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45-foot paper airplane glides over Arizona desert

March 23, 2012|By Deborah Netburn
  • Arturo's Desert Eagle, a 45-foot paper airplane, is prepared for liftoff in the Arizona desert.
Arturo's Desert Eagle, a 45-foot paper airplane, is prepared for… (Pima Air & Space Museum )

Cheers to the Pima Air & Space Museum for flying what might be the largest paper airplane ever constructed over the Arizona desert earlier this week.

The plane, dubbed Arturo’s Desert Eagle, was 45 feet long with a 24-foot wingspan and weighed in at a whopping 800 pounds.

It was built as part of the museum's Giant Paper Airplane Project, designed to get kids psyched about aviation and engineering.

After a few false starts, the plane was towed into the sky above the Sonoran desert on Wednesday afternoon by a Sikorsky S58T helicopter.

The design team was hoping to get the monster paper airplane up to 4,000 or 5,000 feet before letting it loose, but due to wind conditions, the helicopter pilot decided to set it free at 2,703 feet.

It was still able to glide at speeds of close to 100 mph for 7 to 10 seconds before stress on the tail caused it to hurdle to the ground.

“It didn’t fare too well as an end game,” Tim Vimmerstedt, a spokesperson for the Pima Air & Space Museum told The Times.  “It really is a crumbled mess.”

The plane was constructed of layers of falcon board, which Vimmerstedt described as a type of corrugated cardboard, similar to a pizza box.

The plane was designed and built in Lancaster by Art Thompson, who helped design the B-2 stealth bomber, but the design was based on a paper airplane folded by 12-year-old Tucson resident Arturo Valdenegro—winner of a paper airplane fly-off sponsored by the Pima Air & Space Museum in January.

In a video interview with the museum on the day of the launch, Valdenegro said before the Great Paper Airplane Project he thought that he might puruse a career in engineering, but after meeting Thompson and seeing his plane realized in giant size, he now knows he’s going to be an engineer when he grows up.

For the musuem, that's the real mission accomplished.

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Original source: 45-foot paper airplane glides over Arizona desert

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