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Some students learn best when they can see aerodynamic principles in action. I'd really like to be able to show a student how a spin occurs.

Is there a way to make a paper airplane that will enter a developed spin?

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Awesome question. I'd guess it should be possible, but perhaps not easy. It needs to have just the right amount of pitch authority to keep the wing "stalled" without pulling it into tight loops. It also needs a center of mass slightly forward of the center of lift so that it pitches down in a stall. Then theoretically all you need is a little roll/yaw input (make a flap on the vertical fin). Are you good with paper airplanes? I'm not :) Looking forward to some real answers! –  dvnrrs May 7 '14 at 19:55
(That said, I am such a student... but I think it would be just fine for an instructor to show me by holding the paper (or model) airplane and talking through the steps slowly, moving the airplane through the motions. This would be really cool for its own sake, but maybe not strictly necessary for educational illustration. The paper airplane is going to move pretty fast, and it will be hard to "see" the crucial concept that the wing(s) are stalled due to high AoA and one wing is stalled "more" than the other.) –  dvnrrs May 7 '14 at 20:01
Balsa wood is probably better than paper. –  DJClayworth May 7 '14 at 21:23
Possibly irrelevant but Towards Disposable Low-Cost Folded Cellulose-Substrate UAVs has some discussion of flight modes in section 3.3. –  RedGrittyBrick May 8 '14 at 13:26

1 Answer 1

I don't know if this will work for you, but I used to put little tears towards the body on the leading edge of the paper airplanes I made. Then I'd bend the leading edge of the wing down a bit to create a stronger airfoil. I'd do this simply to increase lift at low speed, kind of like slats. But I wonder, if you put a tear on only one side and adjusted it properly, perhaps you could make it so that one wing stalls out before the other?

Or, perhaps to be a bit more accurate, you could just go with tears on both sides but adjust one down further than the other. That way it's pretty apparent that on wing is developing more lift at low speed.

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