A team of experts came together to build the world's largest paper airplane, and while it only flew for six seconds, it was enough to generate worldwide attention.
The Pima Air & Space Museum in Arizona sponsored the project as a jump-start to get kids enthused about aeronautics, math, and physics. Arturo Valderamo, 12, won the contest and was able to be a part of the expert plane-building team. The crew named their 45-foot plane Desert Eagle.
Desert Eagle was taken by helicopter to an altitude of 4,000 feet before being released into the Arizona sky. It only took six seconds for the plane to reach the ground, and it reached a top speed of 98 miles per hour. Desert Eagle weighed nearly 800 pounds and had a wingspan of 24 feet.
"For several shining moments, our huge, beautiful, silly, hubristic 45-foot paper airplane soared," Tim Vimmerstedt, of the Pima Museum, told the project's website.
The leader of the team, Ken Blackburn, holds the Guinness World Record for longest paper-airplane flight. He first set the record in 1983 but broke it twice in 1994 and 1998. Blackburn has worked for the McDonnell Douglas Corporation, which is now the Boeing Corporation.
"The arresting visual of the paper airplane in flight rekindled the childhood creativity in all of us," according to Yvonne Morris, executive director of the Pima Museum. "The museum [was] 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."
Art Thompson, co-founder of Sage Cheshire Aerospace and the technical director of the Red Bull Statos Program, helped found the idea for the Great Paper Airplane Launch. An aerodynamics enthusiast, Thompson soon found himself fascinated with the idea of building a 40-foot plane.
"I have a reputation for doing crazy things," he told AZPM.
"I have friends who work in the aerospace industry too, and you tell them about this and you see the twinkle in their eyes," Thompson continued. "It brings out the child in all of us. I hope when kids see a 40-something-foot paper plane flying- I hope it flies- they'll be inspired to pursue some unique ideas."