National Paper Airplane Day

Celebrate National Paper Airplane Day every May 26th by folding a cool paper airplane, grabbing a friend, and participating in one of these fun activities.

Kids and adults of all ages have been folding and flying paper airplanes for more than 150 years. National Paper Airplane Day is an unofficial holiday celebrated every May 26th to bring some attention to this enjoyable pastime. We want you to have a ton of fun on this day, so please continue reading for suggestions of paper airplane activities and games that you can play with your family and friends.

National Paper Airplane Day (May 26)
What will you do on Paper Airplane Day?

A Short History of Paper Airplanes

A children's book published in 18591 gave instructions for folding the Basic Dart, so the activity was probably in common usage for some time before this. In other words, people have been enjoying paper airplanes for a long time. Here is a short history of the hobby.

  • 105 - Invention of paper in China.
  • 200-650 - Paper kites were invented and flown throughout China. Some of them were big enough to carry a person up in the air! Others were used to send signals over long distances, or even to drop messages.
  • 1480s - Leonardo DaVinci studied flight and produced over 200 sketches in his notebooks of flying machines. His ornithopter and helicopter designs used paper as a construction material for the wings.
Leonardo DaVinci Ornithopther
Leonardo DaVinci Ornithopther
Leonardo DaVinci Helicopter
Leonardo DaVinci Helicopter
  • 1859 - Possibly the first printed instructions for folding a paper airplane appears in a book of activities for children. It was called a "paper dart" because the word "airplane" hadn't been invented yet. 1
First published paper airplane instructions
Games and Sports for Young Boys 1859
  • 1873 - First usage of the phrase "paper aeroplane". 2
  • 1903 - The Wright brothers famous flight at Kitty Hawk. Prior to their first flight, the Wright brothers built many paper models which they tested in their home built wind tunnel. 3
  • 1907 - First usage of the phrase "paper airplane". 4
  • 1930s - Famous aircraft designer Jack Northrop began experimenting with paper models as a means of quickly testing aerodynamic shapes and structures.
  • 1950s - Usage of the term "paper dart" fades out and "paper airplane" becomes the dominant term. 5
  • 1966 - Scientific American took out a full page ad in The New York Times calling for entries into the "1st International Paper Airplane Competition". The news spread around the world and became a small sensation. More than 12,000 entries were received and the event was televised and reported on by hundreds of papers and magazines.
  • 2010 - The record for the longest flight time of a paper airplane was set in December of 2010. That paper airplane stayed aloft for 29.2 seconds. 6
  • 2011 - Two hundred paper airplanes were release from a weather balloon over Germany. Some of them allegedly landed in North America and Australia! 7
  • 2012 - This Fold'N Fly website was created.
Fold'N Fly's first website
Fold'N Fly's First Website
  • 2012 - First known year when International Paper Airplane Day was celebrated.
  • 2013 - The largest paper aircraft was flown in September of 2013. It had a wingspan of 59.74 feet and flew nearly as far. 9
  • 2015 - The highest altitude paper airplane launch was in June 2015. It was released from a weather balloon at 35,043 meters (21.8 miles) above ground. 10
Highest Altitude Paper Airplane
Launched from near space
2) Etymology of aeroplane Online Etymology Dictionary
3) History of the Paper Airplane Disciples of Flight
4) Etymology of airplane Online Etymology Dictionary
6) Longest flight of a paper airplane Guinness World Records
8) Farthest flying paper airplane Guinness World Records
9) Largest paper airplane Guinness World Records
10) Highest altitude paper airplane launch Guinness World Records

The Best Paper Airplane

If you are going to challenge your friend, or just want to see how far you can throw your paper airplane, you probably want to know which design is the best. After all, there are more than 50 paper airplane designs on this website, and they can't all be the best, right?

Something to keep in mind is that the best paper airplane for distance and the best paper airplane for doing aerial tricks are two totally different paper planes! We wrote an entire article about the best paper airplanes for every situation, so head over there to check it out. But, if you want the quick answer keep reading.

The Bird Paper Airplane Thumbnail
The Bird
Furthest Flying Paper Airplane

The paper airplane that reliably flies the furthest, in our testing, is The Bird. This design can glide a long ways, and it's pretty quick and easy to fold too. With the wind at your back, throw this paper plane as hard as you can, at a 45° angle. This will be the best way to send it soaring through the sky.

If your plane doesn't go in a straight line, you can make small bends to the tips of the wings. Read our article on steering your paper airplanes to become an expert.

Don't like "The Bird"? Try out the Stealth Glider or the Sonic Jet. And you can never go wrong with the Basic Dart. It's a classic!

Paper Airplane Party Games & Activities

Throwing paper airplanes through rings

Now that you know which paper airplane is the best, it's time to grab a friend and challenge them to a paper airplane throwing contest! The most common type of contest is to see who can throw it the furthest, but you can also use a stopwatch to see who's paper airplane stays aloft the longest. Or, go for accuracy and see who can throw their paper plane through a hoop, or closest to a target.

Just want to show off your artistic side? Grab some art supplies and decorate your paper airplanes in interesting ways. Once you are finished, you can thread them on a string and hang them across the room. This is a fun room decoration that can show off your favorite designs.

Airplane Wordsearch Puzzle Thumbnail

How about a puzzle? We have created a bunch of tricky airplane themed puzzles that will really boggle your brain. Try a crossword puzzle, a wordsearch or some of our other unique creations. We have easy puzzles and hard puzzles, so there will be something for all ages to try.

Interested in more activities? Check out our article on paper airplane party games for more inspiration. You can have a relay race, play pin-the-tail-on-the-airplane, or pop some balloons! There are so many ways to have fun with paper airplanes.

Happy Flying!

We hope that you take advantage of National Paper Airplane day and get outdoors to enjoy some fresh air with a friend. Take your favorite paper airplane and have some fun!

Get creative and invent a new paper airplane design, or decorate your aircraft. If you feel like sharing your creations on social media, please tag your photo with #foldnfly so that we can check it out.

Kids Throwing Paper Airplanes

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