The "Great Paper Airplane Project" by the Pima Air & Space Museum is a story of inspiration. The team at the museum was inspired to build what is being touted as the world's largest paper airplane by a 12-year-old who recently won a paper airplane competition. On a broader scale, the museum hopes the giant version of this childhood pass-time will inspire younger generations with an interest in engineering and flight.
Art Thompson led the design and building of the 45-foot long, 800-pound paper airplane named "Arturo's Desert Eagle." The Arizona Daily Start reports that the team ran into snags when it came to getting off the ground, which is essential for flying a paper airplane, but eventually had a successful test flight.
Watch the Desert Eagle's tow and release at about 2,700 feet by a Sikorsky S58T helicopter:
According to a statement from the museum, the plane flew 98 mph for six seconds before it began its descent back to the desert ground:
“The arresting visual of the paper airplane in flight rekindled the childhood creativity in all of us,” explains Yvonne Morris, Executive Director of the Pima Air Space Museum and Arizona Aerospace Foundation. “The museum is thrilled to conduct the first-ever Great Paper Airplane Launch, part of our larger effort to inspire America’s youth and spark a passion for aviation and engineering in the next generation.”
The Star reports museum spokesperson Tim Vimmerstedt as saying, "For several shining moments, our huge, beautiful, silly, hubristic 45-foot paper airplane soared."
The inspiration for the giant paper plane, according to the Star, was seventh-grader Arturo Valdenegro, who won a paper-plane competition of 150 other Tucson-area students in January. This earned him a trip to Los Angeles to meet with Thompson and provide input on the giant paper plane. Valdengro has perfected his own smaller-scale design so that his planes regularly fly as far as 75 feet.
"I want to be an engineer -- kind of like what Art does," [Valdenegro] said.
Before the successful launch, the team was delayed with some structural issues in some test lifts of the plane, which required reinforcing. Earlier this month, the team also launched a 15-foot version, which ended up crashing to the ground and was damaged.
The team learned from this incident that they needed to get more elevation to prevent the chute from snagging. For the 45-footer's launch the team had hoped it would reach an altitude of 4,500 feet but winds at higher altitudes caused the helicopter pilot to release the plane earlier.
[H/T Daily Mail]