Aiming for awesome: aircraft design


Funded by the Chancellor using LIBOR funds

RAF 100: Aiming for Awesome celebrates the centenary of the RAF and explores its engineering achievements over the last 100 years. There are 10 resources, each covering a different decade of RAF history. Each resource allows Key Stage 2 and 3 pupils to explore, through hands on activities, the applications of the knowledge they learn in science, design and technology, mathematics and computing.

1918-1928 Aircraft design

The aim of this resource is to give students the opportunity to investigate the STEM behind aircraft design. Students will explore the forces acting on an aircraft during flight and use the iterative design process to design and improve the perfect paper aircraft.

Student activities


Time To Think:  What forces are acting on an aircraft when it is in flight?  Initial activity - draw arrows on the aircraft images supplied to show the direction and magnitude of the forces on an aircraft when it is: a) moving at constant speed, b) accelerating, and c) decelerating.

Activity 1 - make a paper aircraft to be launched through a paper aircraft launcher.  What was observed about the design of the aircraft that went the furthest?
Activity 2 - use learnings from Activity 1 to design and make an improved paper aircraft and launch it.  Did the aircraft go further than the first attempt? What are the differences in the design from the first to the second?
Activity 3 - use the templates to make a paper aircraft and launch it. How is this aircraft different from the original designs?  Which design traveled the furthest and why?


The activities are expected to last 60 minutes.

What you'll need

Student guide

The student version of this resource can be downloaded here: Aircraft design - student guide

Supported by

  • Royal Academy of Engineering
  • RAF 100
  • 2018 YoE