Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Transportation

Ask Slashdot: The Very Best Paper Airplane? 183

Posted by Soulskill
from the important-life-skills dept.
An anonymous reader writes "'The Harrier' (or 'Eastern star,' as it is also called), is very well known, and is considered to be one of the best paper airplane designs. After much searching and trying, I have not found a better plane. So, I am asking Slashdot: is there anything that beats 'The Harrier' in a competition (indoors or outdoors)? This would be a really nice geek skill!"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Ask Slashdot: The Very Best Paper Airplane?

Comments Filter:
  • Outdated (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @06:39PM (#39637799)

    The harrier is 1980s technology. Try a F35-B joint strike fighter STOVL variant. Folding instructions are a bit behind schedule and over budget still.

  • Ask the mythbusters (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @06:40PM (#39637813)

    They can test out ideas in a cool way.

    • by LordLucless (582312) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @07:02PM (#39638069)

      Yes. They will test out which paper plane travels the furthest by considering a number of different launch techniques, one of which will inevitable be being propelled by the force of an explosion.

      • by TexVex (669445)
        One of my top three episodes is the one with the water heater rockets. Another is the one where the moribund cement truck gets vaporized.
      • The problem is that it is hard to define what a 'plane' is

        If we are talking about something that is made of paper and can travel as far as possible when thrown, then piece of paper compressed into a ball will win hands down

    • you know, that would be a very cool thing to see (or do!)

  • At least if going by the quality of this guide's description.

    'no fold the wings so that the wings come to the bottom and the bottom of the plane is quite slanted'
    'now you have you're finished plane'

  • the bat (Score:5, Informative)

    by electrosoccertux (874415) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @06:42PM (#39637835)

    http://www.instructables.com/id/Awesome-paper-plane!!/ [instructables.com]

    due to its erratic flight, it let you use the full gymnasium, much more exciting than anything that flew in a straight line....

    • Re:the bat (Score:5, Informative)

      by Darth_brooks (180756) <clipper377@gm a i l . c om> on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @07:11PM (#39638189) Homepage

      That is by far my favorite design. Great for letting loose in the office, and it's easily customizable. You can easily add ailerons with just a couple of scissor snips.

      • by Rei (128717)

        I wonder if that's kind of like what I made back in middle school. I had a design, which I've totally forgotten, which would every time you threw it go forward, rise up, stall, turn around, fly back just over your head and hit the person behind you. ;)

    • I'll reply to you because you're high up enough to be noticed.

      Absolutely no one in the thread has noted my favorite design. Sorry, no pics. This is a stunt design, not about distance.

      1. Typical 8x11, vertical/portrait
      2. Bottom left corner to 3/4 right side.
      3. Bottom right corner to match = "Inverted house". Crease hard. (I flip 180 degrees here for ease on next step.)
      4. Buckle the two sides in so that you get another "house" but this time with two extra flaps.
      Protip: Slight vari

      • by Wild_dog! (98536)

        Not getting what you mean by Step 4. I am stuck without brain visualization.

        • Hi there!

          After the first steps that bring the corners to the opposite sides, and crease, and flip, when you uncrease the paper you have two diagonal creases suggesting a square bounded on 3 sides by the paper and the 4th by an un-drawn line where the diagonal creases hits the paper edges. (There's a little bit of paper "unassigned" because those diagonal folds essentially mark off a square, and of course 8x11 paper is rectangular.)

          So with your paper at portrait orientation with a big X crease in it, fold th

    • Re:the bat (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ChenLiWay (260829) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @08:29PM (#39638957)

      In my life, I've thrown two of these that I tracked with my eyes for 5+ minutes that never came down.

      First was from ground level but in a downtown area. It caught the currents between the tall buildings and just kept going and I lost it after it crossed a street and I couldn't cross fast enough to follow.

      Second was from a 19th floor balcony. The two other paper plane designs my friends used fell to the ground in less than a minute. Mine reached about the 4th floor, caught an updraft from the hot asphalt streets, and never came down. It flew so high that it became a dot and eventually wasn't visible.

      Cliffs: this design is great for gliding and catching air currents, and will fly forever if it catches the right one. Throw outdoors for great fun.

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      we used to do those as kids. that's the best design. the harrier linked by the op might be better in straight line outdoors, but it looks horribly bad at lift per paper weight and horrible for stunts. also the bat(first time I've read the name though) can do stunts, loops etc. also the bat isn't ruined if it hits the wall.

