The Art of Flight


Photo: From left, Boeing Commercial Airplanes engineers Mahesh Chengalva, Elizabeth Benson and Alexandra Sonnabend launch paper airplanes they designed for the Boeing Flypaper project. Image Credit: Associated Press

A living room was the factory floor. Sheets of paper made it an active assembly line. Clever folds produced an airplane ready for rollout. A test flight merely required the flick of a wrist. All that’s left for the Boeing Flypaper project—the quest to come up with a compelling paper airplane design that doubles as poster art—is the ongoing delivery.

To help commemorate the company’s 100 years of airplane-making, Boeing asked engineers Elizabeth Benson, Mahesh Chengalva and Alexandra Sonnabend to create something aerodynamically progressive out of paper, combining their professional expertise with childhood memories. The engineers said they used a certain level of sophistication, yet had some fun.

“I liked the idea,” Sonnabend said. “I grew up on the playground with friends, with stacks of paper airplanes, climbing up trees and throwing them.”

A team of graphic artists gave the finished airplane designs the full treatment, adding bright colors and rigid patterns. If left unfolded, they become posters. Either way, the dual-purpose Flypaper is now available for purchase in the Boeing Store as a centennial keepsake, while being widely distributed from grade schools to engineering schools for career-minded inspiration.

The intent of Flypaper is to motivate the next generation to design and build actual airplanes, according to David Jenks, senior manager, Corporate Identity, Global Brand Management & Advertising.

“This is the perfect intersection between science and art,” Jenks said. “It is something fun to which just about anyone can relate and understand. It can also inspire them to think more seriously about a future career in science and technology.”

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