How This Guy Folds and Flies World Record Paper Airplanes | WIRED

How This Guy Folds and Flies World Record Paper Airplanes | WIRED



there are paper airplanes and then there are John Collins's paper airplanes Marvel's that return to sender sideways and somersaulting a plane that seems to fly like a bat and one that soars and soars I'm John Collins the paper airplane guy for decades Collins has been perfecting the art and science of the paper airplane I just love figuring out how things fly there's a you know a number of things you can watch fly when your kid insects the birds to full-size planes and they only fly using slightly different mechanisms and that was just endlessly fascinating for me and the idea that you could fold a flying machine from this really modest resource a piece of papers people are throwing it away by the tons you could grab a piece and reuse that and make a flying machine out of it after going about as far as I could go folding planes I decided I need to study this other field this art called origami so I worked on that for about 10 years learning what was to learn there and then took all those folding techniques back to paper airplanes with an idea toward making you know a set of really great high-performance planes if all you had was paper you could just make some high-performance flying machines Collins makes one of the most high-performance paper airplanes six years ago he set a new world record for distance by designing and folding this astounding long distance glider it was thrown by quarterback Joe au but there it is there it is we are all over that one that's gonna do it get up there get up there get up there get up there get up there [Applause] so we broke the distance record the old record was 207 feet four inches and we threw 226 feet 10 inches we were the first glider to break that 200 foot barrier to break out and set a distance record it had all been done with ballistic dart swings about this wide our plane has really wide wings the old style you'd throw in a 45 degree angle and it would just crash it at the finish line just a parabolic arc my plane takes 9 seconds to do that and so it's a real difference in approach you know if you watch the world record throw it gets launched level climbs on its own and then really flares and flies for that last third so it's it's a real flying machine opposed to as opposed to the ballistic dart that could just roll any direction just crash Colin stop by the wired studio to fly the distance glider and some of the other planes in his new book the world record paper airplane and to demonstrate how a humble piece of paper can become any number of thrilling toys in minutes people people always think I have top-secret paper here so all my planes are designed with just regular old eight-and-a-half by eleven twenty pound paper in line you know the basics are the basics no accurate folding line up the edges correctly be really precise about what you're doing and then overall symmetry is super important this is gonna be the world record plan it's named after my wife it's named Suzanne starts out with a couple of diagonal folds a short side of the paper up we're gonna take the top of the page and put it against the side of the page we're gonna make two diagonal folds here so let's practice on the other side shall we we're gonna move this corner over line up the top corner and then swing this guy into position and as a double check I can see where my other diagonal is ending and sweep down that way now I've got nice tight corners everywhere nice sharp creases we're going to take the right-hand edge just from the creased corner down to where this crease meets the edge of the page and we're gonna lay it against the diagonal fold we're gonna take this creased corner and bring it just to the end of this crease right here fold the top down and now you'll see those diagonal folds on the other side what you want to do is line up the diagonal folds the top layer of the diagonal with the very bottom layer of the diagonal on both sides and that's how you know you're hitting the center of the X dead center so let's follow the crease on both sides what I find to be the easiest way to do it is to follow the creases on this side but if you can see them clearly on the other side and that works for you go ahead and use it flipped over we're going to take this flap right here and fold it up over those two corners and when we do the next move to fold the plane in half the whole thing will be locked together so let's fold from the top all the way down to the center of this edge to fold the plane in half you can flip it over and make sure the rear corners and the nose are perfect the center corners don't worry so much about don't spend a lot of time trying to line those guys up the rear corners and make sure you're hitting the nose cleanly now here's the pro way to do it make sure wings a little bit wider makes the plane a more efficient glider if you start here and don't make the crease but see you've got a little triangle that you can see here made up from this raw edge and the back of the fuselage if you keep pulling the wing down just until that triangle disappears that is a much better place to make the wing crease it makes the tail much broader gives you much better lifting characteristics so let's make the other wing match that should be an easy task and the most important thing to remember is that every flight is a test flight you're now a pilot you're seeing if this thing flies you're making adjustments to it most people think they can't fold a good plane but the reality is they just have it adjusted a good plane so the first thing we do the wings are drooping like that we're gonna give it what's called positive dihedral angle now the hero angle that's just fancy words for the angle the wings are stuck to the body of the plane and