The Science Fair


Aerodynamics is key to making a paper airplane fly. The paper must cut through the air to travel a great distance. If a plane is not folded correctly it will be like throwing a normal piece of paper. That is why planes need to be aerodynamic. There are four forces involved in aerodynamics, lift, thrust, and drag.

Lift keeps the plane airborne and is produced by the movement of airfoil. (Airfoil is any surface that is designed to aid in controlling an aircraft by using air.) Three theories best describe Lift, Newtons Third Law, the Coanda Effect, and Bernoulli’s Principle. In Newtons Third Law says “the mutual forces of action and reaction between two bodies are equal, opposite and collinear. The Coanda Effect is the tendency of a moving fluid (air) to attach itself to a surface (an airplane) and flow with it. The other the theory of lift is Bernoulli’s Principle. This principle states that “as the speed of a moving fluid increases, the pressure within the fluid decreases.

. Thrust is the force that propels the plane forward. The force starts when air is pushed in the direction opposite to the flight. and is explained in Newtons Second Law of Motion which states that “the acceleration of a body is parallel and directly proportional to the net force. While thrust is created by a spinning propeller or a jet engine on a normal plane, paper airplanes have neither. Instead they use the movement of your hand. The hand movement can only a certain amount of time depending on how hard the plane is thrown This is the reason paper planes cannot fly as far and as long as regular airplanes.

Gravity is probably the most know force involved in aerodynamics. Gravity pulls the paper airplane down, the opposite of lift. In order for a plane to fly far it must have a light weight. ON a large plane there is a jet that keeps it up while on a paper airplane there is nothing and it falls down after a period of time.

The last force involved in aerodynamics is called Drag. Any force that resists any forward motion through a fluid (air) that may be caused during a flight is called drag. Drag is increased with area and resists any forward motion. Without a fluid there is no drag. Drag is a force and has magnitude and a direction. To get the paper airplane to go anywhere there needs to limited amount of drag drag.

The purpose of this experiment is to learn more about aerodynamics and flight. It is hypothesized that the more a paper airplane is wind resistant the farther it will fly. The objective of experimenting on paper airplanes is to help improve modern flight and reduces crashes.


  • Paper (best if thin and not crumbled)
  • The book “Paper Airplanes” by Phil Joho
  • A wide open space preferably inside


  1. Gather all supplies
  2. Than make the “Speed Demon” from the book
  3. Go to open space, preferably indoors
  4. Put thumb on one side and index finger on the other side
  5. Now throw forward like a dart
  6. Release when arm is at a complete right angle
  7. Now sit back and watch it fly
  8. Once the plane lands measure the distance flown in meters and record it
  9. Repeat steps 4-8 for a total of ten repeated trials
  10. Repeat steps 1-9 to build “the Floater”, “The Classic”, “ The Eagle” and “ Ye Old Faithful”

Results and Conclusion

The effect of different types of paper on the distance flown is summarized in the table on the previous page. “The Floater” had the best average of 11.963 meters. After that was the “Speed Demon” that lives up to its name with an average of 10.37 meters followed closely by the “Classic” that got an average of 10.325 meters. The came the “Eagle” with 8.155 meters and in last was “Ye Old Faithful” with 5.862 meters. In this experiment there was a range of 6.101 which is larger than expected. This data did support the hypotheses because when the lightness and aerodynamic increased the distance the planes flew increased.

The purpose of this experiment was to determine the effect of different types of planes on the distance flown. The lighter and more aerodynamic paper planes flew farther than the ones that were less aerodynamic. The data supported the research shown on lift, drag, thrust, and gravity because the planes that flew the farthest controlled most of these forces. These findings agree with Newtons Three Laws of Motion, Bernoulli’s Principle, and the Coanda Effect. The aerodynamic planes could slice through the air while the other ones struggled to push through. Additional experiments could be conducted to determine how other planes in the book will fly. This experiment could be improved by flying the paper airplanes in a larger place and by using a machine to throw the planes so that they are released at the exact same spot.

Elert, Glenn. “Aerodynamic Drag.” (2009). Web. November 26, 2011

Joho, Phil. Paper Airplanes: Step by Step Instructions. Dingley, Victoria: Hinkler, 2001.


“The Basic Forces of Thrust, Drag and Lift.” (2007). Web. November 25, 2011

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