He’s now spent more than 10,000 hours building an exact model replica –- at 1/60th scale — of a Boeing 777-300ER plane entirely out of cut-out manila folder parts. He’s not even done.
The model that Luca Iaconi-Stewart, 22, of San Francisco, built has moving parts: Doors open, the engines twirl, the landing gear retracts.
All have been fastidiously cut out of several hundred manila folders — which Iaconi-Stwart found to be flexible and strong — using an X-Acto knife, and using tweezers to glue parts together.
The results have lived up to the headline hype:
“It’s really amazing. It’s definitely a work of art,” says Debra Cleghorn, executive editor of Model Airplane News.
They’ve taken notice at Boeing, too, where 452 of the 777-300ERs have been built at its Everett plant (in total, 1,164 of the 777 series have been delivered since 1995).
Says Elizabeth Lund, vice president and general manager, 777 Program: “Luca’s work is remarkable and highlights the beautiful design of the 777. I am thoroughly impressed by his craftsmanship and replication of our design.”
The story of Iaconi-Stewart has gone viral on the Internet. You can see more of his photos here.
Time.com posted, “Time to retire your paper airplane game, everyone, because there’s no way you could ever match this guy.”
Iaconi-Stewart began work on the model while attending Lick-Wilmerding High School, a private school in San Francisco.
He made models of skyscrapers, but it was the Boeing plane that drew him.
He just liked the way it looked.
And so as he was finishing his junior year, in 2008, he began finding photos on the Internet, and the dimensions of the 777 from the Boeing website.
Air India had posted an extremely detailed schematic of the seat arrangements, and Iaconi-Stewart managed to get hold of a training manual for the plane.
Iaconi-Stewart had to reduce a 242-foot-long plane to 4 feet in length.
Then, using Adobe Illustrator, he drew out everything.
Iaconi-Stewart made plenty of mistakes, he says, and had to redo things.
He did consider giving up.
There were 303 economy seats, 35 business-class seats, and 4 first-class seats that had to be made.
One first-class seat took 6 to 8 hours to make. Iaconi-Stewart got the making of the economy seats down to 1 hour each.
Some of the parts he had to make were literally the size of a pinhead.
“It’s hard to keep up that level of focus day in and day out,” he says. “When you have to create everything from scratch it can be very draining.
“There were times I absolutely hated it. But then I could see the end in finishing the project. But then you get a certain amount of satisfaction in reverse engineering something and making it out of unconventional material.”
Iaconi-Stewart says he’d show the plane to his friends.
“I think everyone thinks I’m a little crazy,” he says. “I don’t blame them. I think I’m kinda crazy.”
After high school, Iaconi-Stewart went to Vassar College in New York for two years, returning home in the summer to work on the plane.
Then he decided the college wasn’t right for him, and now is back home, working at odd jobs and hoping to finish the plane by summer. He still has the wings to finish.
He wants to keep his parents out of the story, saying he values their privacy.
A year ago, he began posting videos of his work on YouTube. But it wasn’t until he was featured a few days ago in Wired magazine that his story took off, and now has been featured worldwide.
Iaconi-Stewart keeps the location of the model plane a secret.
He says “it’s impossible to say” what the plane is worth, although he’s heard a wide range of estimates.
He doesn’t know what he’ll do with the model.
The Museum of Flight in Seattle says it certainly would be interested in talking to him.
Iaconi-Stewart says a museum seems “a logical” place.
As to what he plans to do next, Iaconi-Stewart says, “Some kind of design work.”
Well, if a company wants a fastidious designer, they certainly know where to find one.
Erik Lacitis: 206-464-2237 or firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter @ErikLacitis