Aeroplane Paper: Choosing the right construction material

Generally, when making paper aeroplanes, I use standard 80gsm (grams per square metre) copier paper. It has a good balance of weight and stiffness and, all round, is a pretty good aeroplane paper; however, it is not the only option and sometimes not the best.

Aeroplane Paper - 80gsm
Through some preliminary experimentation I’ve found the different paper aeroplanes on the main site can be optimised for a paper that suits their individual structures and roles.

I hope to explore this in more detail in future posts; however, here are a few of my most basic observations on the alternatives:

60gsm

Aeroplane Paper - 60gsm

Generally, this weight of paper is too light and flimsy for it to be good aeroplane paper. It’s ok to use if you have no alternative; however, if you’ve got the choice, go up to 80gsm. Although you never want a paper aeroplane to be too heavy, this paper’s lack of weight often means that your plane cannot hold its shape during the launch phase – causing it to go off course, deform and crash. This kind of paper does hold the slight plus point in that, because it’s so thin, you can get away with slightly more complex folds as the paper doesn’t bunch up so much.

100gsm

Aeroplane Paper - 100gsm

Some planes benefit from the extra stiffness if you use this as your aeroplane paper. The Merlin, in particular seems to perform better with 100gsm, perhaps because the extremities of the wings are pretty flimsy. Javelin type planes can also perform well using this kind of paper.

Card: Card is too thick for all but the most basic planes. You simply can’t do complex folds with card and it’s too heavy for the amount of lift planes of A4 size can produce.

Shiny paper

Aeroplane Paper - Shiny

On the downside, I’ve observed shiny paper can sometimes lead to the folds holding together less well, as you don’t get as much friction from one bit of paper to another. However, some planes, like The Monkey, where all the folds are held securely in place by other folds don’t have this problem. Shiny paper can be an optimal aeroplane paper in planes like that, as it seems to reduce drag.

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2 Responses to Aeroplane Paper: Choosing the right construction material

  1. I really love your planes and i wish i could be like you. the thing i whant to tell you is that i whant to be an ingineer and craftman in my life so can you email me something for me to use please.

    • Peter says:

      Hi Christopher, it’s great that you want to be an engineer. I don’t work as an engineer myself; this is just a hobby for me, however, I’ll try to give you the best advice I can.

      I’m going to guess that you live in the USA, but I’m not sure how old you are.

      If you’re currently at school and you get a choice of subjects, good things to take would be things like shop classes, mathematics and physics. If you study hard you’ll get a good foundation for taking engineering courses at college.

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