Looking for inspiration on the best paper airplane designs that fly as good as they look? You’ve landed on the right page! Below, we review 16 of the very best designs anyone can make.
Adults are finding that many of the pursuits that were formerly considered “childish” are actually helpful for meditation, simple fun, and inspiring creativity.
Coloring books, Lego sets, and adult Nerf weaponry are jumping off the shelves–and it’s not just the fault of kids these days. These items allow grown-ups to get in touch with their inner child, and help keep their development arrested.
Another arena that has grown in popularity is crafts, including the high art, advanced science, and incredible skill of paper airplane construction. Any delinquent can fold a simple aircraft, but doing it with skill and precision combines engineering, hand-eye coordination, creativity, and, of course, paper.
The Best Paper Airplanes Anyone Can Make
Come with us on a tree-killing spree, and put those TPS reports and expense ledgers to work entertaining your flights of fancy. Discover the 16 best paper airplane designs below for fun, flight, and inter-office betting.
There’s no reason to go over the top when it comes to making a paper airplane. Classics are that way for a reason, and the dart is as traditional as they come. Made for distance and simple to fold, there’s no need to overthink, underthink, or even really think at all.
2. Sea Glider
Here’s what all those pretentious swans should be. Instead of taking hours of training, you can whip up a serviceable gull in just a few minutes, only this one can survive an Alka-Seltzer attack without bursting. A drifting glider with solid distance performance, it has aesthetics to spare.
Sharp and fast, The Concorde isn’t going to necessarily win many distance competitions, since it’s so streamlined, but it’s a nasty dogfighter that will take down any bogies that head into your airspace. Cut hard and accurate, it’ll rip holes in those ceiling snowflakes that Betty from HR keeps hanging up around the holidays.
4. Tie Fighter
Perhaps not an exact replica of the Star Wars Tie Fighter, this is a respectable facsimile which has the basic design of the troublesome tie, and bears the same whirlygig acrobatic action that the short-range space-to-space combatants have. Good for twists, weak on distance.
5. Stunt Plane
Fun paper planes that are more than one-trick ponies are hard to come by. The stunt plane has a dense build with wings that are easily manipulated to get a wide range of effects. Every bend or flex will offer up a new result, and the overall wide, flat fuselage provides loads of lift that lets it stay aloft for proving its acrobatic chops again and again.
6. F-15 Eagle
Using the same aerodynamics that went into the actual F-15, without wasting billions like the government did, you can get a lot of distance and speed out of this design, and can tweak it for a few flips and turns if you so desire. Also not bad for painting up and pimping out in your favorite camouflage scheme.
7. White Dove
Almost purely decorative, the White Dove is a handy accessory to craft mobiles for infants, or a cheap way to sorely disappoint your friends at their wedding. Drop a thousand of these off the roof of the church and watch the guests laugh and laugh as the bride plots your death.
8. Straight Man
A moderate variation on a pretty standard plane, the look is nothing to crow about, but the accuracy is unrivaled. Capable of handling numerous throw speeds, the rear gap keeps airflow centered for a bullseye accurate launch every time. If it misses the mark, it’s operator error.
9. Star Flight
Using the same basic idea that allows the Straight Man to fly true gives the Star Flight a nice flip to its personality. A few adjustments to the scoop on the front, and it will do complete turns in the air. Endlessly entertaining as you adjust and throw, adjust and throw, it will waste almost as much time as binge-watching, without the crippling circulation issues.
10. The Spyder
A dual set of wings, with canards up front and the tailfins bringing up the rear, The Spyder bears an unusual look, and permits you to adjust it for more twists, turns, and aerial feats than a standard single-wing design will. Limited on distance, it can also be rigged to hop off the back of a glider plane mid-flight, for some quick Quinjet action.
11. F-117 Nighthawk
Stealth fans who live or work in places with active paper radar need this in their arsenal for clandestine twilight ops so that the Secretary can deny all involvement. There’s simpler, lighter versions if that is what you crave, but we like the faithful reproduction done here because: awesomeness.
12. Eagle Eye
This bird-inspired paper airplane does more than look good, it can give you worthwhile gliding distance that more closely emulates an actual bird of prey. Functional, delicately decorative, and best of all, easy to fold; there’s no one who can’t find something to love here.
