How to Make the Thunderbird Paper Airplane

Introduction: How to Make the Thunderbird Paper Airplane

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A fast, lightweight and simple paper airplane, the Thunderbird is an interesting little aircraft with plenty of potential in numerous roles. With its several layers, it is also able to have additional devices incorporated into it--such as flaps, slats and spoilerons.

TAA USAF Designation: A103-1 (with dorsal fins)
                                            A103-1R (with dorsal pods)

Step 1: Materials

1 Piece of 8.5 by 11 inch Paper

Step 2: Length and Cover Folding

Begin construction by folding your paper in half along its length. Then fold one corner of your paper to the edge of the opposite side. Then open and repeat on the other side. Then pull the top half of the X onto the bottom half.

Step 3: Airfoil Folding

Pull the corners of the paper up so that the remnant creases from the cover fold are again evident. Once you've done this, open and flatten these papers. Then repeat on the other side. 

Step 4: More Airfoil Folding

Flip your paper over to the "clean" side. Then pull the leading edges down along the remaining cover fold lines. Once this is done, fold your airplane up in half along its center with the side you've been working with on the outside.

Step 5: Wing Folding

Use your ruler to find 10/16 (5/8) of an inch above the center fold and make a mark. Then sketch a line going to the front maintaining its distance from the center fold all the way. Once you've made these lines, make the fold. Then repeat on the other side.

Step 6: Fin and Winglet Folding

Pull the tips of the overhanging cover folds inward over themselves. Then fold wingtips up to the creases of these fins. Remember to keep the winglets parallel to the fuselage by aligning their leading edges to that of the wing. Once you've made the crease, then reverse it so the winglet is below the wing. 

Step 7: Taping

Tape your Thunderbird at its front, back, over the wing root and at the specified points on the airfoil.

Step 8: Flight

Flying the Thunderbird is very easy. At launch, give the airplane a throw of moderate speed, at a pitch of either straight and level flight forward, or a slight pitch upwards (not to exceed 30 degrees). A fast, hard throw will result in a fast flight, while a slower-more moderate throw will yield a slower but more graceful flight. For aviators wishing to fly the Thunderbird slowly, make the dorsal fins into pods (as pictured as the "-1R" variant). These pods increase drag and stability and therefore make slow flight easier to perform. Enjoy!

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    2 Discussions


    7 years ago on Step 4

    not to be rude or any thing it doesn't fly :*(


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Due to the similarity of the airfoil shape on the top and bottom surfaces, the Thunderbird is prone to reversal of its airfoil. That is, the airplane may want to constantly dive, rather than fly ahead level or in a climb. To address this, simply tweak the airfoil pockets' shape; that should cure the problem.