You are on page 1of 32

Paper Airplane Magazine, Winter 2012 Page 1

Ready for Take Off!

Page 2 Paper Airplane Magazine, Winter 2012

Table of Contents

Letter from the Editor

History of the World

Record Paper Airplane
Ken Blackburn tells a story on how he created
the world record paper airplane.


How I set the Guinness

World Record
This article, also written by Ken Blackburn, explains how he set the Guinness World Record.


The Basics of Folding

This article introduces the reader to the
basics of paper airplane folding.


Folding and Flying

Your Planes
Almost anyone can make paper airplanes, but
it helps to know a little bit about them. This
article will teach you how to achieve great
flights from the start.


Setting Up a Paper
Airplane Contest
This article provides guidelines for setting
up paper airplane contests


A special section including stepby-step instructions on folding

paper airplanes for both novices
and advanced folders.
Paper Airplane Magazine, Winter 2012 Page 3

Paper Airplane
A Workmen Publication
Editor in Chief

Nick Robinson

Art Director

Alison Fortney

Writer at Large

Ken Blackburn

Associate Editor

Troy Underwood

Contributing Editors
Jeff Lammers
Keith Laux
Associate Art Director
Bob Stocki
Student Intern
Howdy Doody
Vickie Bales
John Kenzie
Tom Kadzielawski
Jennifer Jezler
Nolan Chan

Member, American Society

of Magazine Editors

ASME works to preserve editorial independence and

speaks out on public policy issues, particularly those
pertaining to the First Amendment.

Page 4 Paper Airplane Magazine, Winter 2012

Paper Airplane Magazine (Vol. 1, No. 2, January 2013; ISSN 0362-4595) is

published monthly by Paper Airplane Magazine, Inc., 435 N. Michigan Ave.,
Chicago, IL 60611, 312-222-1234, fax 312-456-7890, a division of Workmen Publications. Periodicals postage paid at Chicago, Illinois and additional
mailing offices. Subscriptions, $24 per year. Single copy: $4.95. Paper Airplane assumes no responsibility for the return of unsolicited materials. For
information regarding subscription renewals, payments or changes of address,
call 800-999-1234. To settle address changes in writing, send us both your
new and old addresses, along with the code number from your address label.
Include old and new zip codes. 2012 by Paper Airplane Magazine. All
rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Reproduction in while or in part without prior written permission is
strictly prohibited. For article reprints, call Wrights Reprints, 877-123-4444.
Portions of Paper Airplane Magazine are available in microform from Bell
& Howell and University Microfilms. The names Paper Airplane Magazine
and Paper Airplane Guide are trademarks of Paper Airplane Magazine, Inc.
Postmaster: Send changes of address to Paper Airplane Magazine, P.O. Box
12345, Palm Coast, FL 32142-0325. Printed in U.S.A.

From the Editor

Mans desire to fly dates back
to the earliest times, from the
legendary Icarus and the 18thcentury efforts of the Montgolfier
Brothers, right up to the fateful
Thursday in 1903 when Wilbur
and Orville Wright made the first
heavier-than-air flight.
Nowadays, we take it for
granted when aircraft fly at several
times the speed of sound with a
computer in control, performing
the most amazing acrobatics.
Yet, deep within us, there is still
a fascination with all things that
are able to leave the earth behind.
Few of us have been able to watch
swallows swoop and five in the
evening sun without feeling a
touch of envy.
This longing may be one
cause of our love affair with
paper airplanes. The traditional
dart is probably the most folded

design on earth. Many hundreds

of thousands must have been
made over the years by eager
schoolchildren and by adults with
a little time to spare.
No one knows exactly how old
the concept of a paper plane is,
but it is probably a 20th-century
innovation. The folding of paper
aircraft has close links with the
art of origami (which literally
means folding paper). The growth
of interest in paper flight in the
1960s was probably an offshoot
of the great technical and artistic
advances made in origami during
that period.
Most of the designs in this
magazine have been created
by people who are primarily
paper-folders rather than aircraft
enthusiasts, but the appeal of
paper aircraft transcends the
appeal of origami. Perhaps this is

because paper aircraft remind us

of the carefree days of our youth,
and the thrill of sending a dart
higher and further than anyone
else. Despite its apparently trivial
nature, creating paper aircraft
can be an exacting and timeconsuming activity. The designers of
sophisticated aircraft know of the
value of simple aerodynamics, as
displayed by a paper dart.
This magazine is aimed at
anyone who has ever wanted to
try their hand at tried and tested
paper aircraft, and it also includes
one or two rather unorthodox
designs. No previous folding
experience is needed. After trying
these examples, I hope you will
feel inspired not only to create
your own designs, but to try other
subjects and discover the true and
lasting joy of paper-folding.
Nick Robinson, editor

Paper Airplane Magazine, Winter 2012 Page 5

History of the World Record Paper Airplane

hen I was about eight years

old, I made one of my frequent trips to the aviation section
of the library in Kernersville, North
Carolina, and checked out a book
that included instructions for a
simple square paper airplane. I
found that it flew better than the
paper darts I was used to making.
Thrown straight up, it reached
much higher altitudes.
To the dismay of my teachers, I folded many of these planes, experimenting with changes to the original design.
(One of the beauties of paper airplanes
is that they are perfectly suited to trial
and error testing. If one doesnt work,
its cheap and easy to start over.) One of
my designs would level off at the peak
of its climb and then start a slow downward glide. Sometimes, with the help
of rising air currents, I achieved flights
lasting nearly a minute and covering
about 1,000 feet.
In 1977, I received a Guinness
Book of World Records as a gift.
Naturally the first thing I turned to
was the aviation section. The paper
airplane time aloft record was
15 seconds, set by William Pryor
in 1975. It dawned on me that
my planes (without help from the
wind) were flying at close to world
record times. On my next outing, I
timed the best flights. They werent
quite long enough to break the
record, but with a little work I
thought I could do it.

