Activity | Paper planes
Paper aeroplanes are easy to make and fun to fly. Investigating how to make them fly faster, higher, longer and further makes an inexpensive and educational activity for your Scout Group.
Crafting paper planes introduces scientific concepts such as aeronautics and aerodynamics and is also a simple form of engineering. Scouts should work together to refine their plane designs but an element of friendly competition will surely spur your group on to new heights!
We've got 23 great paper plane designs for you to try. See how they fly!
Like the look of the Glider? Take a look at the template.
- Smaller wings are better for faster planes that dart across the room, while wider wings allow planes to glide more elegantly.
- One of the most important principles of paper aeroplane design is the angle between the wing and the ‘body’ of the plane, technically known as the dihedral angle. Positive dihedral angle (wings angled up) creates a stabilising effect during flight, keeping it in the air longer. Negative dihedral angle (wings angled down) destabilises the plane, so it can perform ‘loop-the-loops’ and other stunts.
- When you’re folding a plane, symmetry is very important. But making one mistake when folding a wing isn’t the end of the world – just tweak the other wing so it’s folded in the same way.
- Experiment with different designs and adjust the angles of flaps and wings to change how the plane flies. For example, adjusting rudders at the back of the plane will make it turn to the left or right. Adjusting the wing elevators up or down will make the plane climb or descend. And adding weight to the nose with a paperclip or Blu-Tack will make the plane glide more steeply and help prevent it from stalling.
- Use squared graph paper to make accurate folding easier.
- Get Scouts to decorate or write their names on their planes for identification.
The Delta Dart is a all about speed. Take a look at the template.
Hold a flying contest
1. Ask Scouts to design a paper aeroplane to fly as far as possible or for as long as possible. Let each Scout practise throwing their paper plane. How do different types of throw affect distance and flight?
2. Mark a line on the ground and ask each Scout to throw their plane. Other Scouts should use a tape measure to record the distance thrown in metres and centimetres, measuring from the starting line to the point where the plane first touches down – not to the final resting place if it slides. Each Scout has three attempts to get their best distance.
3. You could also introduce a ‘longest flight’ category, where each Scout throws their paper plane while other Scouts time the flights with a stopwatch. Other categories you might consider include:
- Accuracy - who can get closest to a target six metres away.
- Trick flying – try to fly through a hula hoop hanging from the ceiling, or around a corner.
- Stunt flying – see who can perform the most impressive piece of aerial acrobatics.
Up for a challenge? Take a look at the A-4 Skyhawk template.
Get your Scouts to learn the four forces that act on planes in flight: thrust, drag, lift and gravity.
Thrust is the forward motion of the plane. The initial thrust comes from the launcher’s arm. After this, most paper aeroplanes act as gliders, converting altitude to forward motion.
Drag is the resistance on the surfaces of the paper plane as it moves through the air. To improve flight distance you need to minimise drag.
Lift is the force generated by wings to propel aircraft and keep them in the air. The factors that affect lift are complex, but are determined by the shape and angle of the plane’s wings and the flow of air around them.
Gravity pulls objects to the ground. The lighter the plane, the more you can minimise the effect of gravity.
Let us know how you get on. Post pics of your planes on our Facebook page.