Largest plane flies over California desert

Pat Wise
April 16, 2019

It landed safely back at the Mojave Air and Space Port as a crowd of hundreds of people cheered.

Stratolaunch, the company founded in 2011 by the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, conducted the first test flight of the world's largest plane.

If fruitful, such a task would be a less expensive approach to release objects into space than rockets terminated from the ground. It's designed with a reinforced center wing to support multiple launch vehicles with a weight up to 500,000 pounds.

Citing initial parameters, the officials said that the platform performed a variety of flight control manoeuvres to calibrate speed and test flight control systems, including roll doublets, yawing manoeuvres, pushovers and pull-ups, and steady heading side slips. "The aircraft is a remarkable engineering achievement and we congratulate everyone involved", said the late billionaire's sister Jody Allen, who is also the chair of his philanthropic trust.

With the Stratolaunch, an aircraft that transports its artifacts between its two fuselages, the great advantage is its huge capacity of external transport.

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Importantly, Saturday's flight was just a test - no rockets were launched from the giant plane as it soared at 17,000 feet.

"It was overall fantastic".

Weather conditions for Stratolaunch's first flight were ideal, with early morning temperatures in the 40's to 50's, light winds, minimum visibility of 10 miles reported by aviation weather surfaces and temperatures rising to 62 degrees Fahrenheit by 1030 local time. Though Stratolaunch is the largest plane by wingspan, another craft, the helium-filled Airlander 10, takes the title of the longest aircraft now flying with a length of 302 feet (92 m). To save money on designing new engines and landing gear, the jet is powered by six Pratt & Whitney engines, which were originally designed for Boeing 747s.

Its twin fuselages are 238 feet long, and the aircraft is so big, it has two cockpits - one in each fuselage - although only one is used to fly the plane.

"All of you've been very patient and very tolerant over the years waiting for us to get this big bird off the ground, and we finally did it", Jean Floyd, chief executive of Stratolaunch, said at the briefing. It is wider than any airplane on the planet, according to a CNN report.

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