    • by Turken (139591)

      Nice to finally see an on-topic comment in this article.

      anyway, back to the paper airplanes... I've been folding the "harrier" design (linked in the original post) for years now. Only two modifications I'd suggest:

      1) For more of a glider, the final fold to form the wings should bring the edge of the paper well BELOW the bottom of the fuselage, so you have nice big wings and a smaller vertical portion. Just remember that as a glider, it needs a softer launch. experiment a bit to find the right balance betw

  • The Ring (Score:4, Interesting)

    by khendron (225184) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @06:45PM (#39637859) Homepage

    Might not win a competition, but I've always liked this design. Looks way cool when flying.

    The Ring [10paperairplanes.com].

    • The Box. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Balinares (316703) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @07:16PM (#39638251)

      Back when I was still at school, one year, my classroom was one overlooking a deep vale. One of our primary pastimes that year was chucking assorted stuff out the window and see how it'd fly. Mostly (but not limited to) paper planes.

      The record winner for that year in terms of distance covered, and by far, was also the simplest model we ever came up with.

      It was much like the Ring mentioned above, except even simpler. Where the Ring's profile makes an O, the Box's makes a square U. So you don't even need tape.

      Just take a rectangular piece of paper, fold the front over several times to make a thicker leading edge, and fold two vertical wings so the thing will look somewhat like an elongated cube with three missing sides. That's it. Not only it flies, but it flies pretty well, so long as you balanced the 'wings' well enough.

    • http://www.instructables.com/id/Annular-Ring-Paper-Plane [instructables.com].

      The key is to throw at just the right speed. Too fast and it cuts corners. Too slow and it will nose dive. Of all the paper airplanes I've thrown, the reward is the best when you get it just right. With a little luck of course.

    • Oh man I used to make these all the time in high school.

      Even better is putting about 20-30 staples through the leading edge part to make it fly faster... throw it kind of like a football and you could LAUNCH that sucker.

      Sam

    • For many years I made this plane [instructables.com] during lectures. The stability of the flight down the lecture theatre was unmatched by any other designs I tried.
    • by Wild_dog! (98536)

      Just built one.... works really really well. Thanks.
      My kids are going to die when they see this thing go.
      Got mine to fly nicely for over 15' until it hit a lamp.

  • by Hentes (2461350) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @06:46PM (#39637871)

    Speed? Distance? Height? The optimal design depends on what you want to achieve.

  • Barnaby (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pcjunky (517872) <walterp@cyberstreet.com> on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @06:46PM (#39637881) Homepage

    I remember this from an old over 30 years ago.

    http://www.instructables.com/id/Build-the-Barnaby-Paper-Aeroplane/ [instructables.com]

    • by Nerdfest (867930)

      This was always my favourite for time aloft. In a contest in high school I got about 1:9 glide ratio out of this one (if I remember correctly). This is 9 feet forward for one foot of drop, with a very slight push forward. It was either the Barnaby model, or a basic flying wing, which is the Barnaby without the cut-outs ... less stable but more wing surface. These are both amazing outside if you can find a *very* calm hot day.

      I also remember something about Barnaby having the first U.S. pilots licence.

    • by istartedi (132515)

      Thank-you. I had forgotten the name. I used to fold these all the time when I was in jr. high. Mine looked a bit different from the one in the link. The wings had just half an inch folded *up*, not down.

      I would also cut out neat control surfaces or use my nails to warp the paper which I think might have made for less drag.

      When properly adjusted these were amazing. The stiff leading edge also made them robust outdoors. I had a gust of wind catch one and take it half a block into a tree one time, which

    • by arth1 (260657)

      There are many schools of paper airplane making.

      Personally, I would disqualify any plane that needs extra implements to make, whether it be scissors, tape, paper clips, spittle, or otherwise. I'm not a purist, though, and won't scoff at bending wings instead of folding flaps, nor tearing the paper unless it's explicitly stated that the paper must survive intact.

      That said, Europeans have a distinct advantage over Americans in folding paper airplanes, in that the ratio of the paper allows it to maintain the

  • I've always liked Ken Blackburn's that set the world record, it's easy to make and the wing actually makes a nice airfoil.
  • by ninjackn (1424235) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @06:48PM (#39637905) Journal
    One time at my university the engineering department had this paper airplane competition, everyone was given a sheet of 8.5x11" paper and a paper clip. It was particularly windy that day and the event had been organized for better weather so we ended up having to throw the planes directly into the wind from ground level. The distance of the various planes people built ranged from -10 feet to 20 feet from launch point. Taking this into account I decided to modify my design at the last second. I stepped up to the launch area with my plane, aimed it at a 45 degree angle, crumbled it up into a ball and threw it as hard as I could. I got something like 40 feet and had the furthest distance. I kept saying that it was designed to minimize air resistance but In the end I was disqualified for being a smart ass.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @07:05PM (#39638107)

      My school did the same thing at a physics competition. They gave us paperclips duct tape and paper to make a device that would travel the furthest through the air after being launched by hand. They never said "paper airplane" but that's what they had in mind. We put a bunch of paperclips in a paperball and taped it together, and one of the kids on our team was a pitcher for the school's baseball team so he just chucked it down the hallway. It hit the backwall and we won our school an award for it.