With this goal in mind, I refined

my plane designs and worked on
my throw. Many people are suprised
to learn that I consider the throw to
be almost as important as the plane
itself. The faster the throw, the higher the airplane toes and, therefore,
the longer the flight.
In 1979, when I was a junior
in high school, I made an official
attempt at the world record. The record was described in the Guinness
Book as time over level ground, so
I chose the schools baseball field as
my staging ground. One afternoon,
with my teachers as timers and a
reporter on hand from the Winston-Salem Jounal, I let my favorite
square plane fly. With the help of
the wind, I made a flight of 24.9
seconds, and was sure I had flown
right into the pages of history.
Unfortunately, the letter I received
back from Guinness Superlatives,
Ltd., wasnt quite what I had hoped
for. They informed me that the flight
had to be performed indoors.
The next year, I worked parttime at Reynolds Coliseum in
Winston-Salem, parking cars and
moving equipment. In my time off,
I had access to the largest indoor
paper airplane practice arena I
would ever need. My best flights
yielded times of over 17 seconds,
and I new the record was mine for
the taking, but I got sidetracked by
college applications.

1985 Guinness Book of World Records

Paper Airplane
The flight duration for a paper aircraft
over level ground is 16.89 seconds by
Ken Blackburn in the Reynolds Coliseum
at NC State University, Raleigh, on
November 29, 1983.
Page 6 Paper Airplane Magazine, Winter 2012

A Second Attempt
August of 1981 was the beginning
of four years of aerospace engineering at North Carolina State University. I lived on the sixth then the eighth
floor, perfect airplane launching pads
(even though throwing objects from
dorm windows was strictly prohibited). I made planes from every paper
product availablefrom pizza boxes
to computer punch cardsin many
bizarre shapes, and soon infected the
dorm with plane-flying fever.
Still, it wasnt until my junior year
that my friends began encouraging
me to make another stab at the
world record, and I finally decided
to give it a try. I practiced several
times at the school coliseum, keeping the best plane from my sessions,
nicknamed old Bossy, for the record
attempt. Old Bossy was regularly
achieving times over 17 seconds, well
above the 15-second record.
A friend arranged for a reporter
from the school newspaper to meet
us at the coliseum. I made a few
warm-up throws, and then reached
for Old Bossy. With a mighty heave, I
sent the plan hurtling into the upper
reaches of the coliseum and directly into a cluster of speakers near
the ceiling. I was devastated. My best
plane, Old Bossy, gone forever.
My roommate handed me a
piece of ordinary copier paper and I
quickly made another airplane. My
second throw with the new plane

1989 Guinness Book of World Records

Paper Airplane
The flight duration for a paper aircraft
over level ground is 17.20 seconds by Ken
Blackburn at the Mecca Convention Center,
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, July 28, 1987.

was the best of the afternoon at

16.89 seconds. It eat the old record,
but I knew I could have done better with Old Bossy. I sent Guinness
the newspaper article, signatures
of the witnesses, and Old Bossys
replacement. This time Guinness
responded with the letter Id been
waiting for.

Many people are

surprised to learn that I
consider the throw to be
almost as important as
the plane itself.
After graduation, I went to work
for an aerospace companyMcDonnell Douglas in St. Louis,
Missouri. In the summer of 1987,
I was finishing a job on the F-18
Hornet, when I got an unexpected
call from California. A television
production company was putting
together a series featuring people
attempting to break world records.
Would I be interested in trying to
reset my record? I didnt have to
think long before replying with a
definite yes. The filming was only
a few weeks away and I usually
needed at least a month to get my
throwing arm in shape, so I started
practicing immediately.

Round Three
With my best practice airplane
packed in an old show box, I set
out on my all-expense-paid extravaganza to Milwaukee. It turned
out that Tony Feltch, the distance
record holder for paper airplanes,
was also there, trying to beat his
record, and that wed be making
our attempts in the Milwaukee
Convention Center.
Tony went first and, after only a few
throws, broke his old record, achieving
a distance of nearly 200 feet. Additional filming and interviews with Tony
dragged on for hours, leaving me on
the sidelines, sweating bullets.
Finally, it was my turn. I picked
out my best plane from practice,
and got the nod from the producer
that the cameras were rolling. I
heaved the airplane upward, and
watched it float down. The official
called out a time of 15.02 seconds.
I concentrated harder on my second throw, but was again rewarded
with a time of only 15.47 seconds.
Suddenly it struck me that I might
not be able to reset the record.
Even in good condition, my arm
lasts for only a couple of world
record throws in any one day.
I made my third throw with everything I had. (I estimate that these
throws leave my hand at a speed
close to 60 miles per hour.) The
launch seemed better, but the stopwatch would be the final judge.

1996 Guinness Book of World Records

Paper Airplane
The flight duration for a paper aircraft
over level ground is 18.80 seconds by
Ken Blackburn at American Airlines
Hangar 10, JFK Airport, Queens, NY,
February 17, 1994.

