Fighter Jet Paper Airplane Instructions -

Utterly pedantic

About this page.

The design of the fighter jet paper airplane on this page is not mine. It comes from another paper airplane page. However, the instructions at that site are quite hard to follow. Plus, I've standardized the instructions somewhat so there is no variability left in the design. Congratulations to that site's designer, as he's devised a really nifty airplane. This page merely gives better instructions that will help you make the airplane. I hope you enjoy the end result!

Preliminary instructions.

Start with an 8.5" by 11" piece of unlined paper with no holes in it. (Normal printer paper works excellent and is what I've used here.) It is important that is it flat and uncrumpled, and that you do not introduce unnecessary warping during this process. (The sweat from your hands can curl the paper in unwanted ways.) Additionally, it is extremely important that you make extremely accurate folds, down to and beyond millimeter precision. Remember to crease all folds sharply, using your fingernails or a sharp edge (the ruler I use in the following photos was useful). Also, don't label your plane as you go along. There's only one point where faint lines are somewhat necessary (making the fuselage), and only one other point where a small tick mark may be useful (making the wing edges). The visuals I provide along the way are probably self-explanatory but I'll narrate them as I go along because it can be a tricky process. A dotted line means a valley fold, while a solid line means a "mountain" fold. Well, here we go.


The Final Result!
The final result we're working for.

Okay. That's what you're making should turn out to be. Notice how it has two cool guns, hence my name "fighter jet" for it. It also has an unusual tail that you may not have seen before; it adds a great deal of stability to the plane (believe it or not it flies well if you make it well). The guns are rather more hard to make than the tail. Here's what that looks like unfolded:

The Folds
The complete set of folds we'll end up with.

Well, start with your piece of paper. By the way, unless I say so (and I will a couple of times), my ruler is only in the images to hold paper down to be photographed. We need to make a long fold in the paper. Do it precisely, as with all folds.

The First Fold
The first fold to make.

Crease it nicely, because as you're probably guessing this is the "main" fold for the airplane and is also the line of symmetry. Now, my ruler gets to play a part in this, as its position has not changed in this image:

Making The First Fold
How to make the first fold.

Now you should see what I mean by "valley fold", as there was a dotted line there before. (Ignore the above image's apparent lack of precision - when you fold the paper, the edges of the paper must line up EXACTLY. Any deviation with this fold will mean a lopsided airplane. Since my ruler is showing you how to fold the paper, it can't hold the paper flat. In reality I made a very precise fold there.) From now on I won't show step-by-step images of making folds as you have the idea already. Unfold the paper now, so it looks like it did two images above. (You're looking down at a valley now.) Now we need to do an interesting fold. We need to take the lower-left corner of the paper and fold it to the center fold, but also in a way that we get a sharp corner at the lower-right. The lower-left corner, it turns out, must go on the center fold 3 and 10/16ths of an inch from the top. This point is extremely special and I have marked it in the following image. Don't measure 3 10/16ths as it may be somewhere slightly different depending on the precise dimensions of your paper. The sharp corner at the lower-right is what matters as long as the lower-left corner is exactly on the center fold. Here:

A Hard Fold!
Precision is key.

Okay. Crease the paper (always crease it when making a fold and I won't mention it again) and leave it folded. Now look at the edge and new point marked in the following image:

Notice This Edge And Point
Notice the edge and point I've marked.

Great. Now, unfold the paper. The key to the next fold is that the edge I just marked must lie exactly on top of the center fold and that the new point I marked must lie on top of the crucial 3 10/16ths point. If you do this, the point I mark "Pt. 2" in the following image will naturally be very nice. Also, what was the lower-left corner of the paper must touch the right edge of the paper. And look at what Edge 2 does:

An Interesting Fold!
This fold turns out to be extremely crucial - be careful, as it will form the wing of the airplane.

I must reiterate that the edge must lie exactly on top of the center fold, the point must lie on top of the crucial 3 10/16ths point, and that the lower-left corner of the paper must now touch the right edge of the paper but not extend past it. This is all to make "Pt. 2" very nice. Now, unfold the paper and do exactly the same two folds mirror-reversed. Unfold the paper and you'll get what's in the next image:

Five Folds Done!
The basic folds are complete. Now for the fancy stuff.

See how all the folds intersect at what I labeled "Pt. 2"? (That label is underneath the paper in this image). That's why it was so important to get right - it's hard to have five lines intersect at exactly the same point. Now, all the folds in the above picture are valley folds, but we're going to make two of them mountain folds. The following image is unchanged except for the addition of my markings:

Changing Two Folds
Changing a valley into a mountain fold and vice versa is a skill that must be mastered to make this airplane.

Okay, now we need to do a maneuver to make those valley folds into mountain folds as I've indicated above with solid lines. It's hard to describe in words, but the paper will do it "naturally". (If I had to put words to it, I'd say: look at the two folds that end closest to the top of the paper. Fold those as valleys. Then take the edges marked as mountain folds and bring them together, as they will eventually touch.) Here is an image from half-way through this maneuver:

A Special Maneuver
This goes naturally, as you should find out.

