Introduction: Paper Airplane Walkalong Glider

Picture of Paper Airplane Walkalong Glider
What's a walkalong glider? Here's a video of a completed paper airplane walkalong glider on a 42 second "cross country" soaring flight:

This paper airplane design was fabricated from 100% reused materials, from the 8 1/2 X 11 sheet of paper to the 96cm X 75cm corrugated cardboard salvaged from the trash. this is a good way of reusing paper and cardboard before ultimately recycling them. Ever wanted to pilot an airplane? Here's a way to do it without electricity or contributing to global warming- this aircraft model is powered by you.

The surfer paper airplane is designed to fly as a walkalong glider. Paper airplanes are heavier than other walkalong glider designs and fly correspondingly faster. A 96cm X 75cm piece of corrugated cardboard was used as a controllable slope to power (sustain) and control the surfer paper airplane. For other walkalong glider designs see the Controllable Slope Soaring page.

The Indoor Paper Airplane Surfer has many improvements over this design. That didn't stop somebody from flying this design at the Red Bull Paper Airplane Contest in Austria (see 1:28 into the video):

Step 1: Folding the Surfer Paper Airplane

Picture of Folding the Surfer Paper Airplane
The surfer paper airplane is made from a standard 8 1/2" X 11" sheet of paper:

The nose assembly is used for many other paper airplane designs which differ from this paper airplane walkalong glider design only in how the fins are folded. The nose assembly is similar to the trapezium paper airplane design (proceedure is same up to 2:42):

The nose assembly and first fin fold is the same as before 1:09 in the following video:

The last fold on each wingtip is what distinguishes this glider from the rest. This fold starts at the front where the first fin fold intersects the leading edge of the wing. Then the edge of the fin is lined up with where the first fin fold instersects the trailing edge of the wing. This fold results in the outboard wingtip having a reduced angle of attack relative to the inboard wing, a design feature called wing washout.

Step 2: Trimming the Paper Airplane to Fly Straight

Picture of Trimming the Paper Airplane to Fly Straight
The paper airplane walkalong glider is now ready for a flight test. Launch the plane at a slight nose down atittude on a down angled trajectory. If the plane flies straight it is ready for walkalong gliding. To correct a turning tendency, gently pull out the outer fin on the side of the turning tendency. This increases lift by increasing the angle of attack on the wingtip, making the plane tend to turn in the opposite direction. In the following video a paper airplane walkalong glider is turning to the right. The plane is then adjusted, folding in the left fin and pulling out the right fin so the next flight flies straight.

I did not do any change to the elevators (moving the wingtip trailing edges up or down). The wingtip folds result in a nose up pitch trim when flying straight and level, but when banking (turning) the trim is just right.

Step 3: Weather Breifing

Picture of Weather Breifing

Before any flight, the weather situation should be checked. The flight on the intro page was conducted with no wind (not a breath of air moved the tree leaves). These conditions occur during temperature inversions. Alternatively, the glider can be flown in a large indoor space such as a gym. But even indoors, care must be taken to eliminate or avoid drafts produced by open doors or windows, heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems. A good way to create a temperature inversion indoors is to run the air conditioning (or heating) for a while and when the system is turned off the air should be pretty stable. As when flying full size airplanes, the smoother the air the easier it will be to pilot the airplane.

Step 4: Powering and Controlling the Surfer Paper Airplane

Picture of Powering and Controlling the Surfer Paper Airplane
A 96cm X 75cm piece of corrugated cardboard was used as a controllable slope. Larger area controllable slopes produce more relative headwind for the walkalong glider and not as much velocity is needed to sustain the surfer paper airplane (seeTumblewing Experiment: Paper mass Vs Ground Speed).

The surfer paper airplane is flown in a similar manner to other walkalong gliders. See the series of slides titled "Airflow Arond Controllable Slope", "Straight and Level Flight", "Climb" and "Turns" below.

Note the nose up trim which results in the up and down pitch oscillations of the surfer paper airplane when it is flying straight in the video (at 15 seconds into video). In the first turn, the plane stops the up and down oscillations because turns require more nose up trim (at 23 seconds into video):

Cutting off 0.75 inches from the trailing edge will lessen the phugoid oscillations when the paper airplane is flown straight and level. Alternatively, cutting off the trailling edge from each trailing edge to the base of the ballast will have the same effect (see indoor paper airplane walkalong glider instructable). Standard paper airplanes fly fast but not bad using large controllable slopes such as 75X100cm sheets of cardboard or foam core poster board.


dakada4445 made it! (author)2017-03-31

i will try it later it is 1:48 pm 3/31/17

KEDHARNATH (author)2017-01-03

Can you useA4 sized paper?

jirawatr made it! (author)2016-09-19


chetan planeliker (author)2015-05-24

vedant.mundada made it! (author)2014-12-27

thanks for a fantastic idea !!!!

ty159 (author)2014-02-05

im so good at paper airplanes

delonzo (author)2013-08-11

It that made of printer paper

draketheawsome (author)2013-07-30

i cant get it to work. I don't know how or where to hold the cardboard or anything. when i let go, the plane stalls once, and then is soars away and falls to the ground in about 1 second.

davtheman223 (author)2012-07-26

could you make another how-to video a little slower and show the step you just did

millju (author)davtheman2232012-08-31

pause the video

davtheman223 (author)millju2012-12-28

no the step itself was shown too fast

Does this video include the step you were wondering about?

