World's largest plane makes first test flight

By AFP
Published: April 14, 2019
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The mega jet carried out its maiden voyage over the Mojave desert. PHOTO: AFP

The mega jet carried out its maiden voyage over the Mojave desert. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON DC: The world’s largest airplane — a Stratolaunch behemoth with two fuselages and six Boeing 747 engines — made its first test flight on Saturday in California.

The mega jet carried out its maiden voyage over the Mojave desert.
It is designed to carry into space, and drop, a rocket that would, in turn, ignite to deploy satellites.

It is supposed to provide a more flexible way to deploy satellites than vertical takeoff rockets because this way all you need is a long runway for takeoff.

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PHOTO: AFP

It was built by an engineering company called Scaled Composites.
The aircraft is so big its wingspan is longer than a football field, or about 1.5 times that of an Airbus A380.

Specifically, the wingspan is 117 meters; that of an Airbus A380 is just under 80.

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The plane flew Saturday for about two and a half hours, Stratolaunch said. Until now, it had just carried out tests on the ground.

It hit a top speed of 304 kilometers per hour and reached an altitude of 17,000 feet, or 5,182 meters.

PHOTO: AFP

“What a fantastic first flight,” said Jean Floyd, CEO of Stratolaunch.
“Today’s flight furthers our mission to provide a flexible alternative to ground launched systems,” he added.

Airbus hit by jet cancellations as A380 shutdown looms

Stratolaunch was financed by Paul Allen, a co-founder of Microsoft as a way to get into the market for launching small satellites.

But Allen died in October of last year so the future of the company is uncertain.

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