dihedral by tilting the wings up a little and away from the main body. The wings will form a slight “V” shape if viewed from the front. If you have just created a Raptor plane, congratulations, you have learned how to make a paper airplane jet, and The Raptor is one of the best performers outdoors.
You are ready to fly! Step outside and give it a thrust!!