Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


TO CALL Andrew Dewar’s designs merely paper airplanes is a disservice to the planes and to this Canadian-born librarian residing in Japan. The airplanes are flying examples of origami art. And his books on this hobby are well-done mini histories, not simply paperback cutout activity books.


Pioneers of Flight (Paper Airplanes That Really Fly!), by Andrew Dewar, Periplus Editions, 2004. See also Origami Airplanes Fun Pack, Wings of Adventure and others listed at

Dewar’s Pioneers of Flight pays homage to Yasuaki Ninomiya, the master of paper airplane design. As a youngster in Toronto, Dewar came upon a Ninomiya book on constructing paper airplanes. The kid built every design in the book, wrote a letter to Ninomiya who responded with two more books—in Japanese. “And that,” notes Dewar, “was my start on the road to Japan.”


At left, Yasuaki Ninomiya, Dewar’s 89-year-old mentor. At right, Andrew Dewar, Canadian born in 1961.

With training in journalism, library science and Japanese studies, Dewar lives in Gifu, Japan, where he is a professor of library science, the principal of a kindergarten, director of Kami Papercraft Workshop and author of 29 publications, about half in Japanese and half in English.

Pioneers of Flight’s 96 pages include 30 celebrating man’s earliest dreams of going aloft through the pioneer years ending with World War I. Dewar shares enthusiasm for aircraft appearing at this website, among them Blériot’s flight of English Channel, Cal Rodger’s Vin Fizz and its transcontinental adventure, the Avro Type F’s enclosed cabin, the sleek Deperdussin racer, Sikorsky’s Le Grand giant airliner and the Curtiss/Wright squabble.


Building and Flying Ten Paper Airplanes. These and other images from Pioneers of Flight.

The middle 29 pages are devoted to building and flying ten paper airplanes, everything from the tools required (scissors, craft knife, ruler, tweezers, bamboo skewer, toothpick and glue) to details of folding, cutting, gluing, test flying (and repairs). Once the craft is fine-tuned, it could be ready for “Using a Catapult,” the launching mechanism demonstrated by Ninomiya above.

Also included are step-by-step building instructions, together with tidbits of each craft’s assembly. For example, Dewar notes, “Curtiss had simplicity (and speed) in mind when he built the Golden Flyer, and the result was a very versatile airplane. But for myself, I wish he had used a little less bamboo… there would have been fewer little parts to glue together.” This particular model’s difficulty is rated +++, “will take some work.”


The Avro Type F is rated ++. Notes Dewar, “This paper Avro can be flown quite high with a catapult.”

The remainder of the book gives each plane one or two pages of pre-cut parts. Pop them out, follow the instructions and your masterpieces represent the first years of aviation history.


Each model has its unique capability of flight.

“I always think that an airplane isn’t an airplane if it doesn’t fly,” says Dewar. “You’ve built your paper models, and they look great, but now it’s time to turn them into real airplanes!” ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2015

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