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Assisted Distance

Assisted distance is one of two events in The National Paper Airplane Contest.  Learning to make and fly paper airplanes that ride a wave of air takes skill and practice.  Along the way, pilots learn about wing loading, sink rate, control surfaces, and thermal soaring.  The videos here may be used by educational facilities free of charge. Ask your local science museum or air & space museum to join in the fun.

Wing Loading

Wing Loading is a measure of how much weight each square unit of wing surface is lifting.  A standard  20lb sheet of US letter size paper weighs 4.5 grams.  By folding up a plane from US letter size graph paper, you can count the actual square units on the wing.  Dividing 4.5 grams by that number, gives you the precise wingloading figure for the paper airplane. 


As you'll see from the video, certain trends become obvious between wing loading and air speed.  One can easily predict the required speed for any paper airplane by analyzing the wing loading.

Basic Adjusting Techniques

Basic adjusting techniques are a key to success in any paper airplane competition.  This simple set of adjustments work for most paper airplanes.  Sharp creases, overall symmetry, and careful folding are required of every paper airplane.  Getting the final adjustments right separate the award winners from the beginners.   Always check for slight bends or dents that might cause more drag on one side or the other. 


Bend the tail of the plane the direction you want the nose to go.

Adjusting a Tumbling Wing

Getting your Tumbling Wing to fly  straight is the first step to learning to pilot the plane.  Extra drag on one side of the plane will make the aircraft turn toward the slower wing.  This is true for any follow foil.  Carefully adjusting the plane for straight flight is good practice in observation and action. 

Sink Rate

Sink Rate

Sink Rate measures the speed the aircraft is moving toward the ground.  Usually measured in feet per second or meters per second, the sink rate for paper airplanes varies based on paper weight and folding pattern.  Follow Foils typically have slower sink rates than other paper airplanes.  

Piloting a Tumbling Wing

Flight Card Smoke Demo

Exclusive WCPAL smoke tunnel testing shows how the cardboard scoops air upward to overcome the sink rate of an airplane.  Your walking speed controls the airflow speed.  Board tilt directs the air upward. 

Learn to make The Tumbling Wing.  The first controlable tumbling airplane.  Invented by John Collins, this innovation has been copied and modified for more than 20 years, since it was first published in 1995.  If you can't get it to tumble, make the strip of paper a little wider than shown.  If you can't find phone book paper, order some league paper.'t

The easiest gliding follow foil to learn to fold, The Seagull will give you hours of fun with a minimum build time.  Easy to fold and adjust, The Seagull is the perfect transition from Tumbling Wing flying to real glider flying.  Use phone book paper or order some league paper.

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