Making a paper airplane that stays airborne for more than a few seconds is a challenge for most people. John Collins folds paper flying machines that can spin, flap like birds, and make 360-degree turns. To see how he does it, check out the video below from WIRED.
“The Paper Airplane Guy,” as he’s best known, treats paper airplanes like complex aircraft—and in his hands, they are. After studying origami for 10 years, he applied what he knew about aerodynamics to the Japanese art of paper folding. His precise folding techniques combined with clever designs produce planes capable of doing much more than gliding and nose-diving. His most famous creation broke the record for the farthest distance flown by a paper airplane when it soared above the ground for 226 feet and 10 inches in 2012. That record has since been broken by a team of American engineers, whose paper aircraft traveled over 289 feet in December 2022.
Collins uses his folding wizardry to accomplish other tricks as well. By putting the right creases in the right spots, he makes a “boomerang plane” that returns to his hands. Another plane of his doesn’t glide at all, and instead flaps its wings like it’s alive. The Paper Airplane Guy has already figured out the physics of these shapes for you, so you can fold along with him and try recreating the designs at home.
Even with step-by-step instructions, folding a complicated flying machine may be a struggle for beginners. Luckily there are plenty of tutorials out there for paper aviators of all skill levels. After watching the video, check out this online database of paper airplane designs.