Sticky Note Aircraft

This post is about neither LEGO nor Macs. Brace yourself.

I started thinking about this when we made paper airplanes at my job last week. (I wasn’t goofing off, I just have an awesome job.) I went looking for paper airplane designs on the web and I was sadly unimpressed. Note Planes has a wide variety of airplanes listed, but far too many have a listed range as “5 feet.” What good is making a paper airplane if it can’t even fly across a room? The maximum range listed for any plane is 40 feet, but those are made from 4 notes. In my opinion, that’s a whole different category, so I set out to test my own designs using only one sticky note.

I don’t like to brag, but I designed two superior planes back in high school english class. Obviously Note Planes hasn’t been updated in a while, but these outclass anything I’ve found online. My apartment is only 35 feet from wall to wall, but I’m convinced I could get 40+ feet out of either of my designs.

Here’s how to make the first. I called it the Ocelot for some reason, and that’s a sufficiently cool name. It’s a very sleek plane that generates almost no lift. Instead, its advantage lies in its low air resistance and straight flight path. It manages to hit the opposite wall of my apartment with enough velocity to crumple the nose, and so far its range is limited only by that, the low arc to avoid the ceiling, and arm strength.

Fold a standard sticky note along the center, bisecting the sticky part and folding it inside (valley fold). It should be easy enough to line up the two sticky corners and make a precise fold. Then unfold.


Next, take take the two sticky corners and fold them into the centerline. This is a pretty standard way to make a paper airplane so far.


Fold the center crease back into the valley fold, then fold down the wings (mountain fold) about one cm away and parallel with the centerline.


Repeat this and you end up with a “W” shape when viewed head-on. Make sure the folds are creased well, since these form the main body of the airplane.


Next, fold the wings outwards so they resemble a narrow right triangle. This will make the wings smaller and stiffer.


Repeat again so the wings match. Keep creasing the wings, since all this folding will misalign some of the folds.


Fold the wings downward, making the fold halfway between the top and bottom of the central “W” peak. This way the wings are centered on the body.


After the wings are level, take the nose tip and fold it downwards and inwards as shown. I like to make the fold match the angle of the wings, but it can be any angle you desire.


Fold all the way down so it sticks past the bottom, and crease well.


Now fold it back up again, starting flush with the bottom of the airplane. The projecting triangle will be smaller, and stick straight up.


Repeat this step as many times as necessary to achieve a sleek nose to the airplane. The folds will get increasingly difficult to crease, but press as hard as possible. These folds give the nose a lot of concentrated weight, which is essential for such a small airplane to fly.


Your airplane should now look like this. Make sure the wings are of equal size, because any spiral in flight will drastically reduce range.


Next, make a cut about 3/4 cm from the back. Cut down the center, stopping halfway between the last two creases. Don’t cut all the way to the last fold.


Now reverse the creases in the cut portion and bring it down to form a stabilizing tail underneath the plane. This large tail keeps the flight path straight, and it works better hanging down than it does pointing up.


I usually do another fold where the cut is to mirror the nose, but it won’t affect how the plane flies.


Position the wings as shown. When the airplane expands after you let go, the wings will still be angled slightly upwards, which is ideal.


Hold near the nose, and throw it as hard as you’d like. Its range is almost totally dependent on how fast you toss it. If it doesn’t fly straight or far, adjust the wings to fix it. Often it helps to bend the backs of the wings up slightly, since the downward tail produces significant drag. Small airplanes often require a lot of tweaking to make them fly perfectly.


You’re done! I’ll post a step-by-step tutorial on how to make another plane eventually, which I believe to be a slightly better design overall. It’s not as easy to throw though!

One Comment on “Sticky Note Aircraft”

  1. […] Sticky Note Aircraft: I take a certain pride in crafting exceptional tiny paper airplanes. This one is called the Ocelot, and I intend to eventually follow up with one or two more. […]

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