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Does the Wing Design of an Airplane

Affect the Distance It Flies?


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Abstract

I have been interested on paper airplanes even before this project started, but I

then wondered how each plane’s designs affect their distance and performance. In this

project, I compared the distances of the Dart, Duck Plane, Overflight, and The Bat. As I

did my research, I understood how lift, drag, gravity, thrust, and other factors affect the

performance of each airplane. I then tested each plane which all had different designs and

measured each one’s distance in meters. It turns out that the Dart’s long wings allowed

the plane to fly the longest distance (4.07 – 4. 59 m) compared to the Overflight’s wide

wings which gave a steady but short flight (1.98- 3.01 m) . In the end, I found out that

airplanes with longer wing designs fly farther than planes with wider wing designs.
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Table of Contents

Question, Variables, and Hypothesis 4

Background Research 5

Materials 7

Experimental Procedure 8

Data Analysis 9

Conclusion 10

Future Directions 11

Acknowledgements 12

Bibliography 13
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Question, Variables, and Hypothesis

Question:

Do the wing designs of The Bat, Dart, Overflight, and the Duck Plane affect how

far they fly?

Hypothesis:

I think that the wing design does affect the distance a paper airplane flies because

on real planes, there is a certain design for the wings that would help control the direction

and speed a plane is flying, so the same thing would apply to paper airplanes. This certain

wing design is mostly long but wide (which leads to a stable but long flight), so I think

that the dart would fly the longest, then the Duck Plane, then the Overflight and The Bat.

Variables:

 Manipulated Variable- The wing design of the paper airplanes.

 Responding Variable-How far (distance) the paper airplanes in meters.

 Control Variable- The same paper, the same starting point, the same wind speed,

the same person who will throw the airplane, same release strategy.
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Background Research

Paper

The paper should crease well but it should be strong and avoid being torn while
folding. So 24lb Inkjet paper would be the best because it’s a bit thicker than normal
paper but still be light weight and high quality. This would affect the airplane’s stability
by giving it more weight that won’t make a major difference with using normal paper.

The Plane

A plane’s gravity depends on the center of gravity. So if a plane plops down it


means that it’s too heavy. To fix this you can lighten the front or use lighter paper for
your next model. If a plane weakly glides down it means it’s too light, so just refold it a
few times to fix it. Other than that, if a plane flies in good trajectory and balance it is
good. But some planes have some different throws and adjustments like some models can
be heavier than others, so it’s best to follow these adjustments if a model has some.

The Experiment

The best place to fly a paper airplane is any wide or long indoor room. Why?
Indoor places normally don’t have any wind, so this can help improve a plane’s original
performance. Even a place with little wind can make a major effect on how a plane’s
performance is. Simple planes would do well no matter where they are. This is because
they would be gaining aerodynamics. In conclusion, paper airplanes depend on the center
of gravity but they would perform well anytime and anywhere.

Paper Airplane Physics

How do paper airplanes fly? There are 4 things you need to know: lift, thrust, drag
and gravity. Lift is the high pressure that goes on the lower surface of a wing and the low
pressure that goes on the upper surface. Thrust is what makes the plane go forward and is
the force that moves the airplane through the air. An example of this is your hand which
helps you throw the airplane in the air. Drag is the force opposite of thrust which makes
the airplane push itself back. This happens when the air pressures pushing on the surfaces
of a wing, causing a bit of drag to the airplane. Gravity opposes lift and is the force that
keeps the things near or on the ground.
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Diagram 1: Lift, Thrust, Gravity, Drag

Diagram 2: How Lift and Drag Works

Paper airplanes also have winglets, which are flaps that would help stabilize its flight and
decrease harm from the wingtip vortices. Wingtip vortices are circular patterns of rotating
air that are created when air are behind the wing are left after lift id generated. In other
words, they are like mini tornados that are left behind a plane’s wing after lift is
generated. These can be strong enough to flip a plane over and can cause drag, so
winglets can be helpful. So based on this research, we could say that airplanes with
longer wings can cause more lift than wider wings, right? Well it’s true that more lift
would be generated because of how much more pressure there would be on the surfaces
but there would still be some weight generated. Because of the long wings, the weight, or
gravity and the drag which still keep the wingspan from giving an effective improvement
on the flight. But even though, the long length would still give a stable and long flight to
the plane.
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Materials

These are the materials I used when I made the airplanes, did the experiment, and

recorded the data.

 Paper: 4 sheets of Southworth Premium 25% Cotton Inkjet & Laser Paper 24lb.

Table 1: The Airplanes

Type Airplane Description

Glider Overflight The Overflight is a glider with wing

flaps, or winglets which stabilizes

its flight.

Dart Duck Plane This is a dart plane with flaps up

front, which acts as winglets that

stabilizes the flight.

Classic Dart Dart The most basic paper airplane ever,

the Dart, has long wings that give a

long and stable flight.

Glider The Bat This is an airplane I made on my

own. Its wide wings, pushed in tail,

and long nose gives a smooth trip.

