Every day, there are hundreds of people all over the world who are showing Wilbur and Orville Wright that their feat of creating an airplane wasn’t really all THAT impressive. After all, all it takes is a simple piece of paper and a few clever folds, and you can create an airplane all your own as well! Paper Airplane Day celebrates this humble bit of aeronautics and reminds us of the role it played in our youth, and can still play in our present.
So just how old IS the art of the paper plane? Well, certainly you’re familiar with an art form out of Asia known as origami? It followed on the heels of the creation of paper in 500 BCE.
While we’re uncertain precisely where the first paper airplane was formed, what we do know is that for the next thousand years paper airplanes were the form of man-made aircraft that got the most attention. Even Da Vinci was inspired by this, as many of his models and sketches proposed for manned aircraft were suggested to make out of parchment. The Wright Brothers were known to study paper aircraft extensively in their development of that first amazing flight.
- Sometimes called “the father of aviation,” Sir George Cayley designed the first successful glider to carry a human.
- Paper was invented in China around 105 AD. By the fourteenth century, there were paper mills in Europe.
- The word “origami” comes from the Japanese words “oru” meaning fold, and kami, meaning “paper”.
- In 2012, workers restoring a chapel in England found paper “planes” up in the eaves thought to be more than a hundred years old.
- The first book about recreational paper folding came out in Japan in 1797, and included the iconic “crane” design.
- The world’s largest paper aircraft was built by the students and employees of the Braunschweige Institute of Technology in Germany in 2013. It had a wing span of almost 60 feet weighed over 50 pounds.
- Together, Chinese and US paper mills combine to make forty percent of the world’s paper and paperboard.
- Leonardo Da Vinci wrote of using parchment in building models of his ornithopter (helicopter).
- There may one day be a paper plane launched from space. A prototype passed a durability test in a wind tunnel in March 2008, and Japan’s space agency JAXA considered a launch from the International Space Station.
- According to the Paper Aircraft Association, a paper airplane thrown in space will not fly; it will float in a straight line.
- Scientists, engineers and students use paper airplanes to study aerodynamics.
- During World War ll paper was some of the only material available for toy making. Consequently paper modeling became very popular.
- The Wright brothers reportedly use paper planes, wings and airfoils in wind tunnels as part of their quest to build the first powered human carrying airplane.
- The longest that a paper airplane has ever stayed up in the air was 29.2 seconds.