Travel Tips

This Just Might Be the World’s Coolest Paper Plane

Locations in this article:  San Francisco, CA

Credit: Luca Ionica-StewartRemember building paper airplanes? You grab a sheet of loose leaf paper, fold together the corners, and watch it take flight. That’s one way to do it. Luca Iaconi-Stewart had another idea.

Iaconi-Stewart dedicated the last five years to building the ultimate paper plane. It’s a 1:60 scale model of a Boeing 777-300ER entirely made out of manila folders and glue. Everything is made to official diagram and with neat details; the model has functional cargo doors with locking mechanisms, the landing gear retracts, the wing flaps move, and the fuselage top can be opened to view all of the accurately designed interior (as well as the seats), from coach to first-class. The engines even have reverse thruster mode.

Look closely at the descriptions on Iaconi-Stewart’s Flickr page. It provides a good play-by-play of his difficulties and successes in building the model.

So, why spend five years building what just might be the world’s most elaborate paper plane? It all started in a high school architecture class, where he became interested in working with manila folders. Pair that with his being a longtime aviation fan, and the plane model is a natural consequence. Or, he jokes, “Probably just because I’m crazy.”

Now 22 and living in San Francisco, Iaconi-Stewart was studying at Vassar College in New York for two years but left for unrelated reasons. This allowed him to put more time into the model. Though he doesn’t work on it every day, he estimates putting in an average of a few hours a day and close to 10,000 hours in total.

Iaconi-Stewart says the repetitiveness and monotony of the building tasks are a blessing and a curse. For example, the seats were so easy  to construct that he could watch TV and movies while building them. The engine was his most challenging piece, due to the high number of moving parts and its particular shape. Despite this, he thinks the most difficult piece to build is still ahead: the wings. All he needs for completion of the model are the wings and landing gear (he’s already built the wheels).

“A trail of manila folder cuttings seems to follow me everywhere,” he says, “but that’s about it… I’ve luckily only cut myself a couple (minor) times.”

Iaconi-Stewart has documented the process on his Flickr and YouTube profiles. He doesn’t have anything definite on the horizon at the moment, though he has ideas; right now he’s just trying to finish the plane. Check out the motion capture of how he built the interior of the plane.

By Cody Brooks for