DEADMAU5FTW (author)2009-07-13

what was that thing in your hands?

ice45core0 (author)DEADMAU5FTW2012-05-28

It looked a lot like glass or plastic.(In the kid's hands)

bob2 (author)DEADMAU5FTW2010-05-19

 some string

i love aircraft (author)bob22012-01-25

there is no string

alexw2150 (author)DEADMAU5FTW2011-11-14

cardboard to keep an air flow so that the plane can keep in the air for a long time.

culepet (author)DEADMAU5FTW2010-06-20

maybe it was a carboard,,,to control the wind,,powering up to the glider

shassan3 (author)2011-10-07

i made it a million times but it just loops back and hits my head

Air_Assassin (author)2011-04-03

in your video, please go slower. Thanks!

rainxsin (author)Air_Assassin2011-06-17

I think that because of the choice of a denser type of paper, the stability of the glider was in danger, so he had to move quickly. Perhaps if we switched the main material with one like the material used for newspapers/waxed tissue paper, it would be easier to control. Also, we notice that in this design the author has decided not to cut the tail wedge section..overall, it seems solid.

Air_Assassin (author)rainxsin2011-06-21

what I really mean is the folding parts but thanks anyway :)

wat. (author)2010-09-12

WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AMAZING!

MR.SAINT235 (author)2010-06-26

IT WORKS!!!!!!!

MR.SAINT235 (author)2010-06-26

I know how to make that!! All you need to do is know how to make the flat bed, then adjust the wings in that way!!!!

macrumpton (author)2009-03-19

If you made the glider out of wrapping tissue or condenser paper you would not have to run so fast. Also the wider the wing in proportion to it's length the more efficient it is (although beyond about 5 or 6:1 it runs into stability problems.

Yes, you're right, lowering the mass with a lighter paper would slow things down. I have made the paper airplane design from half size tissue paper but I still haven't finished design enhancements to lessen the pitch instability yet retain control about the roll axis for turns. The tumblewing walkalong glider design, for example, flies much slower because it requires no forward mass, so it has the lowest wing loading for a given paper.

Here's the best flight so far:

jib451 (author)walkalongaviation2009-08-25


macrumpton (author)jib4512009-08-26

It would be so cool if you could use a fan to blow against the cardboard to create an updraft that the glider could fly on without moving forward. When I was a kid in school we made these paper helicopters that you could hold over a radiator (they had these massive 10ft long radiators next to the windows) and the hot air rising would take the copters up to the ceiling and out into the middle of the room.

Shredder543 (author)macrumpton2010-05-26

Cool! if you can remember how to make them, plz post them!

This is the function of a wind tunnel. Wind tunnels have vanes to smooth the turbulence coming off the fan blades.

Today I made an indoor paper airplane from a waxy tissue wrapping paper which came with a plant. It works very well. Lighter material is the way to go.

Paperworker99 (author)2009-04-22

is smaller cardboard work too?

The size of the cardboard can be likened to the power of the aircraft engine, the larger the area the more wind is created. A good test of how efficient a glider design would be whether you can sustain it with your hands (or your head). The paper airplane designs are not very efficient (theirglide ratio is relatively low). The foam design has a much better glide ratio:

So, you could act as though you were using telekenesis? That would be so cool!

telekenesis or not the attention required to fly using hands or head means no attention to where you're going!!!!!

u guys r confusing  oh and hey jamalam

casey321b (author)2009-07-24

do we just mess around with steering and flight or is there a video so i dont look stupid out in my driveway...

This is the first attempt at a steerable paper airplane. The Indoor Paper Airplane Walkalong Glider is by far a superior design and avoids the pitch oscillations:
This improved design was flown for 400m (3 minutes).

Street Soulja (author)2009-07-27


Paperworker99 (author)2009-04-21

how could some body find a piece of cardboard that big!!!!

The cardboard used here used to contain a bicycle wheel. Larger area cardboard sheets are used to deliver new bicycles. Ask you local bike shop if they have any boxes they are recycling/throwing away.

owenebs (author)2009-04-19

argh! when ever I throw mine it loops back to me upside down or just downright crashes into the ground! please someone help me!

this design has been improved upon in the indoor paper airplane instructable. If you still have trouble, post a photo of your completed paper airplane.

rogers236 (author)2009-04-15

I've made a paper plane before with almost the exact same design, save the last few folds which were only slightly different. I found that if I made a hard crease for its fins and then flatten then back out. Then the fins will only pop up a little bit. This helps prevent the dips in the plane's flight and causes a much smoother flight without the need to fan it. Nice 'ible btw

rogers236 (author)rogers2362009-04-15

I found that if I made a hard crease for its fins and then flatten then back out. Then the fins will only pop up a little bit. This helps prevent the dips in the plane's flight and causes a much smoother flight without the need to fan it.

Forgive my error in syntax. lol

Correction: I found that if I made a hard crease on the fins and then flatten them back out, the fins will only pop up a little bit and this helps to prevent the dips in the plane's flight, causing a much smoother flight without the need to fan it.

vitruvian8807 (author)2009-03-20

Very cool. I once made a flapping paper airplane. Only if I had saved it, it'll take me weeks to try and recreate it if I ever attempt to. I've also made planes that come back to you almost always, though I suspect they're not that hard to make.

pooter1433 (author)2009-03-20

That was pretty cool. Hey you made the email distro and the homepage of Instructables. I don't think many of these other "experts" have. So good on you!

AttackingHobo (author)2009-03-09

Your design is tail heavy base on its glide performance. It keeps stalling, and going down, and stalling. Either add the weight to the nose, or remove some weight from the tail.

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