Extreme Science: Ring Plane

Join us every Saturday morning for Extreme Science with Radical Rick. This week Rick makes a 'Ring Plane'!

What you will need:

  1. Ring plane template – Click Here to print (add link to take viewer to ring plane template)
  2. Cellophane tape
  3. Adult supervision


  1. After printing out your ring plane template, lay your template flat on the table printed side up.  Fold the top edge of the paper down to the line as shown.  Crease your fold by rubbing your finger over the freshly folded edge.

  2. Repeat previous step to create another fold as shown:

  3. Repeat previous step AGAIN to create another fold as shown:

  4. Your template should now look like this:

  5. Holding each end of your paper (flame side up) rub the paper back and forth over the edge of a table several times.  This will cause your paper to curve.

  6. Bring the ends together to create a cylinder shape overlapping the ends slightly.  Place a piece of cellophane tape over the seam to hold your ring plane together.  Using your fingers and thumbs, work your way around the folded edge of your ring plane to smooth the edge to help create a nicely rounded shape ring plane as shown:

  7. Try throwing your ring plane to see how well it will fly.  It will fly a lot better if you spin it when you throw it using your wrist.  Make sure to throw your plane with the folded edge in front.

What is going on?

This is a unique paper airplane.  A typical paper airplane has wings that the lift when thrown.  Since this ring plane does not have your typical wings, if you try throwing it as you would a normal paper airplane, you will notice that it doesn’t fly very well.  By spinning your ring plane, you are actually creating a vortex.  Basically, you are causing the air to spin.  Bernoulli’s principal states that faster moving air has less pressure.  By causing the air in and around your ring plane to spin, it is creating a low pressure area, which helps provide the necessary lift for your ring plane. 

The spinning action also helps provide stability in your ring plane.  Since spinning objects tend to want to rotate around an axis, it will resist having that axis tilted, similar to a bicycle wheel.  Think about how much easier it is to balance on a fast-moving bike verses a slow-moving, or stationary bike.  This is because the fast spinning bicycle wheels will resist being tilted onto their side, which of course, helps to keep you upright.

Try this:

Unlike regular paper airplanes, ring planes can actually be made fairly small and still fly pretty well.  See how small you can make a ring plane and still have it fly.