 Experiment: Meter stick, paper airplanes, chair, unused box

 Data Recording: Log book, pencil, calculator


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Experimental Procedure
This was the procedure I did, starting from folding up the paper airplanes to when
I finished recording my data.
1. I folded up the paper airplanes I chose to use in this experiment with 24lb Inkjet

paper. These planes all have their own key features which I thought would affect

how each one would fly.

2. After folding, I picked a spot in a hallway which I thought was long enough for

the planes to fly far and have no wind. I then marked the spot.

3. I then placed a chair on the marked spot, which held an unused box that would

block my force from going too hard. I then placed the meter stick under it on the

marked spot.

4. Next I flew the paper airplanes and measured the distance in meters. Each one

would be measured from the starting point to the front tip of itself. Record data in

log book and calculate if needed to.

5. Repeat with the other planes with each trial. Starting at the starting point holding

the box to measuring and collecting the data.


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Data Analysis

Table 2: Airplane Results


Trial Dart Duck Plane Overflight The Bat

Trial 1 (m) 4.43 4.37 3.01 2.62

Trial 2 (m) 4.07 3.72 2.24 3.82

Trial 3 (m) 4.59 3.2 1.98 3.69

Median (m) 4.43 3.72 2.24 3.69

As you can see in the charts, the Dart has the longest distance out of all the planes.
This is because of its long wings; more lift would be caused by the air pressures that go
over and under the wing. Next is the Duck Plane, which has long wings but the winglets
up front would cause the paper airplane to yaw a bit which affects the distance it goes.
After that is The Bat, which has wide wings but it is also a bit long, so there would be a
bit more lift on it to go farther. Last is the Overflight, which has wide wings and winglets,
but the wide wings are not long enough to cause lots of lift like the Dart. We can
conclude that longer wings cause airplanes to have a long and stable flight.
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Conclusion

The wing design of the paper airplane does affect its distance. Based on the results
Dart has the longest distance. From 4.07- 4.59 meters, the Dart’s long wings helped
stabilized the airplane to have a nice, long flight. This is because of its long wings, which
creates lift when low pressure air goes on top of the wing and high pressure air goes
under the wing. Even though the air still causes drag, it can’t make an effect that causes
the plane to slow down a bit after flying smoothly high in the air with a good thrust. The
Duck Plane then comes in at second place, with a distance from 3.20 to 4.37 meters. Just
like the Dart, the Duck Plane has long wings, but its front winglets set it apart from the
Dart. Based on my research, winglets help stabilize a plane’s flight from the dangerous
wingtip vortices, so there would be a reason why this model has a long, steady flight. Up
next is The Bat, which flew a distance of 2.62 to 3.82 meters. Its wide square-ish wings
give the airplane some stabilization but they are not long enough to add more lift like
with the Dart or Duck Plane. In last place is the Overflight, which flew a distance from
1.98 to 3.01 meters. Even though the wide wings cause gliding and stabilization, along
with the winglets that help steady the plane after wingtip vortices are created, the
Overflight’s wings are not long enough to create a lot of lift just like The Bat. Why do
planes with longer wings fly longer distances than planes with wider wings? Like I said,
lift is caused when low pressure air travels on the upper surface of a wing and when high
pressure air travels under the lower surface of a wing. So, a plane with short but wide
wings creates less lift as it travels than a plane with long wings because the air does not
travel farther to the tip of the wings. Thrust is what helps the plane move forward, so
thrust and lift equals a long flight. However, the plane with longer wings adds weight, so
there can be more drag if the weight is not equally distributed across the plane. The same
thing happens for planes with wide wings, but there would be more weight and drag to
cause the plane to glide. So, most glider planes should have winglets to stabilize the plane
from the weight from both the wings and the wingtip vortices. In conclusion, planes with
long wings fly farther than planes with wide wings because long wings produce more lift
and thrust to stabilize a long flight than wide wings do.
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Future Directions

As you know, I did not do the procedure somewhere with wind and a wide space.

So, I want to know if there would be a difference if I did the procedure in an open area

with wind compared to an area with a limited amount of open space and no wind. To do

this, I would test each airplane in both areas to see if there would be any differences in

the distance, performance, or anything compared to the experiment I just finished.


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Acknowledgments

I would like to thank my cousin Vince who helped in things like making graphs

and my cousin Jeff who helped me in the measuring part of the experiment. I would like

to thank my cousin Michael too who gave me some info about Science Fair. I also want

to thank my dad, who gave me some info on paper airplanes, my mom who supported

me, and my teacher Mrs. Santos who guided me in this project.


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Bibliography

Science Buddies Staff. “How Far Will It Fly? Build & Test Paper Planes with Different

Drag” Science Buddies, 17 Nov. 2017. https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-

fair-projects/project-ideas/Aero_p046/aerodynamics-hydrodynamics/how-far-will-

paper-planes-fly

Science Buddies Staff. “Why Winglets?” Science Buddies, 28 July 2017.

https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project-

ideas/Aero_p013/aerodynamics-hydrodynamics/why-airplanes-have-winglets

Boursin, Didier. Origami Paper Airplanes. Firefly Books, 2001.

Buckley, Don, Miller, Zipporah, et al. Interactive Science. Pearson, 2017

Daniel, Florida. “Re: Airplane.” Received by Tess Ylagan, 21 Jan. 2018.