13. DC-3 Swallow
A weaving plane with an impressive hang-time, the Swallow is favored by many enthusiasts for its capacity to be altered for more distance, more speed, or a more meandering flight plan. Probably our favorite glider in the sky, it doesn’t just drift along aimlessly, but can be weighted down to move like a balsa wood plane, giving it some real panache when life requires.
14. King Bee
We didn’t name it, so don’t send us your complaints that there’s no such thing as a “king” bee. What this does is offer a gentle wobble while it flies that looks like a drone seeking out flowers to violate for their sweet, sweet pollen. A better bug-style plane than the plain cicada, it’s also fairly easy to make.
Though hardly what we would expect from an flying object that the Airforce will claim is heat lightning, what we like about the UFO is the way it is thrown. Rather than gripping it in your sticky fingers, it slides off the end of your hand, making the launch steadier for anyone who hasn’t had a drink in a few hours and is getting the blue shakes.
16. Spin Plane
Getting a tight spiral with a football is something that many people, like Mark Sanchez, have failed to get right. Putting the perfect spin on a paper plane is something almost no one can do, unless they have the secret ingredient. A little practice is all it takes to get a rifled spin time and again with this little dervish.
Paper Airplane Facts
Not enough for you? How about some paper airplane factoids to help you impress your team at trivia night:
Longest Hang Time World Record
Japanese businessman Takuo Toda has made his mark on the world in more ways than one. He will go down in history as having folded and thrown the paper airplane with the longest hang time. He beat the previous world record by 0.3 seconds, for a total of 27.9 seconds. Not only that, but he’s even gone so far as to write entire books on folding paper airplanes–talk about passion!
Learn how to fold his Sky King here.
Furthest Flying Paper Airplane
Believe it or not, the world record for the furthest-flown paper airplane has held for almost a decade. In 2012, John Collins (better known online as The Paper Airplane Guy) put his extensive study of aerodynamics and origami to the test. He folded a deceptively simple-looking airplane that flew a whopping 226 feet, 10 inches. Of course, he got a college football quarterback to cannon it down the field, but Collins’ smart design is what carried the distance.
Learn more about John Collins and his record-breaking design here.
Largest Paper Airplane to Take Flight
Forget all the other record-breakers; this is the one that matters. Behold the glory of Arturo’s Desert Eagle, weighing in at over 800 pounds and stretching an incredible 45+ feet long. Did we mention it can break 100 mph in flight? Sure, it crashed after only 10 seconds, but the fact is it’s friggin’ huge and does indeed fly.
The original design was by 12 year-old Arturo Valdenegro, whose submission was accepted in a contest run by the Pima Air & Space Museum. Then, a team of aerospace engineers lead by one of the designers of the B2 stealth bomber brought Arturo’s vision to larger-than-life. Given an initial lift by a helicopter, Arturo’s Desert Eagle is a soaring example of American ingenuity spanning generations.
Watch Arturo’s Desert Eagle take flight here.
Paper Airplanes Predate Actual Airplanes
Depending on who you ask, the paper airplane might have been invented by Lockheed, Leonardo DaVinci, or even the Chinese over 2000 years ago. In reality, humans have been wasting time folding flying objects for a long time–predating our ambition to take flight ourselves in the 20th century. Folding paper darts was certainly a popular past time in the 1800’s. Even the Wright brothers used these darts as testbeds for their ideas on human flight!
Following their success at Kitty Hawk, interest in flight (and folding paper darts) surged. Eventually, a Popular Mechanics story from 1933 elevated this simple design in the public imagination by labeling a dart design “airplane-like”. The rest, as they say, is history.
Now that you’ve seen the best paper airplane designs, it’s time to get folding! Try folding one of our 16 recommended planes, or just brush up on the ones you used to make as a kid. Either way, you’re guaranteed to smile a little bit watching it sail down the corridor without an engine or feather in sight. Just make sure the boss doesn’t see!
My personal favorite’s the Thunder Bomber. Nice and simple-it’s crap with at least 1 paperclip though.
Things are cool with those folds. I simultaneously make ’em.