As the plan came to a smooth silent landing on the floor, the official
yelled out, 17.20 seconds! Yes, a
new world record! I made two more
throws, but neither beat the record.
Another Chance
For a little while after my segment aired I felt like a celebrity.
Friends and relatives called me, and
kids in my neighborhood wanted
me to autograph paper airplanes.
But the excitement soon died down,
and I went back to my normal life.
Still, I continued modifying and
flying my paper airplanes. In 1990,
I fine-tuned my planes, built up my
arm, and achieved several 20-second flights (which, of course, no
one was around to see, much less
officially record).
In 1994, I received another
surprise call from a TV program;
this time it was from a British show
called Record Breakers. They wanted to know if Id be willing to reset
the world record again in a month
in New York City. I enthusiastically
agreed and immediately started
working out in preparation. I was fortunate enough to find a trainer who
was also the pitcher for a college
baseball team and could help me
strengthen my 30-year-old arm.
February 17 found me standing
next to an enormous DC-10 in
American Airlines Hangar Number
10 at JFK Airport, the chosen place

Current Guinness World Record

Paper Airplane
The flight duration for a paper aircraft
over level ground is 27.6 seconds by
Ken Blackburn at the Georgia Dome in
Atlanta, October 8, 1998.

Paper Airplane Magazine, Winter 2012 Page 7

for the attempt. I walked up to the

plane and looked in awe at the
200-foot-long, 100-million-dollar
backdrop for my 5-inch-long folded
piece of paper. I had an enthusiastic
crowd of conlookers consisting of
the hangars maintenance crew and
other personnel, all waiting to see
the world record broken.
The cameras began to roll. I
felt confident, but more nervous
than Id expected. My first throw
bombed as a result of a poor
launch. During my second throw, I
concentrated on good form, giving
it everything I had to offer. The
launch felt a lot better. The plan
started a slow turn to the left,
narrowly avoiding a collision with
the DC-10s tail. I could tell it was
a good flight, but only the timer
would know exactly how good.
When he called out 18.8 seconds, everyone began to clap. I had
forgotten the thrill of setting a
record, and was running on adrenaline for hours afterward.
Surpassed Briefly
In 1996 the BBC invited me to try
to reset my record, this time on live
TV in London with 20 other teams
competing. I won the contest with a
flight time of 17.3 seconds, but unbeknownst to me, after the event two
of the other contestants, Chris Edge

and Andy Currey, continued working

on their planes and set a new record
of 20.9 seconds on July 28, 1996. The
record did not appear in the Guinness Book until the 1998 edition.
That January, I glanced through a
freshly printed copy and discovered
to my horror that I had been displaced. I had to get my record back.
I knew it would take at least six
months of daily preparation to have
a chance of resetting the record.
My plan was to construct and test
between five and ten planes a week.
Initially, I tried radical changes to
my design, progressively narrowing
in on the best paper airplane design
for a record attempt. I also started
working with a professional athletic
trainer, Dorri Buckholtz, focusing on
strengthening my arm. She was extremely helpful, giving me detailed
instructions for exercises designed
to improve my throwing speed.
Despite my new designs, I had the
most luck with the original model
Id invented as a kid (the one thats
included with this article). But I did
find a few ways to make the plane
fly better and more consistently. First,
its important to keep the folds as flat
as possible, which I did by pressing
each fold with the side of a pen
as I constructed the plane. Second,
I experimented with making the
folds both a little wider and a little

narrower until I found just the right

width. Third, I added crease marks on
the wings which, like the dimples on
a gold ball, reduced the drag.
I started by practicing indoors in
order to get consistent flying times.
My primary flying site was a large
assembly area at Boeingwhere
Id also practiced for my 1994 and
1996 recordsbut I quickly ran
into problems. It was being used
for the final assembly of the navys
newest fighter, the F/A-18E/F,
which meant there wasnt enough
space, and the 60-foot ceilings
were also proving to be too low.
My best flights often hit the ceiling,
and I lost some of my best planes
forever when they lodged on top of
beams or ventilation ducts. So I began practicing outside, but weather
and air currents made it difficult to
determine the exact flight performance of each plane. I knew my
best planes were flying just over
20 seconds, but by how much?
Finding a facility for attempting
the record was another challenge.
Through the help of a family friend,
I eventually secured the Georgia
Dome (home of the Atlanta Falcons), and a date of October 8th,
1998, was set. Not only did I have a
facility of my dreams, but the staff
also agreed to give me an extra
day in the dome to practice before

The world record

throw, 1998

Ken Blackburn demonstrating

the world record throw

Page 8 Paper Airplane Magazine, Winter 2012

I attempted the record!

Guinness requires media coverage,
videotape, and photographs, as well
as the record corroborated by two
designated officials known as Scrutineers. Organizing all this at a location 500 miles from home was quite
a challenge, but with the help of my
sister, Jackie Tyson, and the publisher
of this magazine, everything came
togethernow all I had to do was go
ahead and set the record!
Wednesday, October 7th, was my
practice day. Words cant describe
how overwhelming it was to have
one of the largest rooms in the
world silent and still, just for me!
But there was one problem. It was
raining, and with the domes ventilation turned off, the humidity had
filtered indoors as well. It wasnt a
complete show stopper, but it was
affecting my planes. After an hour
of testing, only two planes had
flown beyond the existing record,
and both by less than a second! By
the end of the day, I was somewhat
satisfied I could break the record,
but only if the humidity didnt
increase further.
Thursday, October 8th, started out cloudy and very humid. I
grabbed my Rubbermaid containers (Rubbermaid makes a great wa-

terproof, crushproof paper airplane

hangar) and headed down to the
Georgia Dome. As I approached
the dome, the clouds appeared to
be lifting, so I hoped the humidity wouldnt be a problem. When
I walked indoors, both CNN and
the local news crews were there
to greet me. I made some practice
throws to warm up my arm and to
allow the media some close-up
views of my launch. While I waited
for everyone else to arrive, I met
the Scrutineers, went over the
rules, and showed them my planes.
Then it was show time.
The Final Attempt
The rules allow just ten official throws, so first I took out my
best plane from the day before
and fine-tuned it until it flew just
right and the practice times exceeded 20 seconds. I made sure
the Scrutineers were ready, and I
took the field for my first official
flight. I gave it my best throwit
flew erratically, but still it looked
good. I waited nervously for the
official time from the Scrutineers.
21.3 secondsa new record! What
a relief. Nonetheless I decided I
would use all my available throws
to make sure to get the best time
possible. The second throw went
straight upand straight down.

