Did paper airplanes exist before powered flight invented?

Whilst I understand that paper wasn’t quite as available to the masses as it is now, surely there must have been enough bored scribes out there to experiment?

I figure they’d have been called “paper birds” rather than paper aeroplanes (aeroplane/airplane dependent on location)?

Given that I’d figure the easiest and most common paper plane design to be the Concorde lookalike swept delta wing one, how come the first powered planes were all of a completely different design - was it purely that the manufacturing of the time prohibited swept wing design or did it not enter the designers heads?

If paper planes have indeed been in existence far longer than powered flight, then the principles of gliding at least have been understood a long time - Galileo apparently had them down for a while - why did it take so long to produce the first powered planes?

I don’t know the answer to your main question (it’s something I’ve wondered about myself), but I think one of the main obstacles to powered flight was developing an engine light enough to get off the ground.

My apologies, searched the boards but forgot about the columns :slight_smile: Many thanks :slight_smile:

You’re welcome!

In the movie The Flight of the Phoenix (And, I think, the book – but it’s been a long time), Hardy Kruger’s engineer character expounds on how the very first heavier-than-air flight was by an unmanned model airplane, powered by a rubber band, decades before the Wright Brothers. I haven’t checked on the info, but it seems plausible. In other words, there were model airplanes before there were airplanes.

Well, there certainly were helicopters. I remember in a couple of Wright biographies they mentioned the pull-string propellor thingies which inspired them to pursue flying machines.

If you go to the Air and Space Museum, and check out the Origins of Flight exhibit, one of the first exhibits you will see is a replica of a little four-inch long bird which has a flat upper wing, supposedly copied after an original dating to the third century BCE. At first glance it appears to be aerodynamically accurate, and throwable. (bad photos)

However, it ain’t no damned jetfire. The wings are too short and thick for real gliding, and I think the object is now largely dismissed by many sane people as an ornamental rather than functional. Nevertheless, why the vertical rear stabilizer? This guy suggests it might have been a weather vane.

Oops. Seven inches, not four.