Great. (That isn't nearly as hard to do as it is to describe.) Here is what it looks like when the maneuver is complete and all folds are neatly creased. My ruler is keeping everything flat, as usual:

Maneuver Complete!
This is an unusual start for an airplane, no? It gets better.

Now's as good a time as any to make the edges of the wing. This is the only place where a slight pencil marking will be needed for you. Make a dot 3cm from the edge of each wing and fold a flap nice and straight. (The trailing edge of the wing, as should be apparent now, should lie flush with the 1.5cm edge of the flap.) Here is what it looks like when I draw a dotted line 1.5cm from the side edge:

Making Flaps
This is how I'm illustrating it; you should only need a small tickmark at 3cm.

You can draw a line at 1.5cm as I've done in light pencil, but it's rather unnecessary right now. Here's what I meant by making everything nice and straight, as here are finished flaps:

Flaps Finished!
Good, the flaps are done.

Now, after you crease the flap folds, they'll want to remain naturally flat as in the image. (No ruler's holding them down there; my ruler is only keeping the front part of the plane flat.) Keep them that way. You'll want to "fluff" them out to a nice 90 degrees only when you're finished: fluffing them out now will get them damaged later, trust me. Now I add a dotted line:

Adding a Dotted Line
Preparing a new fold.

That is what we'll be folding next. We'll be folding rather thick layers, so accuracy is more important than ever. Three things are important in this fold: that the left corner produced is sharp, that the right corner produced is sharp, and that the point you're folding up ends up on top (predictably) of the crucial 3 10/16ths point. The following image shows all three done perfectly:

Foldy Foldy!
Accuracy is everything.

In particular, you really want the left and right points to be sharp, as they're the fighter jet's guns. The sharper they are, the cooler looking. And, of course, the most difficult folds of the airplane involve those guns and if the points are sharp now, the difficult folds won't be quite so annoying. Now, take the left "gun" (I know it doesn't look like one now) and fold it to the right as shown in the image below. Two things are crucial: that the point now at the bottom-left end up exactly where I mark, and that the bottom edge remains on top of the bottom edge. (This is to produce a fold that is perpendicular to the bottom edge, you see? You wouldn't want the fighter jet's guns to be all skew and crud.)

Preparing The Guns
A rather simple fold.

Do the exact same thing to the other "gun", remembering to be precise. The result is shown below:

Think it's easy now? It won't be for long.

Now comes the really hard part. "Open up" the left flap with your finger. No folds are being produced right now. See what I mean in the following image. Your plane should look exactly the same as mine right now; don't bend the gun "open" much more than I've done here:

Preparation For A Fold
We're leading up to a weird fold indeed.

Now comes a hard-to-describe part. You need to change your line of sight; everything so far you've done more or less looking down at the plane. Now you need to place your head near the trailing edge of the plane's wing (away from the guns, which are at the front), and look in the direction of the guns. Your line of sight should be rather parallel to the paper and not perpendicular to it. Now, DON'T FOLD ANYTHING YET, but here's what you're going to WANT to get, once you've returned your line of sight to the usual top-down mode:

A Squishing Fold?
Don't make this fold yet; the next image will show you how to do this.

Okay. Now, from your "weird" line of sight, look "into" the gun. You want the top crease to lie flush with the bottom crease; this is essential if you don't want a deformed gun. The following image shows you what you'll see as you make this fold. I lie: this was actually taken AFTER I made this fold, hence the creases at the sides. Once you are sure that the top and bottom creases are lying exactly on top of each other, pin them down with a finger, return to a normal point of view, and then smooth out the gun, producing the two new folds that make a "magical" appearance in the following picture:

Gun Preparation
This fold isn't as hard to do as it is to describe.

Now your plane should look like mine did two images above. Note how two right angles made their appearance two images above; all that voodoo about looking "into" the gun and making sure that the creases lined up inside was to ensure that the angles drawn two images above are right angles. Do the same voodoo fold to the other gun. Okay. Now we need to further prepare the guns. Starting with the left, as I've done before, here is what you must do:

More Gun Preparation
As I show, you must bring the left edge to the center of the gun, producing a valley fold.

Then you must do so with the right edge of the left gun, and then two more times for the right gun. The following image will help clarify. In the following image, the right gun shows an intermediate step (actually, it's the finished thing unfolded somewhat), while the left gun shows the finished step. (My ruler as usual is just holding down paper.)

Sharpening The Guns
Next up: really hard stuff!

Now comes the HARDEST step of making the entire airplane. I told you the guns were tricky. In the following image I have drawn a new dotted line. Note where its left and right ends are. You are going to need to make that valley fold and I'll show you how to.

A Mysterious Dotted Line!
What is going on here?

Unfold the gun as shown in the next image.