The world record

paper airplane

After a small adjustment, another

good flight, 23.1 seconds! Throw
number four was another dud, but
number five had a great launch
and was 24.2 seconds! Just think,
only five minutes earlier I thought
I might not be able to beat the
record! Throw number six was a
dud, and throws seven and eight
were both a little short, and throw
nine was another dud. This was
my last throwI gave it all I had.
This time it was a great throw, and
it had a great transition to slow
flight. When it landed I knew it
was a long flight, but loner than
24.2 seconds? I heard the time as
I walked over to retrieve my plane:
27.6 seconds! YES! Better than I
had ever hoped or dreamed. With
luck, help, and hard work, the summit had been reached!
I submitted the necessary materials to Guinness, and I received
notification from them on April
30th, 1999, that my record had become official. I may now be retired
from setting recordsbut who
knows what the future might hold.

Throwing a paper airplane

in a stadium

Paper Airplane Magazine, Winter 2012 Page 9

How I Set the Guinness World Record

by Ken Blackburn
ost people dont think they
can set a world record. I know.
I used to think that way, too. I started making paper airplanes just
for the fun of it when I was about
seven years old. Over the years, I
improved my planes and eventually landed in the Guinness Book of
World Records.
I have always loved airplanes,
and as a kid I made lots of model
airplanes. I enjoyed flying them,
but didnt like the expense, the
building time, and the eventual
tree landing or crash. While browsing in the library one day, I discovered several books that showed
me how to make some great paper
airplanes. I found the best-flying
planes were the square-looking
ones. I also learned that the real
secret to making paper airplanes
fly well is the small adjustments
you make once youve flown the
planes a few times.
Soon I was flying lots of paper
airplanes. They flew well, were
quick to make, and were just
about free. I improved my planes
by studying anything I could find
about real airplanes, then making
changes to my paper models. I
even started coming up with my
own plane designs.
When I was 13 years old, I designed a new plane that flew really
well. I could throw it very high
outdoors and watch the wind carry
it as it slowly glided to the ground.
It soon became my favorite plane,
and I worked constantly to improve
When I was 15 years old, my
parents gave me a Guinness Book
of World Records as a gift. I quickly
turned to the section with aircraft
records. Among the records was
one for paper airplanes. It stated that the longest time a paper

airplane had flown over a level

surface was 15.0 seconds. I soon
realized my paper airplanes would
fly nearly that long, so I set a goal
to try to break the world record.
After a year of practice and
fine-tuning, I gathered my friends,
teachers, and a newspaper reporter
for a record attempt. My plane flew
for almost 25 seconds! I was elated
until Guinness informed me the
record had to be set indoors. Setting
the record had to wait. I needed to
find a large enough building to do it
in, and I also needed to practice and
improve my throw.
At 20, I was studying to become
an aerospace engineer at North
Carolina State University. I told
some friends about my almost record, and they decided they would
help me try again. They timed my
flights and arranged for a reporter
to cover the event.
After a month of practice, we
gathered at my colleges basketball arena for the attempt. With
a camera and a stopwatch ready,
I threw my best plane as hard as
I could into the upper reaches of
the building, only to watch it glide
into a cluster of speakers. My best
plane, gone forever!
One of my friends found a sheet
of copier paper, and I quickly folded
another plane. My third throw with
this new plane was the best at
16.89 secondsa new record! After
a couple of nervous weeks, the letter I wanted arrivedGuinness approved the record! After five years, I
had finally reached my goal.
Since then I have been able
to reset my record twicefirst at
17.2 seconds, then at 18.8 seconds,
where the record stands today. I
have had flights of up to 21 seconds in practice sessions, so maybe
Ill try again. Id like to break the
20-second barrier.

Page 10 Paper Airplane Magazine, Winter 2012

Here are the rules for setting a
Guinness World Record for paper
airplane time aloft:
1. The flight must take place
2. The plane must be made from a
single sheet of paper that is no
longer than 9.84 by 13.90 inches (250 x 353 mm) and weighs
no more than 5 ounces (150
grams). Typing or copier paper
works great.
3. 3. Its OK to use some tape or
4. 4. The plan must be thrown
from level ground. The stopwatch must start when you
release the plan, and end when
the plane touches anything (the
floor, a wall, a chair).
5. 5. Youre allowed six attempts.
6. 6. You must submit the following to file a record claim:
Signed statements from two
witnesses saying that they
saw you set the record.
A newspaper clipping about
the event.
Color photographs and a
continuous video of the
flight (you must have both).
NOTE: It is not required that a
Guinness representative be present.

The worlds largest paper
airplane on record had a
wing span of 45 feet 10
inches. It was built by
students and faculty at Delft
University of Technology
in the Netherlands, and on
May 15, 1995, they flew it
114 feet indoors.

The Basics of Folding

aper is composed of fibers of

wood, held together with a
special type of glue called sizing.
When you gently bend the paper,
the fibers are able to flex and
return to their original position.
When you make a crease in the
paper, the fibers are bent so much
that they stay in their new position. This means that paper-folders must always be accurate. The
paper remembers wrong creases
just as well as it does correct ones!
Accuracy is especially important
when making paper airplanes, as
poor folding will probably mean
poor flying.
The ability of the paper to remember a crease depends on both
the composition and the thickness
of the paper. We need to choose a
type of paper that will be strong,
yet light. This will allow us to fold
planes that are rigid enough to
cope with crash landings yet not so
heavy as to be difficult to fly.

