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How To Make A Paper Airplane

Updated on May 2, 2016

Learn How To Make A Paper Airplane Step By Step

Learning how to make a paper airplane has to be the most memorable craft a child learns. In this article you're going to learn to make basic and advanced paper airplanes, and have fun doing it. As adults we're also fascinated by them; the way they fly and dart around. And there are few things that parents can do together with their kids that are so fun and so inexpensive.

There's something about the flight of these planes, about creating something that defies gravity, that flies further, faster and longer (27.6 second flight is World Indoor Record) than any other.

Making paper airplanes has been around for hundreds (if not thousands) of years. While no one is certain, it's believed that the Chinese likely invented the paper crafts that led to the modern day planes we now make. We know that they created the first kites using paper, and that Origami as we know it, while a Japanese name, originated with the Chinese. This has given rise to the term "Aerogami" as used to reference building paper airplanes.

Whatever the case, we all (young and old alike) love the art of building these fighters and gliders of paper. Let's have a look now at some of the greatest paper airplane designs and then dig into learning how to make them.

Also, if you would share this on Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest it would be cool. Thanks for your support! ♥

Photo Copyright SafeReview
Photo Copyright SafeReview

Making A Paper Airplane In Easy To Follow Steps - Great Guide To Teach Children How To Fold Planes

Learning how to make paper airplanes, the art and craft of origami, has been around for so long that there's a seemingly endless variety of planes you can build, from gliders to trick planes. Some planes are as quick as lightening and others float through the air like a feather in the wind.

The real beauty of making them is that everyone can make something totally unique using a variety of paper colors, pens, crayons, you name it. There are even templates you can download which have logos and instructions printed right on them, making this an awesome craft to introduce to young children.

To get you started, and to make it easier to learn, I will show you two paper airplane designs first from the great University of Kansas (Rock Chalk!) which includes the lines showing you where to fold, as well as step by step instructions printed right on the paper.

The first paper airplane is called "HawkAir," and it comes in a printable pdf that makes creating an awesome plane super simple, and lots of fun.

Check it out here- KU HawkAir.


As you can see, there are simple instructions printed right on the design, and the end result is an awesome looking and high flying plane.

The other airplane design that you can get from KU is the really unique looking "SpaceHawk," shown below.

Like the HawkAir, this one has detailed instructions on the pdf, so simply download it and you're ready to make a paper airplane. See the instructions for the plane here- KU SpaceHawk.

The fun thing about the SpaceHawk is that while it IS a paper airplane, it actually looks like the Space Shuttle complete with astronauts visible in the front window. When you take the craft of learning how to make a paper airplane to the next level, and allow yourself a creative license, you'll quickly find that much like origami, there's virtually no limits to what you can design and make. Here what the finished SpaceHawk looks like.

KU Paper Airplane images used with permission - KU Funstuff page

The Great International Paper Airplane Book - A Discussion Of Design And Flight Physics

Without getting overly complicated, I'll just say that the most common measurement used to determine the successful flight of a typical plane is the "Glide Ratio". This is nothing more than the distance a plane travels relative to the drop in altitude it experiences during that time.

So, for example, a plane that travels 10 feet but drops in altitude only 1 foot, has a 10:1 glide ratio. At best, paper airplanes average no better than 7.5:1 ratios, but there are exceptions and therein is your challenge.

Of course the glide ratio depends on many things, such as winds and plane design (if it was designed to loop it may perform differently than another design). Building paper airplanes is an awesome opportunity to introduce children to physics and flight design, and many colleges use the construction of paper airplanes in their physics or engineering classes.

Following standard principles of flight you'll quickly learn that long, sleek designs tend to fly faster, and further, than the large winged variety that are slow but make great use of their lift. Again, there are exceptions. Often times the large winged planes stay aloft the longest and also manage to travel great distances in good wind conditions.

A great resources for anyone who enjoys this hobby and wants to learn more or teach their children, is The Great International Paper Airplane Book. This book has a rare 5 Star rating on Amazon for a reason. In it you'll learn about paper airplane designs both large and small, and see how creative some people have gotten in creating their own designs. It's a great first start and a very worthwhile read for any enthusiast!

Also check out the Paper Plane Mafia for a fun site dedicated to making paper airplanes fun, and specifically the page "How Do Paper Airplanes Fly" for more information on the mechanics of flight.

