Is this the smallest airplane in the world ?
Well, to be straight to the point : it isn’t…
The answer to this is a simple one when we look at the definition of an airplane :
- An airplane is a powered flying apparatus with attached wings, which has a higher density / weight than the air through which it travels, and can maintain a controlled flight in the air provided by the upward lift from the specific shape of the wings ;
I can power this golden coin by throwing it in the air, but it has no upward lift and will fall like a brick to the ground.
Since I probably made you curious now and you’re wondering : Well, what is actually the smallest plane in the world ?
Guinness World Record smallest airplanes
The following smallest airplanes that I’m going to mention are all holders of the “Guinness World Record” in their respective class.
The smallest jet propelled aircraft in the world is the “BD-5J Microjet” that featured in the James Bond movie “Octopussy”. It has a weight of 162.7 kg (358.8 lb), a wingspan of 5.7 meter (17 feet), is 3.7 meter (12 feet) long and can travel at a speed of 483 km/h (300 mph) depending on the engine.
This microjet was introduced in the 1970’s by the “Bede Aircraft Corporation”, all though research & development already started in the Sixties, and the first maiden flight of the “N500BD Prototype” was on the 12th of September 1971.
The development of the Microjet prototypes was plagued with diverse technical difficulties, and also the quest for a suitable engine and getting it delivered was very troublesome for the Bede Aircraft Corporation, proving to be one of the biggest factors the Microjet project failed.
Starting from 1973 “do it yourself” – kits without the engine were delivered to customers so that in the meantime they could build the frame, and when proper engines would be delivered, the company in turn would ship out the engines as backorder to the customers who then only would have to install the engines as a final activity.
In 1979 the Bede Aircraft Corporation officially was declared bankrupt, while over 5100 kits were already produced and delivered to customers for the most part still without any engines.
Most people that were in possession of the kit gave up on the building of the frames and finding a replacement engine, all though a couple hundred of aviation enthusiasts would continue with their personal BD5 Microject projects.
This meant that modifications had to be invented and made by people themselves, and that completed BD5 airplanes were outfitted with a different selection of engines. Sadly 9 people lost their lives during the first 25 flights of the Microjet.
The last notable accident with a BD-5J was on the 1st of May 2013, when Guido Gehrmann, a member of the Red Bull “Flying Bulls” crashed near Baumkirchen in Austria.
To this day about over 100 complete BD-5J’s are still functional, but due to its history and supposed negative flying behaviour the Microjet is only flown by a small number of pilots.
Smallest spy plane
The smallest spy plane is the “Black Widow” that is manufactured by the AeroVirement Corporation in conjunction with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, in short D.A.R.P.A.
The “Black Widow” was developed as part of the “Miniature Aerial Vehicle” program of which a requirement was that the plane wouldn’t exceed 15 cm in dimension.
The wingspan of the Black Widow is 15.24 cm (6 inches), weighs only 80 gram (2.8 oz), can travel at a speed of 50 km/h and is fitted with a color video camera.
AeroVirement is also working on the “Nano Air Vehicle” project to develop even smaller aircraft, in the likes of small robotic insects, and who knows how far they are with this, but the current World Record of smallest spy plane is held by the “Black Widow”.
Black Widow by Darpa.
Smallest camera plane
The world record of smallest camera plane is held by the “DelFly Micro” which was researched and developed by the Dutch University of Delft. From the tip of the wings the span is 10 cm and the aircraft weighs in at only 3 grams.
The difference with the smallest spy plane “Black Widow” is that the “DelFly Micro” is actually the smallest flying “ornithopter” with a camera.
An “ornithopter” is an aircraft that generates upward motion by the clapping of wings. As is visible in the design of the “DelFly Micro” that has the resemblance of a dragonfly.
Smallest RC airplane in the world
Bringing us to the last smallest aircraft in the world : the smallest radio controlled airplane in the world. This world record was set by John Wakefield from Lancaster in the U.K. on the 27th of October 2010.
The airplane model BF5 has a wingspan of only 69mm (2.72 inches), weighs 1.98 gram (0.07 oz) and had a recorded flight time of 6 minutes and 56 seconds.
When doing my research I found an aviation model builder named Joe Malinchak who claims to have built the smallest radio controlled aircraft in the world, weighing only 1 gram and having a wingspan of 38 mm (1.5 inches) in 2015.
It’s actually a very cool aircraft being modelled after the WW1 German triplanes.
I’ve contacted Joe, and the reason why he isn’t admitted yet in the Guiness World Record Book is… that for them videos aren’t proof, but he’ll do a follow up so make sure to watch his channel and social media.
The Palau Golden airplane is minted by B.H. Mayer in Germany and distributed by coin dealer CIT based in Liechtenstein. Its weight is 0.5 gram with a fineness of .9999, and has a wingspan of 13.92 mm.
If it had an engine, aerodynamic and capable of flying in the air it could’ve been the smallest airplane in the world 😊
The coin is considered legal tender as certified by The Palau Commemorative Coin company, and is produced in a quantity of 15.000 pieces.
Check out the 2020 Palau 1 Dollar on my Youtube channel :