what that does when you hold on to it where all the layers lock and just lift the leading edge of the wings now you've got some upward sweep there and what that does is put the lifting surface up over where all the way it is so if the plane is flying along and it gets rocked to one side just like a pendulum the weight swings back underneath the wings and that's called dead stay stability the other thing we're gonna do aside from positive dihedral angle is give the rear corners just a little upward bend not a lot and don't make a crease just make a bend you can always undo the bend flatten it out or add a little bit more and with all gliders you're constantly trading height for speed what do I mean by that so if the centre of gravity and the center of lift were perfectly lined up your plane would fly nice and straight and drag would constantly be slowing it down until it just fell out of the sky a stall is caused by too slow an air speed or too high an angle of attack that's where the wings are tilted up with regard to the direction of air flow so if you have a plane that's flying straight and level and it's perfectly balanced eventually drag will slow it till it falls out of the sky so how do you fix that with a glider with a powered plane you just hit the gas right super simple with a glider what you need to do is engineer in the center of gravity a little bit in front of the center of lift the center of gravity is the center of spin you can find that on any paper airplane simply by spinning it you can see right where the center of gravity is on that plane it's right here you just watched it spin the center of spin is the center of gravity we've got all this lifting surface behind the center of gravity so now the plane is going to fly along the lift is back here it pitches the nose downward as the planes going forward what does that do that allows me to gain speed the plane is being slowed now I'm pointing the nose at the ground gaining speed which is good but now I keep dating speed at 9.8 meters per second per second it's gonna crash into the ground really hard so I bend in some elevator back here and the air goes down the top of the wing hits that bend gets kicked up which pushes the tail down which lifts the nose and voila now the nose is level again so enough up elevator so at the right speed the plane noses up enough to just achieve horizontal stability that's the whole trick with any glider you're constantly balancing that center of gravity center of lift and a little bit of up elevator to get that perfect flight but not all of Colin's planes are about distance some like his boomerang models are fun and smaller spaces thanks to some interesting aerodynamics the boomerang plane this one is great because it'll circle either direction and it loops the basic trick with this one is that the center of gravity is very very close the center of life so all you need to do is add just a tiny bit of up elevator here and the other thing has to do with something we talked about before which is dihedral angle now most good planes have positive dihedral which gets the plane to rock back to neutral but the boomerang plane the wings are drooping so if I throw it leaned over it does not self-correct it stays leaned over then you have to imagine what a climb is gonna look like leaned over it's gonna look like a circle that way or a circle that way or a loop it's all the same trick and then boomerang too so this plane is made to fly out flip over and fly back upside down it accomplishes that because it's really a failure of a paper airplane this I was trying to do landing gears on the boomerang one and that's these guys here and that puts too many layers toward the rear so this is extremely tail heavy and it does that crazy tip stall out there so flying out positive dihedral on the way out after the stall positive dihedral angle on the way back and then it's you know toying again with all the adjusting I'm bending the leading edge down a little bit so when it's upside down I'm getting a little scooped up to help the nose come back and then I've got a little bit of elevator here to help magnify that crazy tip stall out there so it's this dance between what you do at the front and the back to get it to fly perfectly both ways it's a really fun plane called a batplane it was actually a design mistake it's not what I was going to make but it ended up doing something really weird when I threw it for the first time the wings were oscillate when you throw it so which actually happening is the plane is going through a rapid series of stalls it's a little bit tail heavy and I've got too much up elevator here so it flies in stalls and as as the body is flexible the wings flex upward at the top of the stall no more pressure the winds relaxed it applies in stalls I I wish I could tell you the secret sauce to coming up with a new great paper airplane and I have a couple of approaches and sometimes they overlap and sometimes they don't sometimes it's a design approach like I want to do a plane that it's landing gear where I want to do a plane that has a tunnel in the nose or one that has a small wing in front and so you bring sort of the origami skills to bear on that and so you have to put in the time and what I would say you know to learn and compete with a plane even as simple as this you do have to put the time in to get to know the material and figure out how it works obviously when it's what it does exactly what you wants it's really kind of a cool feeling that you've made this really great flying machine out of just minimal materials and it really doesn't matter if you don't get it back in some cases it's you know it's the joy of that flight yeah I'm a kid at heart I am a four year old or five year old once again watching their plane just fly outta sight and you know having a moment it's pretty fun you