If we are folding from squares,

another important factor is the
grain. When paper is made, the
fibers of wood tend to line up in
a certain direction, known as the
grain. This makes the paper easier
to fold in one direction (with the
grain) than the other (against
the grain). You can determine the
direction of grain by the following
procedure. Place the paper flat on
the palms of your hands and gently
flex the sides upward and inward.
Feel the tension in the paper, and
not how much it resists the pressure of your hands. Now turn the
paper around so the next side faces
toward you and repeat the process.
You should be able to detect a distinct difference between the two. If
the paper flexes easily, the grain is
running in a line away from you. If
the paper has more resistance, the
grain runs from side to side.
We can make use of the grain to
stiffen the wings by folding so that

More resistance grain runs horizontally

the grain runs from side to side

on the finished design. If the wing
creases run with the grain, they
will tend to flop up and down more
easily. When starting a design, look
ahead on the diagrams to determine which sides represent the
wings. Then turn the paper so that
the grain runs across from wing to
wing. This theory is easy to apply
with square paper, but with rectangular paper it will of course be
a matter of luck if the grain runs in
the ideal way.
There is a maximum size beyond
which paper airplanes wont fly.
This because, at a certain point the
weight of the paper becomes so
great that the wings wont hold their
shape and angle. Standard letter-size
paper is usually the best, and is certainly the most popular size. Experiment with different makes and types
to find the most suitable.

Less resistance grain runs vertically

Paper Airplane Magazine, Winter 2012 Page 11

Folding and Flying Your Planes

by Jeff Lammers
lmost anyone can make paper
airplanes, but it helps to know a
little about how best to fold them
and how to make them fly the way
you want. The following guidelines
will help you have great flights
from the get-go. Tip: If youre a firsttime paper airplane pilot, start with
either the Slice or Pirates Secret.
Theyre excellent fliers, easy to fold,
and simple to adjust.

Making the Planes

The planes in this magazine are
marked with three kinds of lines:
solid lines, dashed lines, and dotted lines. The solid lines show you
where to cut the plane. Theyre also
marked with little pictures of scissors. The dashed lines are what we
call fold-in lines. This means that
these lines will be on the inside of
a crease; you will not be able to see
them once you make the fold. They
are your main folding guides and are
numbered in the order you should
make the folds. The dotted lines are
fold-away lines. Youll be able to see
them on the outside of the crease
when you make your folds. These
lines are guides to help you know
that youre folding in the right place.
Try to make your creases as sharp
as possible. Its smart to run a fingernail over the edge after you make a
fold. This will help especially with
the planes that have a lot of folds in
one area, like the World Record Paper
Airplane and the Pirates Secret.
Dont worry if sometimes your
folds are a little off from the dashed
and dotted lines. Try your best to fold
along the liens, but if they dont match
exactly, its OK. The plane will probably
come out fine. Do make sure, however,
that your planes wings are even. If
they are different shapes or sizes, itll
be hard to get the plane to fly well.

Adjusting the Planes

Even if you folded your plane perfectly, theres a good chance that
it wont fly well. Why not? Because
almost all paper airplanes need a
little fine-tuning to fly properly.
Fast and Slow Adjusting the elevators is probably the most important
thing you can do to prevent your
plane from diving (when it suddenly swoops to the ground and
crashes) or stalling (when it climbs,
slows, then dives). Elevator adjustments also let you make the plane
fly fast or slowly. The elevators on a
paper airplane are usually located
at the back edges of the wings. Elevators on real planes are normally
on the back edge of the tail and
work the same way as elevators on
paper airplanes.
If you find that your plane is diving and crashing, add up elevator
by bending the back edges of the
wings up a little.
If you find your plane is stalling,
you may have added too much up
elevator. Flatten the back edges of
the wings.
The more you bend the elevator up, the slower the plane will
fly. With proper adjustments you
can make it float through the air.
Reduce the amount of up elevator
for fast flights. Every airplane is
different, so it will probably take a
few adjustments and throws to fintune your plane to fly at the speed
you want.
Left and Right Most paper airplanes have a tendency to turn to
the right or left when they are first
thrown. This can be fixed by adjusting the rudder of the plane. On
most paper airplanes, the rudder is
the back edge of the body (or fuselage). To adjust it, use your fingers

Page 12 Paper Airplane Magazine, Winter 2012

to bend it right or left. Usually you

only need to bend it a little, but
sometimes you will need to bend it
so much that it points directly out
to the side.
If your plane isnt flying straight,
throw it a few times and watch
which way it turns. Then, holding
your plane from behind, bend the
rudder in the direction you want it
to go. For example, if your plane is
veering off to the right, bend the
rudder a little to the left. If your
plane is heading to the left, bend
the rudder a little to the right.
If your plane flies straight and
you want it to fly to the right, bend
the rudder to the right. Likewise,
if you want your plane to go left,
bend the rudder to the left.
Throwing the Planes
Now that you have your elevators
and rudder adjusted, youre ready
to send your plane soaring. A good
flight requires a good throw. The
first thing to do is get a good grip
on your plane. For most planes,
your best bet is to pinch the body
(fuselage) toward the front, using
your thumb and pointer finger.
(The Robo-Chopper, Dragon Ring,
and Glider all use different throws;
theyre described in the folding
sections for those planes.)
The kind of throw you use depends
on how youve adjusted your plane. If
your plane is set to fly slowly (if youve
added up elevator), hold the plane just
in front of your shoulder and gently
toss it forward and slightly downward.
If your plane is set to fly fast (you
havent added much up elevator), also
hold the plane in front of your shoulder but throw it quickly forward. Be
sure to aim a little past your target.
The World Record Throw
The key to getting a paper airplane
to fly for a long time is to get it

high in the airat least 50 feet

high for a world recordso it has
time to float down slowly. The way
to get a paper airplane 50 feet in
the air is to throw it straight up at
60 miles an hour. This requires a
strong arm. I developed my throw
by working out with weights and
using what I had learned in a class
on biomechanics, the science of
how the body works like a machine. My throw is a combination of
a baseball throw, with a few other
movements thrown in. Its not a
natural throw at first, but you can
get used to it.
Give it a Try To attempt a world
record throw, you need a large room
with a very high ceiling (such as a
gym or auditorium) and a World Record Paper Airplane. Its also handy
to have a stopwatch and a pencil
and paper to record your times.

