Build a Paper Warbird

Huntly Briggs takes paper airplane-making to the next level.

Paper Warbird

Paper Warbird

A 91-year-old aviation enthusiast, Huntly Briggs, is changing the game when it comes to paper airplanes. Most of us know paper airplanes as blank pieces of paper that we simply fold to create a glider that we can throw in hopes of watching a graceful flight. The object is generally to create an object with maximum glide rather than to create a beautiful craft. While Briggs’ focus is also on making paper airplanes that can fly, his models are beautiful pieces of art that closely replicate real vintage airplanes and warbirds.

Briggs’ designs are a result of his experience as an aircraft mechanic, engineer and pilot. After working for Lockheed Martin and the Navy during World War II, Briggs became a graphic designer and used private airplanes to travel for business.

His older brother encouraged him to use the graphics design software to take the paper airplane designs to the next level. The results are stunning. Briggs’ paper airplanes are intricate designs, both mono- and biplanes, with details such as landing gear, wiring, external guns, flaps and other details. His warbird designs replicate the original airplanes as closely as possible including insignias and decals.

A labor of love, the designs take Briggs months to complete to ensure that they are both beautiful and flyable. To make this happen, the construction phase also requires extreme attention to detail. Each piece of the puzzle must be precisely cut out of its mold and folded correctly to create blemish-free surfaces. Some designs require a screw or piece of balsa wood to be inserted to get the center of gravity in the right spot.

Part of Briggs’ inspiration came from origami. “However, it was the marrying of computer graphics with folding paper that gave birth to my special way of making paper airplanes,” Briggs said.

As of July 1, you will be able to order Briggs’ designs as well as a coffee table book showing his collection of flyable paper airplanes at www.paperwarplanes.com.