Paper Airplane Instructions For The Dart - An Easy Step By Step Design That Is Great For Beginners

The simple dart is perhaps the easiest and most common airplane built, and generally it flies well. When kids first learn how to make an airplane in school its almost always a variant of the Dart because, well, its the simplest design and gives a positive reward... it's a good flier.

The Dart is also the most common plane that people like to get creative with and design their own variations. Because of that as you learn how to make a paper airplane it may seem familiar when you're working with the many patterns.

In this section I'll guide you through the basic instruction set for the dart. All you need are some sheets of standard 8 1/2 x 11 sheets of paper (like printer or copier paper). If you're buying paper for future airplanes, always go with the lightest bond (weight) paper as it'll tend to fly better.

Step 1 - Fold your sheet of paper in half, lengthwise, and press the crease down firmly.

    

Step 2 - Starting on one corner, fold it inward to line the edge up with the center crease you created in step one. Press the new crease down with your fingernail or finger to ensure you have a good, tight crease. Tight creases help the plane retain its form better.

    

Step 3 - Take that same edge that you folded over in step two, and now fold it inward to the center seam once again.

    

Step 4 - Once again, staying on the same side, fold it inward once again to the center. Now you've completed one side of the airplane.

    

Step 5 - Flip the paper over so the unfolded side sits on top. Repeating the same process we used on the first side, grab the corner of the paper and fold it inward to the center crease.

    

Step 6 - Again, we're repeating the same process and folding the flap inward towards the center and pressing the creases down tightly with each new fold.

    

Here you can see what your finished project will look like. If this was your first time then you have successfully learned how to make a paper airplane. Below we'll look at some more designs.

    

Note: If you're a teacher or instructor and want more information to help teach young children, here's a great resource called the "Lesson Plan: Paper Dart Airplane" and it's provided by the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

Images in this section Copyright SafeReview (see permissions at bottom)

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Instructions For Making A Dart Variant Step By Step - How To Make A Good Paper Airplane Your Own

This is a build very similar to the basic dart paper airplane we made earlier. That is, it looks and flies very similar. The construction process is somewhat different though, and this is a great example of how you can take almost any paper airplane and make a design all your own.

For many people that is the exciting part of the craft, learning how to make a paper airplane that is unique and their own creation. If you have one you've made, please share it with me and I'll be sure to publish it.

I have many, many designs and will be updating and adding to this article on a regular basis, as time permits. So be sure to bookmark this and come back from time to time and check in. I'd really like to hear from you about your own builds, or how my instructions worked out for you.

Like all other darts, Step 1 is to start with a regular sheet of paper and then fold it in half, lengthwise, and press the seam down tightly. However, unlike the Dart above, with this variation you will open it back up after you've formed the center crease and lay it out flat. This new crease serves as the guide and makes folding it later, easier.

Step 2 - Starting with one corner, fold it inward to the center crease and press it down, creating a new tight crease.

    

Step 3 - Now grab the opposite corner and fold it in to the center as well.

Step 4 - You'll notice that we're essentially following the same folding pattern as we did with the basic Dart earlier, except we're folding it inward onto the open sheet of paper. Whereas with the basic design you folded the entire sheet in half first, and then folded each wing down separately. So, fold one side inward to the center again.

    

Step 5 - Now fold the opposite inward to the center crease. You're plane should look like the image on the right, below, with both sides folded equally in to the center.

    

Step 6 - Now fold the plane along the center crease, placing the folds you just creating against one another. So you're folding it inward onto itself. It will now look like the photo below on the right.

    

Step 7 - I've created an impression of where your fold line will be on this step. Simply fold the wing down along this line and press firmly to form the crease.

    

Step 7 - Now simply flip the plane over and fold again along the same path as step 6. Both wings should be folded equally off the center, and look symmetrical. Below are photos of what you plane should like now that its completed. As will all designs, make them your own with small adjustments. In the photo below, for example, I simply folded the wing tips up for a more aggressive look. Or you can leave them flat.

