““[Bill Gates] has been historically one of my best supporters…One of my favorite e-mails he ever sent me…I proposed this crazy project. And he sent back this two-line response: ‘This has got to be the craziest thing you’ve ever suggested. Please proceed.’” ”
A Bizjet for Barbie
When French Business Jet maker Dassault wanted a working model of its Falcon 7X flagship trijet to grace the lobby of its headquarters near Paris, it approached Francis Laurens, then an engineer employed by the company. Laurens had already built jet-powered radio-controlled miniatures of Dassault's Mirage 2000 and Rafale fighters but he outdid himself with his 7X, a one-seventh-scale version (roughly the same scale as a Barbie doll) fitted with a single 37.5-pound-thrust jet engine.
The 64-pound aircraft-which, like its big brother, runs on jet-A fuel-features retractable landing gear, a powered entry door and functioning brakes. What sets it apart from other remote-controlled airplanes is the attention to detail, particularly in the cabin, where leather-upholstered seats abut wood-covered tables set with tiny silverware and glasses.
A head turner at model shows, Laurens' 7X (foreground) is now available in kit form for about $20,000 (including radio-control system, landing gear and paint job, but not the custom interior), far less than one-seventh of the $40 million price tag of a real 7X.