    • by flaming error (1041742) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @07:47PM (#39638541) Journal

      I would have appealed their decision. If that's the whole story you were smart, not an ass. I've always judged my planes against the baseline of a crumpled paper ball, and when I've run competitions, we always had an event specifically for crumpled balls. If your event organizers didn't want that design, they should have prohibited it before the event. If that design never occurred to them, then you taught them a valuable engineering lesson.

      • by Yakasha (42321)

        I would have appealed their decision. If that's the whole story you were smart, not an ass. I've always judged my planes against the baseline of a crumpled paper ball, and when I've run competitions, we always had an event specifically for crumpled balls. If your event organizers didn't want that design, they should have prohibited it before the event. If that design never occurred to them, then you taught them a valuable engineering lesson.

        I'm slowly learning that is why us nerds don't get promoted.

        In the corporate world: The best idea is not always the best idea. Sometimes you have to just shut up and play ball.

        • by JosKarith (757063)
          "Sometimes you have to just shut up and play ball" - I believe that "play ball" is _exactly_ what he did...
        • I would have appealed their decision. If that's the whole story you were smart, not an ass. I've always judged my planes against the baseline of a crumpled paper ball, and when I've run competitions, we always had an event specifically for crumpled balls. If your event organizers didn't want that design, they should have prohibited it before the event. If that design never occurred to them, then you taught them a valuable engineering lesson.

          I'm slowly learning that is why us nerds don't get promoted.

          In the corporate world: The best idea is not always the best idea. Sometimes you have to just shut up and play ball.

          He did. he lost.

      • by nameer (706715) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @09:54PM (#39639591)

        The intent of the organizers is to generate designs with "nice" glide ratios. But to encourage that, the right metric is not distance of flight, but time aloft. A paper airplane that slowly covers 15' is a much "nicer" design then a wadded paper ball that covers 40' in two seconds.

        • by sjames (1099)

          Then they should have used glide time as the metric.

          That's the danger of any metric, if it doesn't actually measure what you want, you'll get 'odd' results.

    • I think the most amazing thing about this story is that you were able to throw a crumpled ball of paper 40 feet into a stiff wind. I just went into my front yard with a crumpled ball of paper and could not get more than 33 feet, and that's with no wind at all.
    • Heh. Reminds me of a early C programming assignment in college (back in the mid 1980s) to read in several variable rows/cols of numbers, sort them, and write out several fixed rows/cols. I wrote a small C program to read and write the numbers and a shell script to pipe the I/O through "sort". Got full credit. (Not thinking like everyone else has helped immensely over the years as a Unix system programmer/admin.)
    • One time at my university the engineering department had this paper airplane competition, everyone was given a sheet of 8.5x11" paper and a paper clip. It was particularly windy that day and the event had been organized for better weather so we ended up having to throw the planes directly into the wind from ground level. The distance of the various planes people built ranged from -10 feet to 20 feet from launch point. Taking this into account I decided to modify my design at the last second. I stepped up to the launch area with my plane, aimed it at a 45 degree angle, crumbled it up into a ball and threw it as hard as I could. I got something like 40 feet and had the furthest distance. I kept saying that it was designed to minimize air resistance but In the end I was disqualified for being a smart ass.

      You should have pointed out that the ball's rotation produced lift, and thus was a wing by definition; and an airplane since it was flying. My prof once entered a duration contest with a plane made like a helicopter blade - it rotated and slowly feel to the ground. they tried to DQ him when he beat everyone else by several minutes but he correctly pointed out that it was producing lift and thus as much of a plane as any of the other variants.

  • by Banichi (1255242) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @06:49PM (#39637927)

    The very best distance paper airplane I have ever encountered was shown to me by a fellow church-going Virginian when I was about 5 years old.
    You fold the paper into a very narrow dart looking shape, a wingspan of maybe an inch or so at most, a length of almost the entire sheet. Throwing this paper airplane, you can get incredible distances.
    I've never seen anyone else use that design, not that I've looked especially hard.

