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Aerodynamics of Paper Airplanes


Ever thought of creating a paper plane? Perhaps when you were little, you were among the boys and girls who created paper planes at home and maybe even in school. At the same time, if you already have a kid then perhaps your children have already asked for your help to create a paper plane.

But have you ever wondered what makes paper airplanes? They say it’s all about the aerodynamics and indeed it’s true. Let’s talk about the aerodynamics of paper airplanes and everything else that makes the paper airplane fly.

No questions asked, air is what makes paper airplanes fly. In fact, just by flapping your hand sideways, you’ll already feel the air brisk through your skin. That is what helps the paper airplanes fly. Now to understand the principle behind the paper airplanes, raise your hands in front of you and your palms should be sideways. Now flap it sideways and feel the air and pressure.

Now, change the position of your palms making it face the ground. Flap it sideways again. Now do you feel the difference? The second position mimics the wings of the airplane and as you have felt, it was easier to flap your hands when your palm was facing the ground as compared to when it was facing sideways? That’s why the wings of airplanes are horizontal and not vertical. It keeps the air flow smooth at the right angle. This is the first thing to consider when you want your paper airplane to fly a longer distance. How your paper airplane, like any other kind of airplanes, flows through the air is aerodynamics and that angle is part of the aerodynamics.

Aside from that, our paper airplanes experience drag and gravity too. When you flapped your hands with palms sideways, you were experiencing some resistance which is called the drag. As it moves through air, the flow is not as smooth because of the drag. When flying your paper airplanes, we want to have less of a drag that’s why we want our wings horizontal and not vertical.

Aside from that, the second force that you should be considering when creating a paper airplane is the gravity. It is the other force that you have to overcome to create a paper airplane that will fly longer than the others. To overcome that, you will need to create a paper airplane as light as possible. Don’t use a cardboard or carton-like material if you want your paper airplane to fly longer. You should use a very thin and light material to create a successful paper airplane. Now it all comes to how you will lift it thrust the paper plane. As those two are the other two forces that make a real airplane fly.

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