North Carolina State University
The paper airplane experiment used research and real-life design to find the paper airplane that flies the farthest distance. It was found that numerous factors, both in design and environment, influence the distance a plane can fly. The three design factors that played the most important role in the success of the plane included the shape of the nose, either pointed or wide and flat, the length, and the wingspan. The weather conditions of the day also influence the results. Six different designs were tested and the data shows two obvious front runners whose planes flew the farthest in conditions that were not ideal for paper airplanes.
The science of airplane motion is crucial to understanding aviation. The concepts of basic aviation, like lift, drag, weight have been virtually unchanged since the time they were discovered (Magraner & Martinez-Val, 2013). Lift is the term used for how well the airplane can rise and stay in the air without other factors, like wind, assisting it. Drag and weight ensure the stability of the airplane, which keeps the aircraft from overturning. A vital aspect to a successful aircraft is the stability it obtains while flying through changing air. A stable a plane not only has a proportional amount of drag to weight but must have unwavering speed, altitude, and direction (Magraner & Martinez Val, 2013). Schlüter says wingspans that are wider and contain more surface area will have the ability to lift the aircraft allowing the pilot to make subtle changes to keep the plane stable in altitude. Straight or pointed noses on airplanes will assist in providing a steady stream of constant airflow that will allow the plane to change direction and glide through the air harmoniously (Schlüter, 2013). By constructing airplanes of different styles and throwing them with different techniques, this lab intends to uncover which paper airplanes are the most successful at flying, especially when it comes to the distance they travel. The overall flight distance, steadiness, and speed will adjust accordingly to the design of the plane and how the plane is thrown.
When considering these findings it is evident that a paper airplane that is stable will be the most successful at flying a far distance. While looking for paper airplane designs that show characteristics of stability, the Floating Paper Airplane came to the forefront. This airplane has wide, flat wings that allow plenty of moving air to flow underneath and provide lift. The sharp edged nose streamlines through air providing a fast traveling speed. Other designs featured a pointed nose with a longer body style, like the Long Distance Paper Glider, The Suzanne, The Dragon, and the Late Riser. The Super Swooper had wider and flatter style like the Floating Paper Airplane did. A plane’s form of “thrust” is the throwers arm instead of an engine. A powerful throw must be used to give the plane enough speed to catch air under its wings and glide further. With these aspects of basic successful aircraft and technique, it is predicted that fast traveling speed with a heightened mount of lift will keep the airplane flying for prolonged amounts of time.
Different types of paper were used and some used tape to secure edges and make the aircraft streamlined. Group 1 used a sheet of notebook paper. Group 2 used standard printer paper with a piece of tape on the middle seam in the front and a piece of tape on the middle seam in the back. Group 3 used a piece of legal pad paper, with a piece of scotch tape securing the middle seam. Group 4 and 5 both used a plain piece of printer paper with no tape or accessories. Group 6 used a piece of printer paper with ink on it.
Transposing online designs into a sheet of paper requires precision to detail. For the floating paper airplane, the nose had to be a straight and even