  • by Earl The Squirrel (463078) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @06:51PM (#39637939) Journal

    The Great International Paper Airplane Book by Scientific America : http://www.amazon.com/Great-International-Paper-Airplane-Book/dp/0671211293 [amazon.com]
    had, at least at the time, the "best performing" for time aloft, distance, etc. The designs were very solid.

    • Re:world record... (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @07:52PM (#39638599)

      Video of the John Collins, the inventor/creator of that design folding the plane: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0VG-4BSZcwI
      Unlisted video, don't know why.

      I've just tried it, and even without the tape, it flies much better than the Harrier

    • by curunir (98273) *

      This article [popularmechanics.com] has a brief discussion of the overall design of the plane. Not really a step-by-step how-to, but there's enough in there for someone with some physics knowledge and Googling skills to create something similar.

  • by mcrbids (148650) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @06:53PM (#39637959) Journal

    I grew up having to go to church. And every week, I would wait so impatiently for the 20 minutes or so at the end of service when all of us kids would get the run of the main hall and run around in circles and burn off all the energy we'd saved up sitting still!

    We had a perpetual paper airplane contest, because every week there were program sheets passed out that nobody cared about after the service. So I spent years competing for the best flying airplane, at least among other children under 12 or so.

    The very best design I ever concocted was a "square plane" design, something like this one [blackgold.ca], except that instead of folding it down the middle, I bent it up about 1" along either side, making it into a low, squared off "U" shape when viewed from the front. Experiment with different sizes of roll, different lengths of roll until you get it right. (I didn't get much result making the fins down either side much smaller or bigger, 1" is about perfect) I usually got best results with the plane being 6" wide and 6" long - nearly perfect square, with about 5 inches of paper rolled up at the front.

    Launch by pulling it into the air straight up, over your head, with your fingers under the front rolled-over part, it will gently fly with the fins up ("upside down") and glide a long way, dancing along the edge of stall. If you are looking for excellent hang times (not speed) this is the plane you want. 30 seconds or more of airtime are commonplace.

  • Magic trick (Score:5, Funny)

    by eulernet (1132389) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @06:57PM (#39637999)

    Just use a sheet, draw a treasure map on it, and let it fly.

    In a lot of movies, a simple sheet of paper is able to fly long distances, even when there is no wind, as long as it contains something important for the hero.

  • As always, it depends on your goals. The Harrier (or Nakamura) is indeed an excellent plane if you're looking for aerobatic performance. A slight adjustment of the ailerons (and much practice) can have it doing barrel rolls, loops, or any combination of tricks. It is one of my favorite. For flight duration and gliding, I prefer a flying wing design similar to the Surfer [instructables.com] with different winglet folds based on flight conditions. And for distance, the old missile or dart style airplane (probably the first paper
  • My fav came from the Great International Paper Airplane Book. Sort of square design with upturned wing tips. The initial shape reminded me of a diaper. But here's the kicker: I tossed one of these off the Eiffel Tower and filmed it. It flew for 7.5 minutes and landed on the other side of the Seine. Good times.

  • For aiming, it's only slightly worse than the dart style of paper plane, but this one has *WAY* more lift....when made correctly, a gentle toss can send it gliding almost perfectly straight for dozens of yards.
  • "The Harrier"? Where did that come from? This plane is known as Nakamura lock, although this design is normally recognized as the "defualt" paper airplane design. It doesn't really need a name. When someone simply says "a paper airplane" without providing any specifics, it is universally assumed that Nakamura lock is implied.
  • Best is very subjective. I'd wager that if you could compress the sheet of paper down into an ultra-dense ball maybe the size of a slingshot ball, it could be launched much farther than any airplane-shaped piece of paper. Is a ball still an airplane? Is "best" defined by the maximum distance it can travel? Obviously the ball is not best if "best" requires it to look like our primitive airplanes...
  • ....start off quite elaborate then end up as a scrunched ball of paper.

    Another case where NOTHING beats rock.

  • I once owned a copy of a large paperback titled "The Ultimate Paper Airplane". It was actually a very interesting read. Between templates for paper airplanes, it told the tale of the Kline-Fogleman Airfoil [wikipedia.org]. Basically, if you cut out a wedge from a wing or propeller, the airfoil becomes significantly more efficient. The book went into the physics of it.

    Anyway, I don't know if that paper airplane is what you're looking for. But, wouldn't you know it, YouTube has a video [youtube.com] of one being made and flown.
    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      Did you read the article? KF airfoils are not efficient.