Yes, it's an interesting maneuver we'll be doing next.

The following image is unchanged except for the fact that I've put my ruler under the dotted line. It's not holding down paper here; its position in the following image and the image below that will not change. In practice, I use two fingers to keep the paper under the dotted line stationary while I move the paper above the dotted line. You'll see what I mean.

Ruler Placement
My ruler gets to play its most important role here: placeholder!

Following is the tricky "inversion" maneuver in practice. Note that what were valley folds on the gun (two for each gun that I had you make a little before in "sharpening" the gun), now still have to be valley folds, but from the opposite side of the paper! This COMBINED with the weird dotted line stuff I'm pulling would be hard enough, but it gets better. You cannot perform the inversion maneuver simply by folding over the dotted line and taking care of the "sharpening" folds. Perform it half-way as I show below:

A Two-Step Fold!
Very difficult indeed.

Good. In the following image you will see that the "sharpening" folds (two for each gun) have been completely flipped to the "other" side of the paper, which is now the side facing up. My ruler shows that they can lie flat. HOWEVER, the upper part of the gun will NOT want to lie flat as it's never been creased there before!

The Paper Refuses!
The guns ARE complex, I told you.

You want to make the upper part of the gun lie flat. Crease it to produce the following:

The Paper Complies!
Ah, excellent!

Do the same to the other gun, producing:

Two Guns Almost Done
The guns are ALMOST complete!

Now, fold the inner edge of the gun outward and crease well. In the following image, the right gun shows a half-way step while the left gun shows this "fold the inner edge outward" voodoo completed.

Guns Are Done!
Guess what...

The guns are done! Whoo hoo! But we don't have a plane yet. In the following image, you'll see a new dotted line (this is on the center fold, which I always told you was going to be a valley fold), but you'll also see a solid line. Holy cow! Yes, this is how we make the special tail.

Preparing The Tail
Not so hard after you've done the guns, trust me.

Now, the plane does have a fuselage (in a commercial jet this is the tube that all the passengers sit in), but we have to make it so that the wings are positioned a special way. This is the only time when faint pencil lines are in order. As shown in the following image, draw two tick marks each 1.5cm from the center fold at the front of the plane, and two tick marks each 2.5cm from the center fold at the back of the plane. Connect them with extremely accurate but light pencil lines. Don't experiment with these distances; I already have, and these work the very best.

The Fuselage!

Now, only two more pencil lines for the tail and we're done. Draw them as shown in the following image (I use dotted ink to show where valley folds will be; you should just use solid but faint pencil lines.) They must both meet at the "crucial point".

More Lines
That's all the pencil lines necessary.

Okay. For now, fold the plane in half. (We'll make that special mountain fold for the tail soon enough.) Crease well.

Almost there.

Now, make the fuselage by folding on those 1.5cm-2.5cm diagonal lines you drew in faint pencil. Do them sharply and don't let the thickness at the front cause trouble. You should get what's in the following image:

Fuselage Made!
This is the fuselage.

Now we just need to make the tail. From the lines that I've drawn this should be self-explanatory. As for physically doing it, I suggest that you pinch the front together, letting the tail end bend apart, and then use your other hand to push up the tail. Make sure you fold exactly as my lines have indicated; the dotted valley folds must really touch the 2.5cm tick marks you made, and the tail, as it gets smaller and smaller as you reach the front of the plane, can only "disappear" at the "crucial point". The following image shows you the tail in greater detail:

Tail Inversion
This is EASY after doing the guns!

And here is the tail from the underside of the plane:

More Tail Inversion

This is what you should get after making the tail (I've folded the plane on its side here):

Now To Fluffify!
We're almost done.

Return your plane to a "normal" configuration. If you hold the fuselage together, the wings should be parallel, both being perpendicular to the fuselage (otherwise you'll get crooked flight). Now is the time to fluff the wing flaps; they should be perpendicular to the wing. Here is what my example plane looks like now:

The Finished Product?
Is this really finished?

It's not exactly finished. You can use extremely small slivers of Scotch Tape (or, if you want a more sturdy plane, slivers of 3M Super Strength Packaging Tape; in any case, use scissors to cut small slivers) to pin together the fuselage, to hold the guns together and to the wing, and to hold the tail together. Such a plane is the "final product" indeed, and I show it below:

Ready to shoot down enemy aircraft!

This plane just plain looks cool, but if you pin down the surfaces with tape as I suggest, it transforms itself into a really excellent flying machine. Toss it lightly (not a hard throw) and it will fly straight, fluttering down to the ground and wobbling left to right (it's a rolling motion, not yaw or pitch). Please note that playing with the plane extensively will severely damage those guns you worked so hard to make, as they're the first thing to hit a wall. In that case, make another! The second time is much easier, believe me. By the sixth time, you'll have it down to a fine art. (updated a long time ago)
Stephan T. Lavavej
This is my personal website. I work for Microsoft, but I don't speak for them.