Giant Paper Airplane Takes Flight Over Arizona Desert
A giant paper airplane based on a much smaller model folded together by a young contest-winner improbably took flight above the Arizona desert earlier this week. The 45-foot-long, 800-pound flyer made of dead tree pulp managed to glide for about ten seconds at nearly 3,000 feet in the air before tail stress caused it to plummet back to the ground.
The gargantuan paper airplane was the result of the Pima Air & Space Museum's Giant Paper Airplane Project, initiated to entice youngsters like 12-year-old contest-winner Arturo Valdenegro of Tucson, Ariz. to learn more about aviation and engineering.
Dubbed Arturo's Desert Eagle, the plane was attached to a chain and lifted by a Sikorsky S58T helicopter to a height of 2,703 feet and released (see video below), whereupon it soared at speeds of nearly 100 miles per hour above the Sonoran desert. The aircraft, easily the largest paper airplane on record, boasted a wingspan of 24 feet and was constructed out of a type of corrugated cardboard called falcon board.
Unfortunately, there wasn't much left of Arturo's Desert Eagle after it crashed following a flight that lasted roughly as long as the Wright brothers' famous first successful piloting of a powered, fixed-wing aircraft at Kitty Hawk, N.C. in 1903.
"It didn't fare too well as an end game," Pima Air & Space Museum spokesperson Tim Vimmerstedt told the Los Angeles Times. "It really is a crumbled mess."
The flight of the giant paper airplane might have lasted a bit longer if the team had been able to release it at between 4,000 and 5,000 feet as originally planned. But wind conditions in the area forced the helicopter pilot to let it go more than 1,000 feet lower than the target altitude window, the Times reported.
While it was based on Valdenegro's design, the paper plane was actually designed by Art Thompson, an aviation engineer who was part of the team that engineered and constructed the Northrup-Grumman's B-2 stealth bomber for the U.S Air Force.