Introduction: How to Make the StarTracker Paper Airplane

About: Paper airplane maker: 400+ designs so far and more in development!
Fast, long range and versatile, the StarTracker is a small, agile paper airplane developed from the Super Starhawk. In the air and on the ground, the StarTracker is stable and can fly at high speeds. Due to their great similarities, the StarTracker, Super Starhawk and original Starhawk look identical from above. Because their shape is common, the StarTracker can be stored wingtip to wingtip next to other Starhawk variants easily.

The StarTracker was designed around the same time as the Super Starhawk, and it was known to be a well-performing design shortly after its flight testing began. The primary differences in design are the wing spar structure and outboard skid configuration The StarTracker's publication came a few months after its design because it was simply passed over for publication in favor of other dissimilar designs. In spite of the design's age, it remains a very capable aircraft.

Educators could easily use this versatile paper airplane to demonstrate:
  • Glide ratio
  • Hangtime versus other aircraft
  • Weight and balance
  • Flight dynamics
TAA USAF Designation: A166-2

Step 1: Materials

1 Piece of 8.5 by 11 inch Paper

Step 2: Length and Corner Folding; Cutting the Trailing Edge

Take your paper and fold it along its length. Then pull the corners on one end and fold them into the center. Then unfold the pair and cut them away along the crease. You may then discard these pieces. Proceed to the other side and make corner folds here.

Step 3: Nose and Corner Folding

Unfold the paper so it lies flat with the corners folded in at one end. Then pull the tip of the nose to the rear edges of these corner folds. The pull the nose down over the rear of these folds too. Then make a corner fold here on each side.

Step 4: Preparation for Landing Gear Folding

Begin by undoing the corner folds you just made. Proceed to squash them down so the edge that had been touching the center crease touches the crease made by the corner fold itself. Repeat on the other side. Then open the folds. Pull the paper down to one side, and then pull it outwards, reversing the fold at each vertex. Repeat on the other side.

Step 5: Wing and Tail Folding

Fold the airplane in two along the center crease. Using your ruler, find the points on the leading and trailing edges where it is 0.75 inches above the center crease and make marks. Now fold the wings down with the crease of the wing root connecting the two marks made previously. Repeat on the other side. Once this is done, unfold the wings. Pull the rear tip upwards until its trailing edge is perpendicular with the wing root, crease, then unfold. Open the fuselage, reverse the folds and pull the tail through. Then fold the wings back down again. Pull the trailing edge of the airfoil to the leading edges of the wings, and once the folds are established, refold them beneath the airfoils.

Step 6: Elevator Cutting and Folding

Fold your airplanes wings down and measure 1 inch outwards from the fuselage along the trailing edge. Make a mark, and the measure another inch further, and make another mark. From each of these marks, measure inwards while parallel to the fuselage 3/8 of an inch. Then cut along both of these lines. Once cut, fold them both up and crease as shown.

Step 7: Landing Gear Folding and Taping

Fold the landing gear so that the tips of the skids align with the straight edges they are a part of. Fold the inner ones as far as you can whilst keeping them parallel to the fuselage; and the outer ones at the mark while aligning them to remain parallel to the fuselage. After this is done, flip the aircraft over an tape where directed along its leading edge, under its wings, and at the tail.

Step 8: Flight

Like the original Starhawk and Super Starhawk, the StarTracker is a nimble flier that can fly long ranges with great stability at a great rate. Control surfaces should be trimmed as required, based on the launch speed, attitude and desired range. For best ranged flights, a launch of moderate speed at neutral attitude with the elevators deflected at ~20 degrees is best. For fast launches, the attitude can be maintained, but the elevator deflection must be reduced. For slow launches, similar trim adjustments must be made. Additional applicable surfaces include ailerons, flaps, flaperons, slats, a movable rudder and air brakes. Enjoy!