    

Images in this section are Copyright SafeReview (see permissions at bottom)


The Nakamura Lock Paper Airplane Design

How To Make An Awesome Paper Airplane

Learning how to make paper airplanes is truly as simple as understanding and appreciating origami, or aerogami in our case. Both crafts follow in the same discipline of folding paper and require no additional tools. In fact, one origami expert, Haruki Nakamura, took the basic dart variant and by adding a simple fold (or lock), created a new style of plane called the Nakamura Lock.

His design has now become popular and even it has had variations of the original Lock created by others. That is the way the hobby goes... everyone shares ideas and designs and attempt to make modifications, however small, in the hopes of creating something new that actually flies. That it flies is key. Otherwise it isn't a paper airplane but rather just origami.

I hope that this plane and the idea of aerogami inspires you to create your own designs or variants of existing templates, and that you're able to build something really amazing.

Step 1 - Following the same pattern we did with the Dart Variation above, fold a sheet of paper lengthwise onto itself to create a center crease, and then open it again and lay it flat.

Step 2 - Now starting with one corner, fold it inward towards the center crease and press down, again making sure to press hard enough to form tight creases.

    

Step 3 - Now grab the corner on the opposite side and fold it inward towards the center as well.

Step 4 - In this step you are going to fold the top portion of the plane down, creating a crease along the line where the top folds meet. The photo below should make this more clear.

    

Step 5 - This step is where the second part of this plane's name comes from, the Lock. The small tip of the fold you just created is now folded upward. I find that about 1/2" is the right amount to fold upward, but your experience is the best guide. Once you've folded it upward, press firmly on the crease to make it tight.

Step 6 - Now, lay that tip you just folded back down. You merely wanted to create a pre-formed crease for use later.

    

Step 7 - In the image below I placed a line where you'll be folding this next crease. So make the fold.

    

Step 8 - Now fold the other side over, too, at the same angle as in the previous step. Both sides should be symmetrically folded now, with the tip that we pre-formed earlier extended beneath them.

Step 8 - Now fold the tip up and over the two flaps that you just folded. This is now the "Lock" that the design refers to.

    

Step 9 - In this step you are going to be folding the plane in half, with the "Lock" facing outward. It seems awkward as you're folding it; just use some finesse and work the "Lock" with your fingers as you fold it... press the seams down firmly and create tights creases.

Step 10 - The plane will look like the image below. You'll see in the next image, below right, that I've created another line to show you where you'll be folding it in the next step.

    

Step 10 - Now fold the wing down along the line I showed you and press the crease down firmly.

Step 11 - Flip the plane over and fold that wing over in the same way, pressing the creases down firmly.

    

Below are a couple of photos to show you what the finished Nakamura Lock looks like. If you're just learning how to make a paper airplane I think you'll find this to be a fun design. As always, you can fold the tips up or leave them flat. I find that flat tips seem to fly better, but try it out.

Images in this section are Copyright SafeReviews (see permissions at bottom)

For more awesome photo and video instructions please be sure to check out the Paper Plane Mafia... the name sounds serious, but it's just serious fun!

How To Make A Paper Airplane - Interceptor - This is a great tutorial for a fun plane!

Here are a couple of great picture tutorials, one for the Interceptor shown in the video below, and another for the Condor Paper Airplane.

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Unless otherwise attributed all photos are copyrighted by Hubpages author, SafeReview. You may use any of my instructions or photos from this article on your own site, article or project, as long as you provide a link and credit back to this page.

Please take a moment to share a comment or your own experiences with paper airplanes...

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    • profile image

      lesliefischer1223 7 weeks ago

      cool

    • profile image

      Doc_Holliday 3 years ago

      The dart has always been a quick and easy plane as kids - and for kids.

    • safereview profile image
      Author

      Bob 3 years ago from Kansas City

      @nonya222: I love them, too! Thanks for stopping by and sharing a comment.

    • profile image

      nonya222 3 years ago

      I have made airplanes with my younger brothers, my son and now my grandsons. They are magical creations really and so much fun. Thank you for some great planes, we will be building them soon.

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      Namsak 3 years ago

      You brought back memories of a childhood spent making and flying paper aeroplanes. I recognise the first three you describe as ones I used to make. Very good lens.

    • safereview profile image
      Author

      Bob 4 years ago from Kansas City

      @jemacb: Thank you for the comment and for stopping by. Much appreciated!

    • jemacb profile image

      jemacb 4 years ago

      Very well organized lens. Excellent content as well.