To learn what makes a paper airplane fly, let’s start with a scientific term: aerodynamics.
Aerodynamics is the way air moves around an object and is the first consideration when flying a real aircraft over a long distance.
Try to clap your hands without allowing your palms to touch. Now do it with one hand. Do you feel the air? Now turn the palm of your hand and move it back and forth as if you were cutting through the air. You can still feel the air, but your hand can move through it more easily than when you were clapping.
The forces that allow the flight of a paper airplane are the same as those of aircraft: weight, thrust, drag and lift.
A force is something that pushes or pulls on something else. The force with which you throw the paper plane into the air is known as thrust. While the plane is flying, the air is moving over and under the wings and is providing a force called lift. For its part, drag is the resistance that the air makes as the plane moves, making it lose speed. Finally, the weight is the force of gravity that acts on the plane and attracts it towards the ground, it is counteracted by the lift exerted by the wings.
Did you know . . . ?
✔ For your paper airplane to travel a long distance, you need all four forces (weight, thrust, drag, and lift) to be balanced. For this reason you should throw your paper plane hard as it does not have much drag and lift and relies on thrust to overcome gravity.