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Formula for Paper Airplane Flight?

  1. Apr 2, 2008 #1
    Hey first time poster long time reader, I have a question on the physics behind this shockwave applet. Are there a series or set of equations that could approximate something that is done in this applet?

    http://www.workman.com/etcetera/games/fliersclub/ [Broken]

    I don't think air resistance is a factor in this, however I do know that when the elevators are set to 0, the plane behaves like a typical projectile motion simulation.

    This has been bugging me for quite some time, as I can't understand what equations they would be using to simulate such a thing.

    Anway's any comments are greatly appreciated.

    Thanks for your help
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 2, 2008 #2


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    Well, in a mechanically perfect paper airplane, the wings have zero attack angle. So it will behave as if it has no lift. You've got to adjust it so that it lifts.
  4. Apr 2, 2008 #3
    So thats why the airplane was acting like a projectile. would there be any equations to back up what is going on when there is lift involved with the loops?

    Thanks for your help
  5. Apr 2, 2008 #4


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    Oh, I have no idea. I didn't even get the Shockwave app to run.

    But I have a question for you: When you say projectile path, I assume you mean ballistic - i.e. the path a normal, thrown object would follow. But a ballistic path is simply a parabolic path.

    Are you sure that a paper airplane isn't following a parabolic path? Granted, it may be a long gentle one because it has lift, but does the Shockwave movie accurately portray glide distance vs. altitude?

    I wonder what the path of a paper airplane would look like if we measured it. Something tells me that the farther it travels, the more its pitch will be downward - which is parabolic (even if it's not ballistic).
  6. Apr 2, 2008 #5
    yay, fun
    thanks for sharing that
    I don't know the answer to your question, but check out
    angle=90 thrust=90 elevator=16
    my paper airplanes never do that =)
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