How to Make a Classic Dart Paper Airplane

simple paper airplane

Dana Hinders / The Spruce

Overview
  • Working Time: 10 mins
  • Total Time: 10 mins
  • Yield: 1 paper airplane
  • Skill Level: Kid-friendly

The classic paper airplane using a handful straight folds on a standard 8.5- by 11-inch sheet of paper is the one that most of us learn how to fold as children. It is called a dart airplane, due both to its shape and flight pattern. The reason for its broad popularity is that the dart plant is a very easy model to fold, even if you have no prior knowledge of origami. In fact, many children who make play with dart paper planes have no idea that it falls under the category of origami

Paper Airplane Facts

Paper airplanes are more than just simple, inexpensive children's toys. They have a surprisingly interesting history.  For example, paper airplanes were used by the Wright brothers for development research before their first successful airplane flight on December 17, 1903. And during the 1930s, Jack Northrop is said to have used paper airplane models to test the aerodynamics of the larger aircraft he was building for the Lockheed Corporation. 

Paper airplanes are more than just simple, inexpensive children's toys. They have a surprisingly interesting history.  For example, paper airplanes were used by the Wright brothers for development research before their first successful airplane flight on December 17, 1903. And during the 1930s, Jack Northrop is said to have used paper airplane models to test the aerodynamics of the larger aircraft he was building for the Lockheed Corporation. 

What You'll Need

Materials

  • 1 sheet 8.5 inch x 11 inch paper

Instructions

The classic dart paper plane is made with a single sheet of letter-sized copy paper—the familiar 8.5 by 11-inch paper we all use. Plain white printer paper is fine, although children often like to decorate their planes with different colored designs.

Dart plane diagram
Ushakaron/Wikimedia Commons/CC0 1.0
  1. Fold Your Paper in Half Vertically

    Fold a sheet of paper in half vertically, along the long axis. Unfold and lay the sheet flat.

  2. Fold Corners to Meet it the Center

    Fold the left and right corners down to meet at the center crease. Firmly flatten the folded edges so there are sharp diagonal creases.

  3. Fold Diagonal Edges to Meet in the Center

    Fold the top diagonal edges down to meet in the center, aligned with the center crease. Again, firmly press the fold to create a sharp crease. 

  4. Fold the Paper Back Away From the Center

    Fold the paper back against the center valley crease, and lay the folded paper on one side.

  5. Fold One Diagonal Side Down for Your First Wing

    To complete the first wing, fold the diagonal side down so that it aligns with the center fold. Press firmly to make a crisp crease.

  6. Complete the Same Step for the Opposite Wing

    Flip the plane over and repeat to form the opposite wing. Make sure the wings are shaped symmetrically to ensure straight, level flight. 

  7. Test Out Your Plane and Embellish

    Test fly your plane. If you wish, you can add paper clips or tape to the wing of the plane to add extra weight, which may improve its aerodynamics and make it fly better.

    simple paper airplane
    Dana Hinders

How to Make a Dart Paper Airplane With Square Paper

A paper airplane made from square paper is folded much the same way as a dart plane, but this design is designed more for slow, hanging flight rather than quick, dart-like flight. 

Plane with square paper diagram
Wikimedia Commons
  1. Fold Your Paper in Half Vertically

    Fold the paper in half vertically, along the long axis. Unfold and lay the sheet flat, with the folds corners facing up. 

  2. Fold the Corners in to Meet at the Center

    Fold the left and right corners down to meet at the center crease. Firmly flatten the folded edges so there are sharp diagonal creases.

  3. Fold the Paper Back Away From the Center

    Fold the paper back against the center valley crease and lay the folded paper on one side. 

  4. Fold in One Wing

    Bend one wing over to make a crease that is parallel to the center crease and about 1 inch from it. 

  5. Open the Wings and Flip Over Your Plane

    Open up the wings, then flip the airplane over.

  6. Fold in the Wing That Has Not Yet Been Folded

    Bend the opposite wing over to match the crease in the first wing. 

  7. Straighten the Wings and Test Fly

    Straighten up the wings so they are parallel to the body, and test-fly your airplane. Here, too, you can use tape or a paper clip to experiment with adding weight at different points to see how it affects the aerodynamics of the plane. 

    Tip

    Any number of folding variations are possible with square paper, such as Logan's simple paper airplane, a slightly modified dart plane. Or, you can experiment with turning up the outer edges of the airplane wings to improve its stability. 

Paper Airplanes Folded From Currency Bills

money origami airplane
Dana Hinders

To make a money paper airplane, simply fold a dollar bill in half before completing the standard steps for making a classic dart paper airplane. You will need to have a crisp, new bill for this model to be able to fly, however. A wrinkled bill will come apart when you try to fold it.

A paper airplane made from a currency bill makes for a fun tip for your restaurant server or a special cash gift for a friend or family member.

Variations

paper airplane
Wikimedia Commons

After learning how to make a basic dart paper airplane, you can move on to folding more complicated designs. Many designs for intermediate or advanced origami enthusiasts build on the basic dart plane design.

Paper Airplanes Headquarters has instructions for making five versions of the dart plane.

  • Hammerhead paper airplane
  • Barracuda paper airplane
  • Manta ray paper airplane
  • Marlin paper airplane
  • Bottlenose paper airplane