top of page
  • Writer's pictureDr. Orna Kretchmer

Happy aerogami - The practice of constructing paper planes

By Dr. Orna Kretchmer

The history of paper airplanes is a journey through time, reflecting people's  long-standing fascination with flight.

Paper is a thin nonwoven material traditionally made from a combination of milled plant and textile fibres. The first paper-like plant-based writing sheet was papyrus in Egypt, but the first true papermaking process was documented in China during the Eastern Han period (25–220 AD). Paper kites were invented and flown throughout China. Some of them were big enough to carry a person up in the air!

In the 15th centruy, Leonardo da Vinci sketched various flying machines and experimented with paper models to understand the principles of flight. While there is no direct evidence that he created paper airplanes, his work with paper models contributed to the broader understanding of aerodynamics.

The Japanese art of origami, which involves folding paper into various shapes, became popular in the 17th century. Although origami primarily focuses on creating static models, it laid the groundwork for the development of paper folding techniques used in paper airplanes.

Known as the "Father of Aerodynamics," Sir George Cayley made significant contributions to the study of flight. He used paper models to test his theories, which helped in understanding the principles that govern flight. As aviation technology advanced, engineers and hobbyists used paper airplanes to test and demonstrate aerodynamic principles. These models became educational tools for explaining flight mechanics.

During and after World War II, interest in aviation surged. Paper airplanes became popular as both a recreational activity and a teaching tool in classrooms. Books and manuals on making paper airplanes began to appear, spreading the hobby widely.

World Records: In recent years, the pursuit of world records for paper airplane distance and duration has gained popularity. Notable achievements include:

  • Ken Blackburn (1998): Set a world record for the longest flight time of a paper airplane (27.6 seconds).

  • Joe Ayoob and John Collins (2012): Set the world record for the longest distance flown by a paper airplane (226 feet, 10 inches).

Paper Airplanes and STEAM Education

Incorporating paper airplanes into STEAM education offers a dynamic and engaging approach to teaching essential concepts, fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation of the interconnectedness of science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics.

Paper airplanes capture students' interest, making learning fun and interactive. The activity provides a tangible way to explore theoretical concepts of physics, engineering, and mathematics, helping students better understand and retain information.

John Collins, known as "The Paper Airplane Guy," made significant contributions by designing advanced paper airplane models. His designs pushed the boundaries of what paper airplanes could achieve, incorporating principles from aerodynamics and engineering.

Watch below how he folds and flies world record paper airplanes:

The history of paper airplanes spans centuries and cultures, reflecting humanity's enduring fascination with flight and innovation. From ancient Chinese kites to modern educational tools and world record-breaking designs, paper airplanes have evolved into a beloved activity that bridges art, science, and engineering.

Did you fold your paper airplane today yet? For ideas and instruction check

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page