Throw your plane normally a

few times, adjusting it as needed
to make sure its flying slowly and
straight. When it flies well, begin
throwing a little harder and a little
more upward. Dont be afraid to try
different adjustments to the elevators or rudder to make it fly better.
When youre happy with its flight,
throw your airplane as close to
straight up as you can. You can try
to throw it like I do by following
the pictures here. If you find this
difficult, dont worry; just throw your
plane as high in the air as you can.
My throw, which I developed over
many years, is the best way for me
to throw planes. You may develop
your own throwing technique.
If you have a stopwatch, write
down your best times and compare
them with your friends flight times.

Early airplanes were made
of wood and fabric. For the
last 60 years, airplanes have
been made of aluminum.
Airplanes of the future may
be made of lightweight,
high-strength plastics
called composites.

The earliest known flying
devices were kites made
from paper over 2,000
years ago.

Make a paper airplane (the Count or the Pirates Secret would be good) and throw it
without adjusting the elevators. See how it flies. Now bend the elevators up a little and
throw it again. Adjust the plane until you get a smooth flight. Keep bending the elevators
up and notice how this makes the plane fly more slowly. Eventually, the elevators will be
bent up so much that the plane will stall because it is trying to fly too slowly. The amount
of up elevator that makes this happen is different for every plane.

The Basic Dart

The Basic Square

Paper Airplane Magazine, Winter 2012 Page 13

Setting Up a Paper Airplane Contest

by Rick Romano
hen youre flying paper airplanes with friends, its only
natural that youll want to see who
has the best plane and who is the
best flier. What starts out as casual
throwing can easily turn into an
informal paper airplane contest.
Contests are fun because they not
only challenge you to do your best,
but also compare your skills with
your friends, which can help you
improve your techniques. Theyre
easy to organize, and can be as
formal or informal as you want.
Here are guidelines for setting
up two different types of contestsdistance and time aloft. You
need only two people for a contest,
but its fun to have more. I think
three to six is ideal. That means
there are enough people for a
good competition, but not so many
that the event gets confusing.

The challenge here is to see
who can throw his or her plane
the farthest. Ideally, you can set
up your contest in a large indoor
spacethat way no one has the
advantage of a sudden wind gust.
How far is a good distance
flight? Twenty feet is respectable,
and thirty feet is a great throw. Fifty feet will win most adult contests.
The world record for indoor flight
is almost 200 feet. Good luck!
What You Need. Masking tape or
rope, paper airplanes, small prizes
such as penny candy or stickers
(this is optional).
What to Do. Find a place to have
your contest and choose a starting
line. Mark it with masking tape (or,
if youre outdoors, a piece of rope).
Gymnasiums are great places for
distance contests, as are long hall-

ways and big rooms. If you cant

find a big enough indoor space,
outside is OK, too. Just choose a
day thats not too windy.
Fold your planes. You can ask everybody to use the same model, or
let people choose their own. Make
sure everyone puts his or her name
on the plane.
Let everybody make a few practice throws. Then, when everyone is
ready, have each participant stand
behind the starting line and make
an official throw. Leave all the
planes where they land until everyone has thrown. The one farthest
from the starting line is the winner.
If you have time for another round
or two, ask each person to mark
where his or her plane landed
with a piece of tape (or a stone or
twig, if youre outdoors), and throw
again. See if all the contestants can
improve their flights.
Tips for Winning. Use a pointed-nose plane like the Slice or the
Count. Small adjustments are the
secret to making a good paper airplane into a great one. Make several short throws and, after each
one, adjust your plane to improve
its flight. Try to make it fly straight
(bend the rudder as needed) and
fast (you will need very little up
elevator). If the contest rules allow
it, add a paper clip to the nose of
your plane. Your best-bet distance
throw is one thats hard and angled
a little up.
This is my favorite kind of contest.
The goal is to keep your plane in the
air for the greatest amount of time.
You will need a plane that floats
well and you should know how to
fine-tune and adjust it. Its a test of
both your paper airplane-making
skills and your flying ability.

Page 14 Paper Airplane Magazine, Winter 2012

How many seconds is a long

flight? Five seconds doesnt sound
long, but is a good flight. Ten
seconds is very difficultconsider yourself an expert if you can
get near that. I had to train with
weights and practice for years to
achieve my world record flight of
18.8 seconds.
What You Need. Stopwatch, pencil
or pen and paper, paper airplanes,
small prizes such as penny candy
or stickers (this is optional).
What to Do. Find a place to have
your contest. You need a big room
with tall ceilingsa gymnasium
would be goodif youre going to
have it inside, or a big open area
if youre going to be outside. As
in distance contests, indoors is
betterit means that no one faces
an advantage or disadvantage
from the wind or thermals. But a
large enough indoor space can be
hard to find, so youll likely have
to make do with outside. Choose a
day thats calm.
Gather supplies that you need
and get all your contestants together. They can make their planes
on the spot, or you can ask them to
bring their planes already folded.
Decide in advance if they can use
any plane they want or must all use
the same model. Let everyone make
several practice throws and give
each time to adjust their planes.
Choose one person to be the
timer and another to be the judge
for all but their own throws (someone else can time and record their
throws). The timer uses the stopwatch to time each flight, and the
judge writes down the name of
the contestant and the number of
seconds the timer calls out. The
timer should start the stopwatch
as soon as the thrower lets go of

