Paper Airplanes are a significant part of everbody's childhood, and although you may not have realized it when you were younger, there is alot of science behind the flaps and elevators some people build on their airplanes. After you read this instructable, the next time you see a group of people flying paper airplanes and they are wondering why their plane keeps diving, or shooting up, you will be able to pass on this knowledge to them and explain how aerodynamics works. In this instructable, you will: learn the basics of designing your own paper airplanes, learn why paper airplanes work the way they do, you will learn a few of my favorite paper airplane designs, and last but not least, HAVE FUN! Because of the ease of setup, and the simplicity of this project, I would highly reccomend building this with students or children. Enjoy!
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Step 1: Materials
You will need...
* Paper (preferably 2-3 pieces of computer printing paper)
* An open room (it shouldn't have fragile objects, and preferably no wind)
* The ability to learn
Step 2: Building Your Test Plane
We are going to have to build a test plane to demonstrate how to bend the wings certain ways to get different outcomes. To do so, you will need one of those pieces of paper, and the pair of scissors.
First, Fold the paper in half lengthways to make a crease, and then unfold it.
Next, fold down one corner down to the crease, and do the same with the other corner. (Look at the picture for help)
Step 3: Step 3:
Fold the whole top part down, so there is a triangle with its point facing down as shown in the picture. I know many paper airplane designs do not include this, but this plane works really well to demonstrate how the elevators work. Now, you will have to fold the corners down to the crease and make sure you make this crease is heavy.
Step 4: Step 5:
Fold the whole paper in half along the crease, and form the wings by folding down the sides leaving about a one centimeter tall handle. If you have large hands, you may want to make your handle larger, but 1 cm seems to work best. Fold up the ends of the wings about 1 cm high. These help to stabilize the plane when it is in flight, so it is important that they both form a 90° angle.
Step 5: Building the Elevators
Cut two slits about two inches apart and 1cm in on the back of the left wing. Do the same to your right wing. These will be your elevators. They control the rate at which your plane rises or sinks. For example, if you were to fold your elevators all the way up, your plane would climb and maybe even flip. If you bend your elevators all the way down, your plane will dive immediately and crash to the ground. These work the way they do because the air that is passing over the plane is forced to be pushed up or down, forcing the plane to climb or dive. Now would be a good time to experiment with how much you bend your stabilizers and elevators to get the perfect flight. I found that keeping my stabilizers at a right angle and bending my elevators a little bit up resulted in a high flying flight, and it also got the most air time.
Step 6: Trouble Shooting
If your plane still dives no matter where your elevators are, and you think it is because it is too heavy, you may want to consider cutting a little bit of paper off the nose of the plane and keep cutting until you get the perfect balance. If you feel as if the nose of your plane is too light, you may want to consider putting a few pieces of tape around the nose and keep experimenting with weight until you find the perfect balance point. This will also prevent the tip from bending during a crash.
If your plane keeps falling apart at the middle, you might want to add a small piece of tape to the middle of the plane being sure not to set off the weight.
Step 7: New Design
Now that you have mastered the test plane, you are ready to move on to a more challenging plane like this one. I will not go into extreme detail on how to build this one, but it is pretty self explanatory. Again for this plane, all you will need is a piece of paper and a pair of scissors. Fold the paper along the middle lengthwise and and make a heavy crease there. Now fold it down as shown in the picture.
Step 8: Next Step
Place the paper vertically and fold down at the top creating a crease about 1cm from the top of the paper. Fold that flap over and keep folding the flap at the top over and over about 3 times. Your result should look like my picture. Next, fold the paper in half at the crease you made at the beginning, and form your wings the same way you formed the wings of your test plane and your result should look like the plane shown in the picture.
Step 9: Lastly
You could stop making your plane here, but if you want, you could add stabilizers and elevators just as we did in the previous plane. Test this plane out, and if you have any problems, please refer back to the troubleshooting page for the test plane. I hope your results for this plane were beyond your expectations, and if when you win the farthest paper airplane throw record, give me a shout out!
Step 10: Enjoy!
I hope you enjoyed making your very own customizable paper airplanes, and I hope you pass on your fresh knowledge of paper airplane aerodynamics to all of your friends. Questions and comments are encouraged, so please post them below. Thanks!
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