Quick. Imagine a paper airplane. Got it? It’s a folded up piece of standard 8 1/2 by 11-inch printer paper, right? A sort of three-dimensional hieroglyph of an airplane made of paper. How boring of you.
Now try imagining an airplane. A Boeing 777, the long range 300ER model to be exact. Think of the wing flaps moving, the landing gear unfolding, the reverse thrusters for the engines. You know, the details that let you hurtle through the atmosphere at 600 miles an hour. Now imagine building all of it at 1/60th the normal size and doing it with just one material: paper. Manila folders to be exact again. Also, some glue.
This is the paper plane designer Luca Iaconi-Stewart has been building, on and off, for nearly a decade. “It even blows my own mind,” he says. “I don’t know how I’ve done a lot of it.” Watch the video above to see the incredible details like hair-thin strands of paper that make up hydraulic lines on landing gear and the 300 plus seats, each about the size of a gumdrop, that Iaconi-Stewart has laid out in the cabin. They don’t recline, he admits but there are other mesmerizing parts that do move like the cabin doors, the retractable landing gear, complete with suspension, and wing flaps.
What began as a school project years ago has morphed into an oft torn apart and then rebuilt model. It’s garnered a healthy Youtube following of fellow aviation and modeling buffs who cheer at Iaconi-Stewart’s fastidious attention to detail and fidelity in such a limited material. In this age of Minecraft and computerized avionics simulations, it might seem anachronistic to devote so much time to such a fussy analog project. But that’s exactly what Iaconi-Stewart likes about it and has kept him going. “I really enjoy the sense of calm and mediation that it brings when I really get into the building process,” he says. “It’s really exhilarating when you get to the end and you see a component coming to life.”