Paper Airplane Database has the Wright Stuff

We’ve always had a fascination with things that fly. Sure, drones are the latest incarnation of that, but there have been RC planes, kites, and all sorts of flying toys and gizmos even before manned flight was possible. Maybe the first model flying machine you had was a paper airplane. There’s some debate, but it appears the Chinese and Japanese made paper airplanes 2,000 years ago. Now there’s a database of paper airplane designs, some familiar and some very cool-looking ones we just might have to try.

If you folded the usual planes in school, you’ll find those here. But you’ll also find exotic designs like the Sea Glider and the UFO. The database lets you select from planes that work better for distance, flight time, acrobatics, or decoration. You can also select the construction difficulty and if you need to make cuts in the paper or not. There are 40 designs in all at the moment. There are step-by-step instructions, printable folding instructions, and even YouTube videos showing how to build the planes.

In addition to ancient hackers in China and Japan, Leonardo Da Vinci was known to experiment with paper flying models, as did aviation pioneers like Charles Langley and Alberto Santos-Dumont. Even the Wright brothers used paper models in the wind tunnel. Jack Northrop and German warplane designers have all used paper to validate their designs, too.

Modern paper planes work better than the ones from our youth. The current world record is 27.9 seconds aloft and over 226 feet downrange (but not the same plane; those are two separate records). In 2011, 200 paper planes carrying data recorders were dropped from under a weather balloon at a height of 23 miles. Some traveled from their starting point over Germany to as far away as North American and Australia.

If the 40 designs in the database just make you want more, there’s a large set of links on Curlie. And there’s [Alex’s] site which is similar and has some unique designs. We’d love to see someone strap an engine on some of these. If you are too lazy to do your own folding, there’s this. If you want to send out lots of planes, you can always load them into a machine gun.

27 thoughts on “Paper Airplane Database has the Wright Stuff

  1. Wow, A web site made out of three dynamic pages and one static page. Perhaps even a second static page if you pay the fee. Which I didn’t and wouldn’t.

    To print the plane templates out you need to pay $5 membership (Which I assume is USD). I think that is too steep to attract a lot of attention (and payments). $1 seems more appropriate.

    The other issue is that after paying the $5 you will probably discover that the templates print out on a different paper page size to what you have in your country. There is nothing to say what paper size is used or if the paper size can be selected so payment is a blind leap of faith.

    Although the layout looks good. The site overall looks professional apart from the very limited number of web pages. But really, if you expect people to pay money then you have to tell them what they are getting for that money.

    Apart from that, there are many interesting designs to look at that all come up on one web page.

    1. The YouTube videos are free as are the web-page instructions, so despite the templates being paywalled, it still has enough info to be able to do most or all of them you just don’t have the template. I agree, it is odd they want $5 to access the PDFs — a little searching or visit the other links in the post and you can surely find equivalents for free. But I never even tried to download them as the instructions are fine as-is to me.

  2. The annual Xmas party for the local R/C club is also the club’s annual paper airplane contest. That meeting, in my time, boasted not only the highest annual attendance but also the highest annual enthusiasm and participation. How can you go wrong when ANY single individual member on their own can bankroll the entire club’s building supplies budget for the contest for 50+ members and their children, while at the same time the contest IS an officially sanctioned AMA Event?

    Worked great at Scouting events too like the Pinewood Derby! Hand out a ream of paper and list the rules for the contest(s). Best part is everyone’s a winner!

    Have you been to an office xmas party without at least one paper airplane tossed across the room?

    This paper airplane design database will be a winner. I have zero doubt.

  3. These are not so impressive. The best book I’ve ever found for paper airplanes is this one:

    You know the book is good when, even as an enthusiastic paper folder, you can only make the first 3 or 4 airplanes in the book (the “easy” ones). From personal experience, at least some of them DO fly. Perhaps not the best aircraft, but definitely the coolest.

  4. We have a box machine at work. It creases and cuts 4 feet by 4 feet (fan folded) sheets of corrugated cardboard for packing boxes. I asked the lady in charge of it, if it can produce paper airplane patterns, sadly, no.

      1. I was thinking about “paper” airplanes made out of corrugated cardboard, and launched from a high place.
        B^)
        Hmmmm…
        …a 4 foot wingspan might allow a ESP, a battery, and several servos for control surfaces…

    1. maybe the lady in charge just does not know what the mashine can and can not do. when she got the training, she learned which buttons to click to have it do whatever is needed to fullfil the task on hand: boxes. find a manual or something and maybe check for hackability :)

  5. When I was a kid, a gift I got was
    The Great International Paper Airplane Book
    Not even thinking of ,or having access to a copy machine, I just cut the templates from pages.Tons of fun for a kid!

    1. The basic ones we used as kids are pretty much the same designs. The final shape is a bit different, but as a kid it doesn’t affect balance so much. Most designs need a little tweaking of the COG anyway to get good performance (folding back the nose on a dart was a common trick, or adding a paper clip), which I’d imagine is far more significant an effect than the paper ratio.

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