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Will A Paper Airplane Thrown In Space Fly?

On May 26th each year, National Paper Airplane Day commemorates the simple aeronautical toy that’s been around for thousands of years.

  • The use of paper airplanes is believed to have originated 2,000 years ago in China.
  • 1700s – In France, the Montgolfier brothers make hot-air balloons using paper
  • 1783 -The Montgolfier brothers make the first paper cloth-lined hot-air balloon, which can carry humans.
  • 19th Century – In the early 19th century, Sir George Cayley identified the four primary aerodynamic forces of flight and built kite-like gliders out of linen.
  • 1909 – The earliest known date of the creation of modern paper planes was said to have been in 1909.
  • 1930s – Jack Northrop tests the aerodynamics of larger airplanes using paper models.
  • 1970s – Pop artist Peter Max created an entire book of psychedelic paper airplane templates in the 1970s.
  • 1998 – The world record for the longest flight of a paper airplane is held by Ken Blackburn, with a 27.6-second flight
  • 2012 – The distance record (226 feet, 10 inches) was set by Joe Ayoob, with a plane in February 2012.
  • 2013 – The largest paper aircraft had a wingspan of 59.74 ft. Students and employees made it to Germany on 28th September 2013.
  • Historians debate the origins of paper airplanes. The ancient Chinese used papyrus paper to invent the kite, but their primitive designs likely did not resemble modern flight.
  • Leonardo Da Vinci wrote about constructing a flying machine out of parchment paper.
  • The record time for the longest-lasting paper airplane flight is 29.2 seconds.
  • For videos of all these records: PaperPlaneDepot
  • There’s more than one way to fold paper for a test flight. Find tips for designs at www.foldnfly.com
  • Additional designs, by NASA, can be found HERE
  • Wallis Rigby designed some of the most sought after paper airplanes during WW II. Wallis took his liking to paper airplanes seriously and published his models as books or box sets.
  • Wallis was even kind enough to print some in the Sunday newspaper in the comic section for all to experience. Even today, his designs that had “tab and slot” construction are a prized collector’s item.
  • According to the Paper Aircraft Association, a paper airplane thrown in space will not fly; it will float in a straight line – forever.
  • As with real airplanes, there are four main forces, called aerodynamic forces, that enable a paper plane to stay in the air.
    • When you throw the plane forward, this is called thrust.
    • Lift is a force that acts on the wings and helps the plane to move up. Big wings increase lift.
    • Gravity is the force that pulls the plane down. The right materials can create a lighter aircraft that stays up for longer.
    • Drag (caused by the tail of the plane) is the opposite of thrust and it makes the plane slow down.
  • Scientists use paper airplanes to study flying.
  • Paper airplanes can be made in different shapes, like an X. a triangle, and a circle.
  • The humidity outside can affect the paper airplane flight inside.
  • Contemporary artists Gemma Correll and Lisa Congdon created templates for pet paper airplanes and mix-and-match glider paper airplanes.


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