Numerous factors affect the distance that a “paper airplane” will fly. The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) discusses the characteristics of any “glider,” or any aircraft without an engine. NASA notes that an engine provides “thrust,” which an aircraft without any engine does not have. The other three forces that act on an aircraft are the same: “lift,” “drag,” and “weight.”
Every aspect of the paper airplane’s materials and construction affects the physics of flight. Factors include the kind and weight of the paper, the size of the sheet, and the number and types of folds. Guinness World Records lists the current world’s record as 69.14 meters (226 feet, 10 inches).
One way to consider the project is through the definition of distance. What “flies the farthest” can relate both to the definition of “flight," or the total distance the aircraft remains aloft, and of “farthest,” or the distance from the location from which the plane was launched to the landing point. Recent attention to these variables, including dropping a paper glide from a balloon, another airplane, or even the International Space Station, has occupied scientists and designers, including origami specialists in Japan.