the plane and stop it as soon as

the plane lands (or hits something).
The judge tells each person when
he or she can make a throw.
Have everyone make one official
throw. The person with the longest-lasting flight wins the round.
Its fun to have a few rounds. If after a few rounds, two people tie for
first place or have very close times,
you can have a runoff between
them. The person with the longest
flight of the day wins the contest.
Not surprisingly, I think the
World Record Paper Airplane is
the best plane to use, the Pirates
Secret, the Aerobat, and the Count
stay aloft well, too. Fly them all
before the contest and see which
works best for you. Adjust your
plane to fly slowlyuse quite a
bit of up elevator, but not so much
that it makes the plane porpoise
up and down. Throw your plane
hard and up. Some planes do best
if you throw them straight up; others work better if you bank them
(tilt their wings to one side) and
throw them not quite straight up.

Tips for Folding Paper Airplanes

The Count is a ghoulishly good
glider. Its a type of dart, but has
more paper in the nose. This gives
it extra stability, making it ideal for
long, straight flights. Its also good
for precision flying. With a little
practice, you can use it to make
pinpoint landings. The Count flies
best if you add a little up elevator, but be careful not to add too
muchthis plane is very sensitive
to elevator adjustments. And remember not to let the vampire out
after the sun goes down!
Dont let the square shape fool
you; this plane will out-glide most
pointed-nose paper planes and is
just as fast. In fact, its one of the
best-flying paper planes you will
find anywhere. It is as good at stunts
as it is at distance and accuracy. If
you want to perform stunts, make
sure to use a lot of up elevator.

But the best part of this plane is

that its an excellent secret messenger. Write a private note to a friend
at the X on the back, then fold the
plane up and send it on its way.
I think you will like the flavor of
this paper airplane. Its a classic dart
(youve probably made something
similar before). It is easy to fold,
looks good, and flies well, too (especially if you add a little up elevator). Its excellent for long-distance
flights and flights requiring accuracy. Try slipping a paper clip over the
nose to create an extra-stable fast
flier. And dont let anyone take a
bite out of your plane!

Paper Airplane Magazine, Winter 2012 Page 15

Folding the Slice

Fold plane in half along

center, line 5, and reopen.

Fold in along lines 2 and 3.

Fold plane in half along center, line 5.

Flip plane over and fold the other
wing up along line 7.

Page 16 Paper Airplane Magazine, Winter 2012

Fold in along lines 3 and 4.

Fold one wing down along line 6.

Open plane and fold wing tips up
along lines 8 and 9.

Paper Airplane Magazine, Winter 2012 Page 17

Page 18 Paper Airplane Magazine, Winter 2012

Folding the Pirates Secret

Fold up along line 1 to
line 2.

Fold along line 2 to line 3.

Flip plane over and fold in half along

line 9.

Flip plane over and fold the other
wing down along line 11.

Fold along line 3 to line

4, and continue folding
through line 8.

Fold one wing up along line 10.

Make sure the wings form a slight
Y shape with the body.

Paper Airplane Magazine, Winter 2012 Page 19

Folding the Count

Fold the plane in half
along center, line 7, then
reopen the plane.

Fold in along lines 4 and 5.

Fold one wing down
along line 8.

Fold in along lines 1 and 2.

Fold point down along line 6.

Flip the plane over and
fold the other wing down
along line 9.

Page 20 Paper Airplane Magazine, Winter 2012

Fold up along line 3.

Fold the plane in half
along center, line 7.

Make sure the wings form a
slight Y shape with the body.

Paper Airplane Magazine, Winter 2012 Page 21


Page 22 Paper Airplane Magazine, Winter 2012

The Classic Dart

This is without doubt the best known of all paper airplanes, probably because its simplicity and beauty have no equal. If you have never folded paper before, this is the best
design to start with providing you take your time. If you know how to make it, try to fold
slowly and produce the neatest example you have ever made.
As with all airplanes that have a sharp nose, it is a good idea to cut a small section off to
make it safe when throwing. The effect this has on the flight pattern will be negligible.
Start with a rectangle, colored side down. Fold in half width-wise and open.

Lift each corner and fold it to

meet the center crease. Make
sure it lines up exactly.

Narrow by taking the folded

edges (made in step 1) to
meet the center crease. Try to
keep the upper point sharp.

Mountain fold in half. You may

find it easier to turn the paper
over and make a valley fold.

Narrow still further by folding
each of the two folded edges to the right hand vertical
edge. Turn the paper round so
it is horizontal.

Open the wings up to

90 degrees.

The Classic Dart finished.

Launch the dart firmly at a slight upward angle.
You may need to adjust the angle of the wings
(dihedral) for the best results. Thrown properly, it
will fly for more than 30 ft. (10 m).
Paper Airplane Magazine, Winter 2012 Page 23

Building the Classic Glider

The design of this plane is traditional, but the clever triangular lock was made popular
by the eminent Japanese designer of paper airplanes, Eiji Nakamura.
Whereas the classic dart is designed for fast flight, this design concentrates a lot of
layers at the front to provide weight and hence stability.
Start with a sheet of A4 colored side down.

Fold the two long sides
together., crease firmly
and open to form the
vertical center crease.

Repeat step 2 with the
upper folded edge. The
corners do not meet the
inside corner, but leave a
triangular flap sticking out.

Fold the first upper flap downward
to lie along the lower edge. Dont
flatten until you are sure the edges are neatly lined up. Repeat on
the other side.

