The science of planes

BANGOR, Maine (WABI) – Kirsten Hibbard from the Challenger Learning Center was in the TV5 studio to show us an experiment that helps explain the forces involved with the flight of airplanes.

Topic: Thrust, Lift, Drag and Gravity

Build: Paper Airplanes

Materials Needed: Paper / scissors

Make a “dart” paper airplane: Using the link above, make your paper airplane dart design by folding a standard 8.5” x 1” paper. After making the first airplane, make a second airplane with 1 minor change. Next make a third airplane, with 1 different minor change from the first airplane. Each time making only 1 change at a time from the original design. Next mark a standard starting point, and decided on your throwing technique. Next is time to test out your designs. While using the same throwing technique for each airplane, test to see which design when the furthest!

The science:

The same forces that help real airplanes fly are also the forces that help paper airplanes- thrust, lift, drag and gravity. “When you throw a paper plane in the air, you are giving the plane a push to move forward. That push is a type of force called thrust. While the plane is flying forward, air moving over and under the wings is providing an upward lift force on the plane. At the same time, air pushing back against the plane is slowing it down, creating a drag force. The weight of the paper plane also affects its flight, as gravity pulls it down toward Earth.” You can test out designs by creating an experiment of design.

Experiment credit:

Upcoming at the Challenger Learning Center of Maine:

Challenger is holding its 2nd annual Makerspace and Tech sale. Come to this great event of making and creating on Jan 12, 2019.

For more information, visit