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From soda cans into airplanes

  • Photos courtesy of Wayne Mathis
  • Photo courtesy of Wayne Mathis
  • Photo courtesy of Wayne Mathis
  • Photo courtesy of Wayne Mathis
  • Photo courtesy of Wayne Mathis

Can cans fly? It turns out they can, but the original purpose of designs for airplane models made from beverage cans is to look pretty, and accurate. Wayne Mathis of Helena, Montana, knows how to do that.

B.C. (beverage can) Air Originals was started by Mathis following a 43-year career as a printer. He was having a beer with a friend back in 1984 when the friend marveled at how Mathis could build an airplane from anything—cardboard, plastic, paper, even twigs when he was five years old. Looking at what was in his hand, the friend asked if he could build an airplane from a beer can. He could, and now offers plans for $10 to $20 covering 53 models on his website.

The 67-year-old pilot, an AOPA and the Experimental Aircraft Association member, would like to be back in the air one day if the plans sell well enough. He has 1,500 customers from around the world.

Several customers have attached a small motor and flown their model on control lines; one even flew it as a radio-controlled model. But they were meant to sit on a desk and be admired.

An avid downhill skier, fisherman, and dancer, he has found a perfect use for his models within the family; he has 10 grandchildren. Some have one and some have four—depends on how often they visit. He doesn’t keep airplanes in the house long, either because he gives them away or his wife tells him to give them away. He can make one in two days. They include everything from general aviation single- and multiengine models to warbirds like the North American P-51 Mustang, Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, and Lockheed P-38 Lightning.

“I’m just plane nuts,” he said.

Alton Marsh
Alton K. Marsh
Freelance journalist
Alton K. Marsh is a former senior editor of AOPA Pilot and is now a freelance journalist specializing in aviation topics.
Topics: Aviation Industry, Experimental

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