Fold two corners in to lie
along the center crease.
Try to make the edges lie
exactly along the crease.

Fold the small triangle upward
to hold the two corners together.
This stops these flaps from coming loose during flight.

Open both wings to 90 degrees

Page 24 Paper Airplane Magazine, Winter 2012

Bring the top corner downward to touch a point a short
distance from the lower edge.
Note that the valley crease
does not lie along the inside
edges formed in the last step.

Use the center crease to mountain
fold the paper in half behind. You
can fold this in the air, or turn the
paper over on the table and make a
valley fold. Rotate the paper to the
position shown in the next step.

The Classic Glider ready for flight.

Launch slowly and with moderate strength for a
superbly stable flight-path. Alter the angle of the
wings if i dives too quickly. Try different angles of
attack for aerobatic stunts.

Launching position

View from below

Top view

America the Beautiful

Lets use natural resources to power our future.

This magazine is printed on paper

made from sustainable forests.

Paper Airplane Magazine, Winter 2012 Page 25

Building the Flying Saucer

Although flying saucers are generally circular, we can make an impressive version using a square. This is easily converted into an octagon, then into a heptagon as we make the paper three-dimensional. All the creases are easily located,
providing you take your time. Because it is launched with a spin, this design
uses gyroscopic principles rather than those of conventional paper airplanes.
The design was inspired by a saucer made from a circular piece of paper.
Please note: This is an advanced paper airplane model. If
you have trouble folding it, try one of the simpler models
and work your way up in difficulty.

Making sure the crease

passes through the center
of the paper, take the lower
center-point to lie along the
upper left diagonal

like this. Pre-crease the

corner along the deges in front
(valleys) and below (mountains).
Open the paper back out.

Repeat step 1 to the righthand side and unfold.

This is the crease pattern so far.

Repeat step 1 twice more using
the location marks shown to
complete the radial creases.

Fold each corner to the creases made in step 2, then over

again using the crease itself.
Turn the paper over.

The paper should now be

octagonal in shape. Fold the
center of each edge to the
center point, but only crease
between either adjacent diagonals before opening. Turn
over again.

Page 26 Paper Airplane Magazine, Winter 2012

Start with a brightly colored piece of paper, the heavier the better; you
might even use thin card stock. Foil-backed paper also works very well.
From the white side, crease in half and from corner to corner both ways.
Make all these folds valleys and keep it white side up.
Laundh the saucer like a frisbee, trying to impart as much spin as possible at the launch by flicking your wrist. Raise the opposite edge to
your hand upward slightly.

Fold each edge to the spoke

creases you have just made,
creasing again only between
the diagonals. Then unfold.

Make one crease into a mountain, then pleat it sideways,

raising the sides of the paper
to form a central hollow. The
paper is three dimensional
from here onward.

Lock the pleat by folding the

outer edge to the diagonal, then
folding over using the diagonal.


It came from
outer space!

Lift the paper up an dgently

press it into shape using the
creases you have made. Go
slowly and try not to force the
paper. Turn the paper over; it
should match the profile below.

Paper Airplane Magazine, Winter 2012 Page 27

Folding the Boomerang

Boomerangs are beautifully curved pieces of wood, but we can make
a working version from a rectangle of paper. This design is different
from all the others because very crease is at 45 or 90 degrees. The
sequence is logical and efficient if you crease accurately.

Fold each short edge over a

little way, crease firmly and
unfold. Fold the paper in half
from left to right.

Take each corner of the folded

edge to meet the outside
quarter crease and return.
Open the paper back out.

Fold the upper long edge to

the lower.

Pre-crease a valley.

Then make an inside reverse

fold using the crease you have
just made.

Using established creases (you

will need to alter the direction
of a few) swing the right hand
flap to the left., raising a small
triangular flap.

Page 28 Paper Airplane Magazine, Winter 2012

This boomerang uses a 2:1 rectangle (half a square), but it will work
from other similar rectangles, such as bank checks. The paper needs
to be crisp, but not too thick. Start with the colored side down and
crease the short side into quarters.

Fold the quarter flap underneath, tucking the top end

inside the triangular pocket.
Turn the paper over.

Repeat step 6 on this side,

again raising a small
triangular flap.

Tuck the upper layer within,

unfolding the triangular flap
inside. The next three steps
show an enlargement of the
circled area.




Fold the left corner to the crease

(made in step 1) and unfold.

Mountain fold the small strip

underneath, allowing the
corner to fold in naturally on
established creases.

This is the result.

Paper Airplane Magazine, Winter 2012 Page 29


Fold the layer within.


Lock the end by tucking the

small flap within the closed
pocket. It is easiest to start with
the square end, then the angled
end. Flatten firmly. Turn over.


Then repeat steps 13 and 14,

locking the other end.


Then repeat steps 13 and 14

locking the other end.

The Boomerang, finished,

ready for launch.


Although the folding was (I hope) straightforward, the launching will take a bit of practice.
Turn your left hand palm up and line up one side of the Boomerang with your third and
fourth fingers. Move your first finger over to hold it in position, then slide the first finger
of your other hand along the edge of your little finger, striking the Boomerang smartly but
smoothly. You may need to angle the wing upward slightly.
Depending on the force and accuracy of contact, the Boomerang will fly forward then
start to fall back toward you. Adjust the angle of launch so that you can catch it.
Launching into a slight breeze will help, but you need to work on the launch to perfect it.
If like Charlie Drake your boomerang wont come back, keep trying; the joy of catching it
before it lands is well worth the effort!
Page 30 Paper Airplane Magazine, Winter 2012

Paper Airplane Magazine, Winter 2012 Page 31

We help you
take flight.
For paper samples and
downloadable templates
go to:

Page 32 Paper Airplane Magazine, Winter 2012