Introduction: How to Make the Shadow Paper Airplane

About: Paper airplane maker: 400+ designs so far and more in development!

Sleek, quick and long range, the Shadow is a stealthy "flying wing" paper airplane. The Shadow is a refined version of the Aerowing, possessing aerodynamic refinements and a modified internal structure.

Development of the Shadow was begun in late 2017 to improve upon its basis and development continued on and off throughout 2018. During the first half of 2019, the final improvements were fitted to the prototypes. The airplane's design was completed, but did not feel inclined to publish the design. This would change...


On April 22, 2019, the 1940s Northrop N-9MB belonging to the Planes of Fame Air Museum was destroyed in a tragic loss that resulted in the total destruction of the aircraft. The N-9MB had been the sole survivor of its family and its loss left the world with nothing like it.

I had personally interacted with the N-9MB as a volunteer with the museum many years before, so the loss was a personally upsetting one. The crash was a tragedy and, unfortunately, a flyable replica will probably never materialize.


Upon learning about the crash, I felt I needed to get the Shadow's tutorial finished and published as a tribute to flying wings. Though the Shadow has prominent dorsal fins, its shape is greatly similar to the N-9MB otherwise. The airplanes' profiles are actually nearly identical.

My goal with the Shadow is simple: to allow the spirit of flying wing aircraft to fly on. Hopefully the Shadow will encourage that.

TAA USAF Designation: F470-1

Step 1: Materials

1 Piece of 8.5 inch by 11 inch paper

1 Post-It (3 inch by 3 inch)





Step 2: Width, Nose and Leading Edge Folding

Fold the paper in half along its width, then pull the corners into the center on each side. After doing this, open the paper flat. Pull the tip of the nose backward to the rear edges of the folds and crease.

Pull the diagonal leading edge backward between the outboard rear edge of the folds and the center crease on each side.

Step 3: Leading Edge Folding

Unfold the leading edge folds until they appear as they do in the second photograph.

With those nose folds out of the way, pull the innermost portions forward as shown in the third photograph. Pull the outer edges of these flaps back inward, align them over their own creases and make new creases to keep them in this position. After doing this, fold the flaps back down onto the sheet.

Pull the tip of the nose back toward the trailing edge. Pull the tip of the nose forward again until the diagonal edges reach the rear edges of the leading edge folds as shown in the seventh photograph. After creasing at this point, reverse the fold and tuck the new triangle beneath the flaps as shown in the eighth photograph.

Step 4: Locking the Leading Edges

Fold along the existent diagonal lines as you did before to replicate the position shown in the first photograph. After you have done this, pull the overhanging portion forward again until your folded part is even with the edge of the layer underneath, as shown in the second photograph. After making a crease, unfold as shown in the third and fourth photographs. Reverse the direction of the crease and tuck it beneath the lower layer as shown in the fifth photograph.

Repeat this process on the other side.

Step 5: Making the Trailing Edge

While folding the paper in half along its existent center crease, measure 2.75 inches from the leading edge along the center crease and make a mark. Then measure 0.75 inches from the leading edge along the edges and make a mark. After you have made these two marks, draw a diagonal line between them.

From the trailing edge along the center crease and edges, measure 2 inches forward and make marks at each point, as shown in the sixth and seventh photographs. Connect these two marks with a vertical line.

Cut your paper along the diagonal line as shown. Once this is done, cut along the vertical line. This will give you a trapezoidal piece and a rectangular piece. Retain both cut portions--they will be used later.

Step 6: Making the Spar

Using the rectangular piece of paper you cut away in the last step, you will now make the spar.

Take the outer tip of the paper and pull it to the center crease as shown in the second photograph. After doing this, repeat on the other side as shown in the third photograph.

Open the paper at the center crease, as pictured in the fourth photograph. After doing this, pull the creased outer edges on each side inward to the center crease as shown in the fifth and sixth photographs.

Once this is done, rotate the paper and make a lengthwise half fold as shown in the seventh and eighth photographs.

Apply tape where designated in the ninth photograph, in the order designated.

Step 7: Making the Skin

Using the trapezoidal piece of paper made earlier, we will now make the skin piece that will make the completed airframe more aerodynamic.

Take the angled edge and fold it down over the center crease. Repeat on the other side. Once this is done, mark out the crease lines you've made with your pencil. Proceed to cut along this line.

Keep the small triangle that has resulted from these cuts; you may discard and recycle the larger pieces.

Step 8: Assembly and Taping

Begin by laying out the wing unfolded, as shown in the second photograph. Slip the spar underneath the leading edge folds as shown in the third and fourth photographs. With this done, put the triangular skin piece in--keeping it aligned with the center crease as shown in the sixth photograph.

With all of the components positioned, it is now time to tape them. Apply tape where designated in the photos, in the order designated in the photographs.

When you have finished taping, you have almost completed assembly of the aircraft--it just needs its stabilizers now.

Step 9: Making the Stabilizers

With the adhesive side facing you, take the Post-It sticky note and measure 0.625 inches along each of its sides and make a mark, as shown in the first photograph. Make a line between these marks. Along these marks, measure in 1 inch intervals.

Once the marks have been made, measure 1 inch above them perpendicular to the existent line. Once these lines are made, make another perpendicular line above the vertical lines. Along this second perpendicular line, measure 0.25 inches from the sides of each of the boxes as shown. Once all of these measurements and marks are made, as in the eighth photograph.

Cut along the lines as indicated.

Step 10: Applying the Stabilizers

Put the stabilizers on the airframe with the folds sitting on top of the wingtips and the rear edges of the stabilizers aligned with those of the wingtips. There will be overhanging portions and these will be dealt with next.

With the airplane flipped over, let the stabilizers sit outward away from the airplane. Cut away the overhanging portions of the stabilizers as noted in the photographs. Once the stabilizers have been made, you may take them off to await their fitting.

To fit the stabilizers, measure 2 inches from the center crease on each side and make marks. The folds of the stabilizers should line up with these marks while the stabilizers' trailing edges should align with those of the wing. When this is done correctly, things should appear as they do in the eighth photograph.

With this, your Shadow is completed!

Step 11: Flight

As the the Shadow is a flying wing paper airplane, it cannot be thrown as traditional paper airplanes are. Instead, the Shadow must be launched by advancing forward through the air with your hand until release.

To launch the airplane properly, hold it at its centerpoint (between the fins) with at least two fingers above the wing and your thumb below it. While holding your Shadow in this manner, advance it forward at a medium to fast pace, at a neutral or very slightly negative attitude and then release it to begin its flight.

Conduct test flights to understand the behavior of your Shadow. If yaw stability needs correction, adjust the vertical stabilizers' trimming. If roll or pitch stability needs correction, you may adjust the wings' trailing edges to counter undesired rolling or pitching.


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