The Best Paper Airplane System in the World


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Paperang Aerodynamics

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The story of the Paperang

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The aerodynamics of the Paperang are summarised on this page. To read the full story, download the Adobe Acrobat pdf document.

Aerodynamic advantages of the Paperang:

  • Keeps its design shape through a great speed range- stable in pitch, roll and yaw.
  • Accurate and efficient airfoil shape created naturally from its construction.
  • Glide ratios of up to 15 achievable.
  • Versatile design: variables allow you to experiment with weight, wing area, sweepback, and airfoil section.
  • Paperangs can be optimised for speed, glide angle, sink rate, or aerobatics.

I believe the Paperang has the best combination of glide angle, minimum sink rate, stability, and performance whether flown at high or low airspeeds of any paper airplane. Its construction method bars it from most competitions, and its very efficiency makes it unsuited to competition tasks- throw it hard and it will loop! Throw it very hard and it will do double and even triple consecutive loops- this is proof of strong and efficient design, but not useful in competitions for distance and time in the air. But if competitions measured ability to fly in a straight line (a test of accuracy and stability), or glide angle or sink rate during a steady glide (measures of aerodynamic efficiency), then I am confident that the Paperang would be found to be better than any other existing design in the world.

The Paperang is not designed for competition or for record breaking. Competitions and records normally depend on the strength and skill of the human competitor, as well as the ability of the paper airplane to cope with a powerful launch at high speed, followed by a transition into a steady glide. Any competition design is a compromise between performance during the launch, transition and glide phases. Successful competition airplanes are great designs, but may not necessarily be best for day to day flying.

Designing the Paperang

The Paperang was designed without competition compromises. The only assumptions were that a great paper airplane should have these properties:

  • It can be built quickly from paper and normal office stationery materials
  • Its performance should be measured in terms of gliding efficiency, stability, and reliability; irrespective of pilot skill.
  • It must be easy and fun to fly

The big problem in paper airplane design is not aerodynamic efficiency- it's stability. Without stability, efficient aircraft just fly efficiently into the ground. To be stable, an aircraft has to have flying surfaces shaped to return it to a steady glide after it has been disturbed by turbulence. It has to be strong enough to keep that shape during launch and throughout the flight, and over many flights.

Paper is flexible. When folded, it's strong along the direction of the fold, but weak at right angles to the fold. This is a crucial weakness for most paper airplanes, which have a useless V-shaped centre section or 'fuselage'. The centre longitudinal fold actually weakens the wings, making them likely to flap when launched and distort during flight. It's difficult for such airplanes to be reliably stable.

The Paperang avoids this problem by borrowing from hang glider design. It's a 'flying wing' and has no fuselage. The swept- back wings are very strong, especially in the centre section.

Flying wings made of flexible surfaces are not new- hang gliders evolved from Rogallo's designs for NASA re-entry vehicles, and Malayan kites have been using the same basic configuration for hundreds of years.

My contribution to paper airplane design is to realise that the hang glider / rogallo shape is also well suited for paper airplanes, and such a shape can be made with a single sheet of paper. The solution requires a little lateral thinking and is surprisingly elegant. Find out how it's done by downloading the Adobe Acrobat pdf file.

Edmond Hui PhD

Copyright © 1998-2001 Edmond Hui
Revised January 26, 2001