In 2012, designer John Collins constructed a paper airplane that flew an astonishing 226 feet, establishing a distance record that still stands. A new video demonstrates the steps required to fold your own version of this record-setting paper-based aircraft.
Collins recently visited Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, where he talked to students about making paper planes, explaining the importance of having the right materials and design. “If you can wad up a piece of paper and throw it farther than your paper airplane, your plane sucks,” he told the class.
Sadly, many of us have constructed our own paper airplanes that most certainly suck, nosediving the instant they’re thrown, or careening into the nearest wall. But when it comes to designing paper planes, why re-invent the wheel? This 45-second video outlines the steps required to build a replica of Collins’ record-setting plane.
Watching the paper plane in action is actually quite astounding:
Needless to say, building the “perfect” paper airplane isn’t a matter of luck. As Collins told the students, factors that need to be considered include glide ratios, center of gravity, center of lift, the boundary layer, and the Magnus effect. Drawing on his experience with origami, he demonstrated how additional folds at the right spot can shift the center of gravity and make the plane fly better, and how a slight adjustment of the wing’s trailing edge can prevent it from nosediving.
Collins has designed 75 different paper airplanes, and he’s still coming up with new ideas. His ultimate goal is to create a novel design that shatters his current record for distance.
Here’s the record-setting flight from 2012: