Monday, 17 June, 2019

'World's biggest aeroplane' with huge wingspan carries out maiden flight

Airplane with world's longest wingspan take flight, beating Spruce Goose record Stratolaunch plane makes first flight
Deanna Wagner | 14 April, 2019, 13:27

The massive, twin-fuselage Stratolaunch jet created to air-launch rockets into orbit lifted off from Mojave Air and Space Port early Saturday.

The inaugural flight was for 150 minutes and later the plane was made to do a smooth landing.

Nearly 116 years after the Wright Brothers created history at Kitty Hawk with the first heavier than air flight ever for 12 seconds, another piece of aviation history was created at Nojav in California on Saturday. The jet flew 2 ½ hours, achieving a maximum speed of 189 mph and altitudes up to 17,000 feet, the company said.

This was the first flight for Stratolaunch, which is billed as the world's largest aircraft. "Evan specializes in experimental flight test, aviation and test safety, aircraft stability and control testing as well as operational leadership", says an official. Until now, it had just carried out tests on the ground.

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Stratolaunch was established in 2011 by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen who died in October past year. "It definitely was ready to fly and wanted to fly and climbed out quickly".

The inaugural flight is expected to last a few hours. Allen died of lymphoma in October 2018, only a handful of months before his creation could take flight for the first time. The aircraft is created to carry as many as three satellite-laden rockets under the center of its enormous wing, which stretches 385ft, or 117m. The company has already signed at least one customer in Orbital ATK, which plans to use Stratolaunch to send its Pegasus XL rocket into space. Its twin fuselages - sort of the airplane equivalent of a catamaran - are 238 feet (72.5 meters) long.

Stratolaunch originally touted this jet as the world's biggest aircraft, but toned down that statement this weekend referring to it as the "world's largest all-composite aircraft".

The previous wingspan leader was Howard Hughes' World War II-era eight-engine H-4 Hercules flying boat - nicknamed the Spruce Goose. The odd aircraft, built by the legendary aeronautical engineering company Scaled Composites in the Mojave Desert, has two fuselages and is powered by six Boeing 747 engines.