If you’re a paper plane enthusiast, as we are, then you have probably already heard about The Suzanne. If you have not, I could question your enthusiasm, but I’d rather just tell you. Deal?
February 26th, 2012, history was made when the Guinness world record for the farthest flying airplane was shattered. On this fateful day, Joe Ayoob and aircraft designer John M. Collins (Mr.Paper airplane) set the record for the farthest flight by a paper aircraft as they flew a paper airplane for a mind-boggling 69.14 meters (226 feet 10 inches) at McClellan Air Force Base, in North Highlands, California, USA. This clearly makes it the Best Paper Airplane Ever.
In case you are not good with estimating distances, and that statistic does not impress you, let me put it into perspective, this distance is further than eight double-decker buses lined up in a row. Get it now?
The plane which they strangely called The Suzanne was constructed from a single sheet of uncut A4 paper. The plane was flown by Joe Ayoob and designed by John M. Collins.
I know what’s on your mind, why in the world is it called The Suzanne? Well, we may not be able to answer that question, but what we can do is share the 20-step process to creating the Suzanne for yourself. John Collins revealed that it had been a blast making and flying it.
You want me to just get into it already, right? All right, here goes:
Making the Suzanne
You may be thinking that this plane would require some really intricate folds to achieve, right? Wrong! The Suzanne is simply one of the easy paper airplanes that fly far. The performance of The Suzanne is more about precision and the quality of the materials used than it is about intricacy.
Mr. Collins has a few suggestions for all learners; use a plain A4 paper. He suggests a Conqueror CX22 Diamond 100gsm A4. Gsm refers to grams per square meter in case you were wondering.
To ensure the quality of the paper, hold it up to a bulb to make sure there are no lines or scars that may impact your precision.
Lastly, fold on a glass surface or a surface as smooth as possible.
Okay, here is how you do the actual folding.
Folding the Suzanne
Step 1: Smooth out the paper and fold the top right-hand corner to meet the left edge of the paper as illustrated in the picture. Make sure the edges line up accurately.
Before we go on, you need to know that to get it just right, you need to iron down your creases with a ruler, a folding bone like he uses, or any tool that will suffice.
Step 2: Unfold this crease
Step 3: Repeat step 1 for the opposite side and fold the top left-hand corner to the right edge. Again, check your edges to make sure they align.
Step 4: Unfold the Crease. If you see an X shape on the paper caused by the creases then you are right on the money.
Step 5: Take the edge of the right-hand side and line it up against the crease formed by the initial folding in Step 1 above. When making this fold make sure to leave around a millimeter distance between where your paper edge lays and the actual crease line. The reason is to prevent the edges ‘bunching’ up when the plane is finished.
Step 6: Unfold the Fold
Step 7: Repeat step 5for the left-hand long edge, try hard to make it asymmetrical and remember to leave the same millimeter space. Unfold both, and then fold back in again.
Step 8: Leaving the Fold in Step 7 in place, refold the right-hand crease to lay on top of this crease. Take note of the point (indicated on the image) where these two folds meet (Underside). You are going to make the next fold to coincide with it.
Step 9: By now, the paper has a pointed nose facing away from you. Fold that point downwards. You can tell that you have hit this fold perfectly if the creases on the back of the paper (now at the front) line up so well with the folds that it seems to form one consistent line (observe the illustration in the image). Keep the layers as flat as possible.
Step 10: Fold the top right-hand corner into the center and lay across the crease. Remember the long, consistent line? That is where you want to lay it.
Step 11: Unfold the Folding in Step 10 (above)
Step 12: Repeat the Fold in Step 10 for the left-hand side.
Step 13: Unfold the Crease in Step 12 (above) to confirm how well you have done. At this point, you want to make sure that your two creases on either side converge at a perfect point at the top of the paper. This way, the papers won’t budge when you refold them.
Step 14: Refold Step 10 (right-hand side crease) and step 12(left-hand side crease) and hold them in place.
Step 15: With your finger still holding the two folds in place, pick the paper up and turn it so that the nose is pointing to your left.
Step 16: Fold the paper into two equal halves to form the nose. Then take your time to line up the ‘tail feathers’ on the top to make sure all edges are aligned.
Step 17: Once you are happy with how the sides and corners are aligned, lay the plane down and use your creasing tool to sharpen all edges and creases. Notice, in order not to cause a tear in the paper, iron down the creases with slow downward presses as opposed to upward presses.
Step 18: Here you start making the wings. You do this by folding the outer layer of the paper downwards. The long edge of the wing should line up with the bottom right-hand corner – not the bottom edge. (Notice arrow in illustrated image)
Notice: Make the wings by folding the paper around 3mm up from the nose and not exactly at the nose point.
Notice: Make sure you use your thumb to keep the layer below in place (See image).
Step 19: Flip the paper over and repeat on the other side to create the second wing. Smoothen the creases and ‘squash’ the nose. Ensure absolute precision in all the edges as well.
Step 20: Open up the wings and check for any failures in alignment. By now, what you have in your hand is called The Suzanne!
Final Tips Before Flying
Clip the plane to hold it in place and use thin strips of tapes to secure the plane’s shape. Hold the edges of all folds in place, so they do not come out of shape mid-flight and affect your aerodynamics.
There are many easy paper airplanes that fly far out there, but nothing beats the Suzanne in beauty and flight.
If there were going to be an additional step, it would be, GO OUTSIDE AND FLY THAT BEAUTY!