    • by srmalloy (263556)

      I've been making a paper airplane with the flap lock such as in that video and the article since about the mid-1970s, although I generally do the wings differently. Most of the time, I'll fold the wings first as the article describes -- the outer edge of the wings folded down to line up with the bottom of the spine -- and then similarly to how the video shows -- from the point on the nose where the first fold starts down just above where the triangle of the folded tip ends -- which, when unfolded, gives me

  • I was shown how to fold the "Harrier" in 1972 by a kid at my school called Tony. he called it the "Tonybony Special" and so I do to this day. It's my standard 'plane. Once I flew one from a third storey window on a hot summer's day and it caught a thermal and was still in the air over half an hour later, just lazily circling. I have no idea how long it stayed up altogether.

    The only bad thing about the design is that, like most paper planes, it doesn't scale up all that well. Folding an A1 sheet to the sam
  • by Lucidus (681639) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @08:27PM (#39638923)
    This design appears to be identical to one I learned to make from a Klutz Press book. It is called the Nakamura Lock, after its designer, and it is definitely the best paper airplane I have flown indoors. It seems kind of tacky to rename it - the designer should get some credit for his work.
  • Longest flying plane (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Stargoat (658863) * <stargoat@gmail.com> on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @08:45PM (#39639067) Journal

    When I was a kid, we had a longest flying plane contest. The rules were the plane had to be moving, and out of your hands. I attached a piece of string to it, and whipped it around for four minutes. The buggers DQed me, stating that I should follow the spirit of the rules.

  • This [rocketryforum.com] (second from right) is my favorite. You do need glue or tape to make it, which may disqualify it from the record books, depending on how purist your rules are.
    The one in the photo has a straw for a fuselage, but you can make it from paper by folding a long strip of paper into a three-sided prism and taping or gluing it shut. The two ring-shaped wings should be slightly different diameters, and the plane should be launched small ring forward. It is amazingly stable and I could throw it farther than any
  • In a slightly different vein, but still made of paper, these "walkalong" gliders can stay up a long time. Longer than any conventional paper airplane thrown from the ground. See the video:
    http://www.instructables.com/id/Indoor-Paper-Airplane-Walkalong-Glider/ [instructables.com]

  • I spent a few years of my youth testing planes and came up with two which are the best.

    First, you have a dart, a more basic variation of that one you pointed out. It is the one where you make two folds and then fold over. Very simple and quick to make, and very fast and stable. (this design, but I fold right to the point: http://www.amazingpaperairplanes.com/Basic_Dart.html [amazingpap...planes.com]).

    Then there was the stunt plane, which I found was recently the world record plane. This guys plane is a better version of the one I ma

  • Plans for this acrobatic plane [spacejock.com.au] were published in a 4-volume 1940's British encyclopedia called 'World of the Children'. (I have a copy on my shelf.) The instructions call it a glider, and explain how to gently release it by the tail so it proceeds across the room in a leisurely fashion. At six, I discovered I could hold the thing nose-first with my three middle fingers and whip it high into the sky.

    It might not be a world-beater, but it's fun to fly.
  • http://hairball.mine.nu/~rwa2/aircraft/ [hairball.mine.nu]

    "The arrow" for straight-line distance.

    "The flying wing" for glide slope.

    "The super guppy" for cargo capacity (usually water).

    "The basic glider" is good for loops and stunts.

    "The slant-nose glider" for wet terrain (it has landing gear that help keep the wings dry).

  • by way2slo (151122)

    The "Best" is going to greatly depend on lots of things including, but not limited to, how well you folded it, throw it, paper type, relative humidity, altitude, etc.

    That said, I ran across this a few years ago:
    http://www.instructables.com/id/KlineFogleman-Airfoil-1-Paper-Airplane/ [instructables.com]
    It requires very accurate folding, but if done right with the right kind of paper and flown in good conditions it can be impressive. The airfoil turns some of the drag into lift and stability. The two guys that patented the airf

  • The classic Dart has always my mainstay when making planes for my son and his friends.

    I am also partial to the designs in this book : http://www.amazon.com/The-Ultimate-Paper-Airplane-Step/dp/0671555510 [amazon.com]
    ISBN-10: 0671555510
    ISBN-13: 978-0671555511

    I have a variation of the general "Ultimate" designs, and the "Harrier" that resembles a Shuttle - These used to be mandatory for my then 3yro (now 6) when we watched shuttle liftoffs, and landings.

"Hello again, Peabody here..." -- Mister Peabody

Working...