Did you know that May 26 is National Paper Airplane Day? These fun, folded model planes are a favorite pastime for many children (and many adults, too), and a classic way to transform paper into something extraordinary. To celebrate, we’ve rounded up a few fun facts about paper airplanes. How many of these facts do you know?
The largest paper airplane was nearly 60 feet wide. According to Guinness, the largest recorded paper aircraft was constructed by the students and employees of the Braunschweig Institute of Technology in Braunschweig, Germany, on 28 September 2013. It had a wing span of 18.21 m (59.74 ft), flew 18 m (59.05 ft), and took 14 people 1,200 hours to build.
The record for longest paper airplane flight was just broken in December 2022. A trio of young engineers, Dillon Ruble, Garrett Jensen, and Nathaniel Erickson, broke the record on December 2, 2022. The trio spent nearly 500 hours studying origami and aerodynamics and crafting prototypes. Their final design flew 88 m (289 ft, 9 inches) and remained aloft for approximately 6 seconds.
The longest duration of a paper airplane flight is 29.2 seconds. Guinness World Records reports that the longest flight of a paper airplane recorded so far is just shy of 30 seconds. The flight was achieved by Takuo Toda in the Sapporo Dome in Fukuyama City, Hiroshima, Japan, on 19 December 2010.
Precursors to the paper airplane date back centuries or millennia. According to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, the origins of the paper airplane are somewhat debated. Some credit the ancient Chinese with the invention, over 2,000 years ago, while others say it originated with Leonardo da Vinci. What we do know is that the first record of the paper airplane in its familiar, modern form began with Jack Northrop, co-founder of aeronautics giant Lockheed, in the early 1930s.
Paper airplanes aren’t just for fun. Although they are a lot of fun, paper airplanes (also called paper gliders) actually have significant practical applications. Historically, they were used in the first half of the twentieth century as test models and basic structural samples for real aircraft. Today, they still can be used as excellent tools for modeling aerodynamic forces, practicing scale modeling, and many other uses.
 “Largest paper aircraft.” Guinness World Records, https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/largest-paper-aircraft.
 Nicioli, Taylor. “Paper airplane designed by Boeing engineers breaks world distance record.” CNN, 14 April 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/04/14/world/paper-airplane-boeing-engineers-world-record-scn/index.html.
 “Longest flying paper airplane – duration.” Guinness World Records, https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/longest-time-flying-a-paper-aircraft.
 “Who invented the paper airplane?” Smithsonian Institute, 17 March 2014, https://howthingsfly.si.edu/ask-an-explainer/who-created-paper-airplane-0.