Paper airplanes have been around for a long time, but it wasn’t until the modern era (most likely thanks to the rise in popularity of origami) that truly amazing planes became popular.
As you’ll learn from our page on the History of Paper Airplanes, the birth and development of the paper plane has its roots in early aviation, where designers and engineers would use paper models to depict their creations and even test the primary forces of flight. For example, long distance flights would be a great indicator of a plane’s ability to resist drag, and perhaps gravity; the Wright Brothers even used a crude Wind Tunnel to test them.
But hobbyists, and those who loved flight but couldn’t afford it, changed all of that around the end of World War II when we began to see designs which departed greatly from the traditional Dart. These days the only limits are truly your imagination. Because of the work already done before us it’s simple to take one design and modify it in large or small ways to create something new, and perhaps even better.
The Many Styles
If you look at the former World Record paper airplane for time aloft thrown by Ken Blackburn, which remained airborne for 27.6 seconds (see image on left), you’ll quickly notice that the design is a departure from the typical paper airplanes we think about. The point is to think outside of the box, and your only restrictions are your own imagination and one sheet of paper.
By the way, Ken’s Paper Plane record was broken in 2012 by Takuo Toda, whose plane now has the longest time in air at 27.9 seconds. You can see Takuo’s record-setting plane, the Sky King, in the video below.
Other world records include the farthest distance (69.14 meters or 226 feet 10 inches) and most acrobatic. For distance planes you almost always see some variant of the Dart being used because quite frankly it does the best job of handling the thrust necessary for distance and minimizing drag, as I mentioned earlier. Acrobatic planes typically use some variation of a Glider platform because they’re more capable of maintaining their loft, and therefore can perform more maneuvers.
If you’re looking for basic, but cool looking printable patterns for paper airplanes then these at KU’s fanpage will do the job. They’re built in the classic Dart or Arrow fashion, but have cool images and colors that when printed and folded create an awesome looking flier. Our post on How to Make A Basic Paper Plane is also a great place for anyone just getting started.
The Many Sizes
When it comes to official paper airplanes, for competitions and attempts at setting records, you are required to follow some basic guidelines, which we’ll post here on our site. But the primary ones to remember are that the planes must be built from one sheet of paper in either an A4 or 8.5″ x 11″ size (yes, it’s your choice), and the weight of the paper cannot exceed 100 gsm.
You are permitted to cut the paper, but if you remove a piece you cannot re-attach it. You may use standard, clear, cellulose adhesive tape with a maximum width of 25mm and length of 33mm. You can cut this tape into smaller pieces but it may only be used to hold folds together, and not as weights, flaps or a trim tab. In no case can you use glue, paperclips or staples.
With that being said, you can certainly build a smaller plane from the same sized sheet of paper… see our tutorial for the mini Glider as an example. Using more folds, or less, you can control the size of your aircraft. Outside of official competitions, however, let the sky be your limit. I’ve created planes out of poster board (didn’t fly exceedingly well) and even dollar bills. As you’ve likely seen from our post on the biggest paper airplane, even a 800+ pound behemoth paper plane can soar!
How about something a little more advanced? Below are three videos which show you how to make two cool paper airplanes and even a helicopter.
Building the OmniWing Paper Airplane
Swallow Paper Airplane
Make A Paper Helicopter