Flight Day

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Watch the world record for distance

Watch the world record for time aloft



Before the Experiment

  1. What forces act on a paper airplane when it’s in flight? What about a regular airplane?
  2. How are wings on birds similar to wings on planes (paper or regular)? How are they similar?
  3. How do planes (and birds) change directions while they’re flying?


Your goal today is simple: try to set a new world record. Some of the designs above are better at travelling very far, and some of the designs are better at staying in the air for a really long time. When you try to build a plane, think about the following:

  • Are the wings on your design very large and wide, or more slender?
  • How long is the airplane? Where is the center of gravity? (Try to balance it on a fingertip!)
  • How well does it fly with a “long toss”? How about with a “high toss”?
  • Can you improve the flight of your plane with flaps or elevators?

After the Experiment

  1. Rank the planes that you made, from best to worst. What do the good fliers have in common? How about the bad ones?
  2. Does your plane fly the same as your classmates’ planes of the same design? What might explain differences in how the two planes fly?

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