Meet the World’s Best Paper Airplane Maker

Luca Iaconi-Stewart built a meticulously detailed scale model of a Boeing 777 out of manila folders.  |  Photo: Mark Mahaney

It all started with a can of cocoa: Iaconi-Stewart used it as a stencil to design the first cross section of the fuselage.  |  Photo: Mark Mahaney

An Air India seat map came in handy for precise placement of the 348 seats.
Photo: Mark Mahaney

Thanks to an enthusiastic online aviation community, details for almost every angle of the plane were readily available.  |  Photo: Mark Mahaney

Parts with curves—like the 12 landing-gear wheels and two nose-gear wheels—proved to be the most challenging.  |  Photo: Mark Mahaney

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Luca Iaconi-Stewart built a meticulously detailed scale model of a Boeing 777 out of manila folders.  |  Photo: Mark Mahaney

It all started with a can of cocoa: Iaconi-Stewart used it as a stencil to design the first cross section of the fuselage.  |  Photo: Mark Mahaney

An Air India seat map came in handy for precise placement of the 348 seats.
Photo: Mark Mahaney

Thanks to an enthusiastic online aviation community, details for almost every angle of the plane were readily available.  |  Photo: Mark Mahaney

Parts with curves—like the 12 landing-gear wheels and two nose-gear wheels—proved to be the most challenging.  |  Photo: Mark Mahaney

Boeing can build a 777 in 50 days. Luca Iaconi-Stewart can build one too—in five years. True, Iaconi- Stewart made his 1:60-scale jetliner out of manila folders and dabs of glue, but it’s almost as complicated as the real deal, down to the retractable landing gear.

The idea for the project grew out of his love of airplanes—and the “massing models” he made from manila paper in a high school architecture class. Soon after he found a super-detailed diagram online of an Air India 777-300ER, Iaconi-Stewart was drawing forms in Adobe Illustrator, printing them on manila, and wielding his X-Acto knife. “There’s something rewarding about being able to replicate a part in such an unconventional medium,” he says.

Iaconi-Stewart devoted an entire summer just to the seats (20 minutes for an economy seat, four to six hours for business class, and eight hours for first class). Tweezers helped. He designed the engines in about a month and assembled them in four. The tail he rebuilt three times. When his classes at Vassar took up too much time—he actually stopped work on the 777 for two years because of college—Iaconi-Stewart dropped out. “I’m fortunate to have parents willing to give me a fair amount of latitude,” he says. They’re going to have to give a little more: When this project is finished, probably early this year, he might start building an even bigger model.

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