Possibly The World's Most Impressive Paper Plane

By: Greg Palmer
By: Greg Palmer
Luca Iaconi-Stewart has spent the past five years -- around 10,000 man hours -- making a minutely detailed, 1:60 scale replica of an Air India Boeing 777 out of manila folders. Iaconi-Stewart, 22, from San Francisco, is an aviation fan. He also modeled a jet liner out of admiration for its gorgeous profile. He expects to finish the plane this summer: only the wings to go.

Luca Iaconi-Stewart has spent the past five years -- around 10,000 man hours -- making a minutely detailed, 1:60 scale replica of an Air India Boeing 777 out of manila folders. Iaconi-Stewart, 22, from San Francisco, is an aviation fan. He also modeled a jet liner out of admiration for its gorgeous profile. He expects to finish the plane this summer: only the wings to go.

(CNN) -- All that's missing are the fussy flight attendants and the smell of irradiated food.

Oh, and maybe some nerve-jangling turbulence.

And reassuring pilots.

Twenty-two-year-old San Franciscan Luca Iaconi-Stewart has done what any self-respecting airplane fanatic would do.

He's got his own.

Unlike, say, John Travolta, however, who owns and flies five planes including a Boeing 707-138, Iaconi-Stewart's craft is more befitting his age and status.

It's four feet long.

And made of cardboard.

And he built it himself.

Plane crazy?

A plane made out of cardboard? Sounds like something that might end up, sadly askew, in the corner of the room the morning after a bored frat boys' night before.

Not this 1:60 scale, painstakingly detailed replica of an Air India Boeing 777 made entirely out of manila folders -- and a little glue -- and currently parked in a mini-hanger somewhere whose location Iaconi-Stewart understandably declines to disclose.

In case it gets hijacked, or whatever the paper-plane equivalent is, and the 10,000 hours he estimates he's devoted to the project over the past five-and-a-half years, off and on, go to waste.

Not to mention squandering enough manila folders -- he reckons around 400 -- to give your average stationery manager apoplexy.

It's hard to believe when you look at the fantastically precise rendering of the twinjet craft -- from the undercarriage tire tread, through the gorgeous undulation of the engine-fan blades and the class-conscious carving of economy, business and first class seats to the chunky font of the airplane livery -- but Iaconi-Stewart is entirely untrained as a model maker, aside from the odd architecture class at school.

Mundane material

It's equally incredible that his Lilliputian creation is made from something as mundane as manila folders.

But that's what he liked about them -- that they're "a really unassuming material [and] readily available," Iaconi-Stewart tells CNN.

Formally untrained he might be, but one qualification he surely does possess is an unusual temerity and focus.

Each economy class seat, for instance, took 20 minutes of cutting, folding, fiddling and gluing -- and those of us who fly economy know there are a lot of seats.

The fold-out wombs of business class devoured up to six hours of Iaconi-Stewart's labor each.

First class "suites" -- hey, there's a reason people shell out for them -- took eight hours a go: an average working day.

Drawing from scratch

Progress on the plane was especially "tricky" in the beginning, Iaconi-Stewart says, because "there were no publicly available [assembly] drawings.

"I spent a lot of time making drawings from pictures.

"Then I got hold of a maintenance manual for people who maintain airplanes.

"It contains plenty of detail, which is useful for specific parts, but you're still having to draw everything from scratch.

"It consumes a lot of time," he says a little wistfully, some of which, you hope, he's also devoting to dating and perhaps even enjoying his new-found freedom to buy a beer.

Winging it

Iaconi-Stewart's only got the wings to go now -- they'll make the plane 3.5 feet across from tip to tip.

He's hoping to be done by the summer but, given that the engines took almost half a year from planning to completion, this last stage probably won't be a doddle.

Then -- obvious question -- will it fly?

No -- idiot! -- "it's a static model.

"In theory, it could fly if I designed it properly but it'd have to be a lot lighter and with more moving parts."

Terrorist evil genius?

Another obvious question these days: has he been tackled to the sidewalk by an FBI agent as a suspected evil genius terrorist in training?

"No -- although I do get asked that a lot."

And what next?

A helicopter made out of blancmange?

Well, turns out it wasn't just aviation enthusiasm that made Iaconi-Stewart shrink a plane.

It was "aesthetic choice," he says.

Nice proportions

They may sometimes be hell to ride in but we forget that a jetliner is a beautiful, streamlined thing.

"They have nice proportions," the model maker says.

"Choosing a plane was a visual decision for me.

"An impulse."

But it's "not something I would dive back into. Not that I don't enjoy it but it can be isolating at times and frustrating.

"I want to do something more normal."

Find out more about Luca Iaconi-Stewart's Boeing 777 project at his Flickr page and on his YouTube channel.


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