Paper planes usually take about a minute to make, but one artist spent a whopping 9 years working on one, and he’s not even done yet. But, then again, this isn’t your usual paper plane, but a perfect 1:60 scale replica of an Air India Boeing 777.
25-year-old Luca Iaconi-Stewart, a young designer from San Francisco, describes himself as a “crazy guy who loves aviation” and, after hearing that he spent over 10,000 hours, for a period of nine years, working on a paper airplane in his parents’ home, some people might be inclined to agree with him. But as soon you witness the level of detail he has been able to achieve using only cut-out paper folders, you are overwhelmed by a feeling of awe.
Iaconi-Stewart had always been fascinated by airplanes, but his epic project began in 2008, when he saw a photo of the Air India Boeing 777 on the internet. “The proportions were just so nice,” he recently told GE Reports. “But there were no engineering drawings available”. Luckily, we live in a time where you can find virtually anything online, so he started looking for photos and plans of the airplane.
“Luckily, these days there’s a wealth of photos and videos online that don’t really leave any detail to the imagination,” Luca said. “Over the years I’ve amassed a collection of hundreds of images that I’ve used to draw up my own plans. I also got hold of the training manual for the 777-200ER that someone randomly posted online, and that’s been immensely helpful for sections like the wings, which I’m currently designing.”
Once he got all the materials he needed, the young San Francisco-based designer started working on a series of computer drawings, printed them on manila folders, cut them out with an X-Acto knife, grabbed them with tweezers, and glued them together to create all the necessary components. It sounds easy enough, but getting every little detail right, from the bolts and hinges to the complicated GE90-115B engines and hydraulic pipes, and making sure everything worked the same as on the real airplane, was a titanic undertaking.
Back in 2014, when Luca Iaconi-Stewart’s incredibly detailed paper plan first made headlines, he revealed that he devoted an entire summer just to completing construction of the passenger seats(20 minutes for an economy seat, four to six hours for business class, and eight hours for first class), and even dropped out college to dedicate more time to his project.
But after 9 years, “the coolest paper airplane ever” is still a work in progress. Iaconi-Stewart told GE that he has been working on another project this past year, and he’s only now getting into building the wings of his paper 777-200ER, the last major components of the replica.
“[I’m]not as far as I’d have liked. I spent most of last year working on an ad for Singapore Airlines, and I am just now getting back into wing design, which is the last major part I have to assemble,” the designer said. “I’m currently working on the slats (there’s an update on my YouTube channel), and will likely move to the flaps in the near future. The end date is constantly evolving and I’m guessing that it’ll take me at least the rest of the year to get the project done — I saved the most complex part for last!”
But even in its current state, Iaconi-Stewart’s model is a wonder to behold, particularly the complex engines of the aircraft. “This is an amazingly accurate model of the GE90 engine,” Boeing 777 pilot Capt. Richard Sowden told GE Reports. “It’s fascinating to follow the build through the slide sequence and view the details in the engine made solely from paper.”
As for whether the 25-year-old designer will ever start working on an other intricate paper plane, he doesn’t rule it out. “Somehow I doubt it’s the last plane I’ll build, but I’m in no rush to start another similar project, at least not as a hobby. I’d like to possibly explore other areas of design and venture outside the model-making realm to broaden my horizons a bit,” he said in an interview. “We’ll see what the future holds!”