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Paul MacCready's passion for building planes began at a very young age. By watching birds in flight, MacCready was able to design model airplanes of increasing complexity, setting records and winning prizes. His son, Tyler MacCready is also an accomplished inventor. After some practice, Alan learns to pilot one of the younger MacCready's mini-flyers, known as the Walkalong Glider.
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You can make your own flying creations by following these simple instructions.

What you'll need:

  • Several sheets of standard 8.5 X 11" paper
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Scotch tape
  • Scissors

The Monoplane Glider


  1. Select either of the shorter edges of a sheet of paper. Position your pencil about 1/2 inch from this edge. Use your ruler to draw a parallel line.
  2. Make five more parallel lines all about 1/2 inch apart.
  3. Fold and crease the paper's edge along the first line your drew. Fold back this creased edge and flatten the "lip" against the sheet.
  4. Fold and crease the paper along the second line. Keep the fold direction the same.

  5. FYI:
    Elementary school teachers like to call this a "roll fold" as opposed to the fan-like "accordion fold".
  6. Keep folding up the paper until you've folded along the last line. Firmly crease the stack of rolled folds so that it maintains its shape. You may need to secure it with a piece of tape.
  7. Imagine a midline that runs from the middle of the folded "leading" edge back to the middle of the trailing edge. Gently fold and crease your paper along this axis. Try not to disturb or warp the leading edge fold.
  8. To produce the "fuselage" of the glider, you'll need to fold down a wing from each side of the central crease. Make this fold along the dotted line as shown here.

  9. Add stability to the glider by adding a 1" fin that is created by folding up on the tip of both wings as shown here.
  10. Hold the glider by the fuselage and throw it gently in a horizontal direction.
  11. Experiment with increasing and reducing the number of folds.

The Ring Wing Glider

What to do:

  1. Using the same materials as above, proceed as in steps 1 through 5 of the Monoplane instructions. This time however, mark ten folding lines instead of six.
  2. Keep folding up the paper until you've folded along the last line.

  3. Gently roll this folded paper into a cylinder that resembles a large bracelet. Both ends of the folded (and leading) edge should align. Slip one of the folded edges into the other so that the pressure of the folds binds them together. You may need to secure this shape with two or three pieces of tape.
  4. Hold the glider as though it were a football and throw it gently in a horizontal direction.
  5. Test fly it again by putting some spin about the axis, as though it were a football. Do you notice any difference in its flight?

For more great paper airplane ideas, visit our Resources section.


This activity was contributed by Michael DiSpezio, a Massachusetts-based science writer and author of "Critical Thinking Puzzles" and "Awesome Experiments in Light & Sound" (Sterling Publishing Co., NY).

Special Advisor:
Peter Lissaman, Ph.D., Aerospace Engineering, University of Southern California


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